Saturday, August 19, 2017

Hit the ground leaping

In addition to the first total eclipse in 99 years, Monday, August 21 marks the start of the Goochland school.

As is its custom, our school division gets the ball rolling with an annual convocation, this year held on August 14, to bring every member of “team Goochland” together for an energizing pep rally. The buzz of excitement battled with the strains “Stayin’ Alive” as people greeted old friends and met new ones filing into the high school auditorium.
BES Principal James Hopkins' happy dance

The joy of the day was perhaps best illustrated by James Hopkins, principal of Byrd Elementary School, who did a happy dance to greet the members of the BES team. Smiles, hugs, and laughter was  the order of the day.

Following the presentation of the colors by the GHS Marine Junior ROTC color guard and pledge of allegiance complete with the unofficial last two words “play ball,” Dr. Stephen Geyer took the microphone. He welcomed an amazing team to an incredible school community. “This is an amazing place for our students and an amazing place to work,” he said.

Out school board, said Geyer, is an active and integral part of our team. Their partnership with our board of supervisors allows students and teachers alike to take risks and thrive.

School  Board Chair Person Beth Hardy District 4 gave a special welcome to the highly talented group of educators who teach our children. Collaboration among students, teaches, staff, and leadership team makes GCPS a great place to work as it provides the best preparation for all students wherever their life’s journey may take them.

“Your unparalleled dedication is humbling,” Hardy said. “The magic in the school day happens in the classroom. The magic is you and what you bring every day. Thank you and have an amazing year.”

Dr. John Herndon, Director of Innovation and Strategy, discussed the G21 Awards made possible by the Goochland Education Foundation ( to encourage deeper learning. GHS career and technical education and  physical education won the gold ($300) for designing, building and using an archery range.

Fourth grade teachers at Randolph Elementary School won silver ($200) for improving the nature trails around the school.

Collaboration between a librarian and counselor at Goochland Elementary won Bronze ($100)  for a project using Scratch software to combine core values and coding.

Service awards presented. Team Goochland has a gracious plenty of folks who are here year in and year out.  Bryan Gordon and Priscilla Garrant with 30 years of service and Josie Gray with 35 years in our schools were praised with a thundering standing ovation.

 Last year’s teacher of the year Joe Beasely exhorted his colleagues to make every second of their time with students count, celebrate the milestones achieved by the GCPS winning team, and cheer each other on to bigger victories.

This year’s teacher of the year, Jennifer Gates, reminded other teachers “to never lose sight of who you are and your decision to become an educator. “It takes grit—passion and perseverance—to reach success.

 Guest speaker Dr. John Almarode of James Madison University contended that a teacher’s belief system is far more important to the success of a student than the transfer of a particular body of information. “Do you hose them down with information and pray that something sticks? Or are they better off for having spent a few hours with you?” he asked.
Dr. John Almarode offered insights about successful teaching

Goochland Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeremy Raley said that the convocation filled about two hours celebrating the accomplishments of the past year and setting the tone for that about to start. “I’ve had a chance to see all of the amazing things you do for our kids every day to help them succeed. Our core value of optimism is not just a word on a page, it’s who we are,” he said.

“On Monday, they’re coming and they count on us to make appositive impact in their life and say ‘I believe in you’. It doesn’t matter what’s on your badge, we’re all one team. We are a very successful school division, but there are still kids we have not reached. By letting them know that we believe they can, they will succeed.”

The band provided a rousing conclusion to Convocation 2017

Go team Goochland! We look forward to seeing what new heights of accomplishment you reach in the coming school year.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dog days

Dog days
The Goochland Board of Supervisors literally began its August work with a dog related event (see GOMM Ready, set dig) before its monthly meeting.

Dr. Gary Rhodes, President of Reynolds Community College—it lost “J. Sarge” a few years ago—made his annual report to the board. The close partnership that RCC has with our school division, Dr. Stephen Geyer is on its board, is good for everyone. Rhodes explained the role that RCC has in workforce development and serving the community. Visit and take a spin around the website for a wide range of information and course offerings at the Goochland Campus.

At the other end of the education spectrum, early life education, representatives from Smart Beginnings Greater Richmond ( to the supervisors the importance of ensuring that every child is ready to start school, and the return on investment for making that happen.  The Board adopted a resolution recognizing the  Regional Plan for School Readiness 2017-2020. The Goochland School Board also adopted this resolution.

Perhaps the most noted current activity of local government is the removal of the old growth trees in front of the administration building to expand the parking lot. The admin building, AKA the old high school, is a massive structure at the corner of Sandy Hook Road and River Road West. Those trees, even when winter bare, softened the appearance of the building and tethered it to the ground. Now, the building sits in stark relief to its background with the lights from the field behind it sticking out like sore thumbs. Parking lot renovations are expected to take 60 to 90 days.

The admin building shorn of its tree cover.

In addition to new parking, the admin building is straining at the seams. Since moving into the renovated building 12 years ago, county staff has increased. In order to better use existing space, the supervisors authorized County Administrator John Budesky to execute a contract with HBA Architecture & Interior Design, Inc. for $225,000 for services related to a county government space study and  planning consultant. (See August 1 board packet for contract details.)

The study is expected to identify long term space allocations and future needs. Recent renovations in the Community Development Department that incorporated the wide high school hallway into office and other workspace is a good example of rethinking use of existing space.

As applications for residential rezonings have increased, the supervisors authorized Budesky to execute a contract for $99,080 with TischlerBise, Inc. to complete a capital impact study and model. The product of this study will be used to help the supervisors gauge the  capital impacts of new development by type of land use and determine if there is existing capacity to handle the new development and appropriate mitigation for deficiencies. (See page 249 of the August 1 board packet for complete details.)

The county needs its own assessment of development impact on core services including law enforcement, fire-rescue, and schools rather than depending on studies prepared by consultants retained by developers. Raising taxes on existing land owners to pay for new development is a flawed policy. The study will take four months to complete.

The supervisors adopted a resolution approving the issuance of $76.5 million hospital facility revenue bonds by the Economic Development Authority as a conduit issuer on behalf of The Sheltering Arms Corporation. Proceeds from sale of these tax exempt bonds will be used to finance construction of a 175,000 square foot rehabilitation hospital in the Notch portion of West Creek. The EDA is expected to approve the bond issuance at its August 16 meeting. This action does not financially obligate Goochland County is any way.

During evening public hearings, the board approved the renewal of a conditional use permit for Donna Reynolds operating the Bandit’s Ridge event venue. Last year, the supervisors granted a very short term CUP for Reynolds in spite of objections from neighbors. Reynolds built a very soundproof barn to contain the noise. Public hearings before both the Planning Commission and Supervisors seem to indicate that the issues between Reynolds and her neighbors have been resolved.

For further information, see the complete Board packet at the supervisors’ tab on the Goochland County website:

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Changing horses mid-stream

Goochland County is growing, especially in West Creek and the Broad Street Road corridor of the Centerville Village. Last week, citizens raised serious objections to rezoning applications.

Any landowner has the right to apply for a zoning change. This involves a lengthy and sometimes expensive process that includes community meetings and public hearings before the planning commission and supervisors. There is no guarantee than any application for a land use change will be approved.

During the citizen comment period in at the Supervisors’ August 1 evening session, two adjacent property owners opposed a rezoning application, which has not yet made it to the planning commission, for the Hunt Club Hill subdivision on the south side of Three Chopt Road between Broad Street and Manakin Roads.

First zoned for residential use in early 2003, Hunt Club Hill, near the Deep Run Hunt Club, was an early example of rural preservation (RP) zoning. The plan “on the books” for this community contains bridle trails and continued agricultural use of the open space (preservation tract).

The rezoning application in the works would increase the number of allowed homes from 34 to 49—if more than 50 homes are in a subdivision, a second entrance must be provided— with far less open space and no bridle trails.
Under current zoning, this portion of Hunt Club Hill would not change. Homes would be built behind the tree line

Three Chopt Road is narrow and often used as a cut through between Broad Street and Manakin Roads. Both termini involve tricky turns onto busy roads. After years of discussion and engineering studies, VDOT improvements to the Three Chopt/Manakin Road intersection resulted in a new pipe under Manakin Road to control storm water without inundating homes on the east side of Manakin Road; removal of a large tree on the corner; deepening the ditch on the west side; and adding about a yard of new pavement.

This section of road is also the only access to the Alvis Dairy Farm, one of the largest agricultural operations in the county and lined with crop fields and livestock operations.

The approved version of Hunt Club Hill  has home sites nestled in the woods with little or no change to the view shed of trees and fields. There is no sound rationale for adding 15 more homes and shrinking the open space. More about this if it proceeds through the rezoning process.

Residents of Creekmore, an upscale community of charming custom homes nestled up to the Richmond Country Club, turned out to the August 3 planning commission meeting in force to protest a rezoning application for land that sits between their homes and Route 6 filed by the Creekmore Group, LLC.

(District 4 Planning Commissioner John Shelhorse is, according to the application, the managing member of Creekmore Group LLC. Accordingly, he recused himself from all discussion and voting on the matter, and left the room during deliberations.)

When Creekmore was created in 2002, the parcels along Rt. 6 were rezoned residential office (RO) for five, five thousand square foot office buildings, which  never materialized. An application to change the zoning from RO-residential office to B-1, business general was accompanied by an application for a conditional use permit to build a 48,000 square foot two story self-storage facility and two five thousand square foot single story office buildings on the site. The proposal would represent a potential square footage 58,000 square feet, more than double that currently allowed.

The self-storage facility would be of the same design and materials as one recently built on the corner of Blair Road and Rt.6, but larger. (A year or so ago, a rezoning application for retail use of land on Rt. 6 east of Creekmore was rejected after vigorous position from homeowners. Town homes are currently under construction on that property.)

The county’s comprehensive land use plan  designates this area for office use, no retail, compatible with the surrounding area only.

The rezoning application touts a ”tree save” area to preserve existing trees between the proposed self-store and nearby homes. As one resident pointed out, those trees are deciduous and provide screening for only a portion of the year. The back of her home would have a semi-obscured view of  bay doors at the rear of a metal building.

Creekmore homeowners understood when they purchased their property that residential scale office buildings had been approved between the community and Route 6 and prefer that configuration to the new proposal. Protestations by the applicant that the new plan would generate far less traffic fell on deaf ears.

Opponents contended that rezoning the subject property would set a precedent for additional B-1 zoning along Rt. 6. A recent decision by the supervisors to permit mixed use on the former Oak Hill golf course property at the intersection of Rts. 288 and 6, which is  part of the West Creek business park, was interpreted by many long term residents as a betrayal of the county’s implied promise to keep commercial development off of Rt. 6.  Existing  commercial development on Rt. 6. east of Creekmore includes the aforementioned self-store, a kitchen showroom and other modest businesses.

A petition signed by 121 people opposing the change in land use was presented to the commission at the beginning of the hearing.

Objections included a negative impact on property values, which Creekmore homeowners contended have not yet rebounded to pre-recession levels, run off,  type of materials stored; truck noise, and unknown consequences if the storage business should fail.

Darvin Satterwhite, presenting the applications for the Creekmore Group contended that the new proposal is better because it includes more screening, fewer parking spaces, and would generate far less traffic than the current zoning.

In essence, Creekmore homeowners believe that it is unfair to change the zoning after people invested their money to purchase expensive homes based on an understanding that residential scale offices only could be built between their community and Rt. 6.

As one person put it “these (Creekmore) homes would not have been built if there was a warehouse there. This could set a precedent to create a “warehouse row” along Rt. 6, which is not in keeping with rural character. I bought my house in the good faith that the developer would keep his word.”

The commissioners, some of whom visited homes at the edge of Creekmore to gauge the impact of the proposal, agreed with the homeowners and voted 4-0 to deny recommendation of approval. The application can now move to the supervisors for final disposition.

Commission chair Tom Rockecharlie District 5, said that people who buy homes on a certain premise expect to be protected from changes like this. He also said that the proposed buildings are not residential in scale.

Matt Brewer, District 2 said that the land near Creekmore is not the right location for this type of facility.

In both of these instances, little has changed since the current zoning was put in place. There is no compelling reason to add more homes in Hunt Club Hill. Demand for commercial property on Rt. 6 west of Rt. 288 has yet to be proven.  Even dressed up with nicer building materials and landscaping, self-storage facilities are still warehouses and should be located in industrial, rather than residential, areas.

The current zoning for both of these properties still seems appropriate. Improving market appeal is not sufficient justification for altering the character of established areas and changing horses in midstream.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ready, set, dig

Breaking ground for the new shelter

During a brief respite from the blowtorch of summer, Goochland  held a ceremonial groundbreaking for our new animal shelter near Hidden Rock Park on August 1. 

Georgette Griffin, John Budesky, Ned Creasey, Ken Peterson, Tom Winfree

Goochland Board of Supervisors’ Chair Ned Creasey, District 3, welcomed a good sized group of citizens. “This is what proves we’re human,” Creasey said of the planned shelter. He thanked everyone involved in transforming the planned state-of-the-art facility from notion to reality.  He marveled at the generosity of the community that dug deep to fund the new Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services headquarters while also supporting the new shelter.. It all began a few years ago, said Creasey, when Becky Dickson, former county administrator, dispatched Lisa Beczkiewicz to “straighten things out” at the animal shelter. Her report led to Becky “having an idea,” which blossomed into the shelter.

Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Ken Peterson District 5, said that the shelter is another example of how Goochlanders pull together to solve a problem and close ranks to get it done.

Dr. Lori Elliott, DVM, whose generous donations of her time and talents working with Goochland Animal Protection Services, recalled the many conversations and meetings with Becky and other interested parties about how to make the special new shelter happen.

Current Goochland County Administrator John Budesky said he is honored to take a project Becky started and bring it across the finish line.

Tom Winfree, president of Goochland Pet Lovers, an organization formed specifically to raise funds and friends for the new shelter, thanked his volunteers, especially Kathy and Richard Verlander, who chair the capital campaign, for their efforts. He announced that Becky’s husband Dennis Proffit and sister Deborah Starns, have joined the GPL board. He thanked many people for making the day possible, including Wanda Tormey, Director of Purchasing, and County Attorney Tara McGee for handling all of the contractual details.

Tim Clough, Director of Animal Protection—notice that in Goochland it is not called animal control—said the new shelter will be an awesome facility that will have lots of room to accommodate volunteers, unlike the current building.

Dr. Lori Elliott, DVM, Tim Clough, Director of Animal Protection

No discussion of animal protection efforts in Goochland would be complete with mention of FLAG—For Love of Animals in Goochland—the volunteer organization that rescued many animals and found them forever homes. Last summer, FLAG announced that, after 30 years of wonderful work, it was closing. Georgette Griffin, said that FLAG was passing the torch to GPL to continue its work and wished the new organization greatest success. To  continue its legacy, FLAG has donated more than $200,000 to the new shelter including $75,000 for the spay and neuter clinic.

Winfree announced that so far, GPL has raised $831,454 of its $1.5 million goal.

The contract to build the shelter was awarded to BFE Construction, Inc. and is expected to be open for business by the fall of 2018. For more information, visit

Danielle Bowers, Sean Bowers of BFE Construction, and District 4 Supervisor Bob Minnick