Scott Gaeser, with Town & Country Partners, recently made a presentation last week, at the Centerville Fire Department, regarding the first mixed-use development to be potentially placed in Goochland County. The project, or Manakin Towne as it is has been named, would be a combination of multi-unit dwellings, townhomes, and higher end retail shops. Additionally, there are some office spaces in the proposal that would be located in the mixed-use space. Altogether, according to the developer, Manakin Towne could see up to 5,000 new residents, business owners, and professionals. The presentation, and planning committee, saw a large turnout of residents who came to ask questions, express concerns, and get a closer look at what mixed-use expansion in the County would actually look like. Many people who attended the meeting had distinct opinions about growth and development into Goochland.
The current population of Goochland County stands at, approximately, 22,000 residents. New housing developments that are already in progress will bring an increase to this number. The steady increase in homes within the County brings with it the potential for economic expansion, something that some residents are opposed to while others wholeheartedly endorse. To say it is a matter of contention is an understatement, and positions on both sides are relevant to the future of how Goochland will develop.
Some of the questions being asked are:
• How does a larger population, or an increase in the development of new shops and businesses, affect the County overall? Are specialty shops, as proposed at the meeting, more or less inclined to be sustainable in the long run?
• Would the eastern end of Goochland be the only part of the County to see a noticeable increase in new business growth?
• How does new development, whether residential or commercial, impact traffic?
• Will Goochland become a version of Short Pump?
• Will the additional tax revenue brought in by new businesses, shops, and homes be advantageous in stimulating Goochland County’s local economy?
• How will an increase in growth and development affect local law enforcement and EMS services? As Goochland County heads into local elections in November, this particular question has been expressed by an increasing number of residents and is a topic that may be presented to the candidates currently running for Sheriff and for the Board of Supervisors positions as the candidates participate in upcoming forums.
• Can the existing community service programs, as well as the schools within the County limits, adequately accommodate the needs of a growing community?
• Will more residents, schools, and businesses see an increased broadband presence as the population of Goochland grows?
As has been noted over the past ten years, especially, Goochland County is expanding. Growth is inevitable, so the question becomes how to best manage it in ways that are supportive over the long run in an economically, practical, sound way that also preserves the natural rural spaces that the County is known for. This is where a lot of tension in the discussion becomes most evident and was certainly the case at the most recent presentation regarding the Manakin Towne project.
Courthouse Commons shopping center addressed business expansion by bringing in new businesses into already existing empty retail spaces. Familiar companies such as Dunkin Donuts and Allstate now occupy formerly empty storefronts and are generating revenue. As many people are already familiar with the types of goods and services these particular businesses offer, success for them both has been steady. Customers are seemingly also comfortable with an increase in sales of local goods provided by the new Goochland Farmers Market and the already existing Manakin Farmers Market. These types of businesses not only support Goochland’s own economy, but they provide additional options, products, goods, and services to area residents.
In some of the newer housing developments, and recently sold residential lots located throughout the County, the same can be said for construction that is deliberately building homes in such a way as to blend into, comparably speaking, the thriving neighborhoods that already surround them.
What is the difference between a sustainable economic, and residential, structural foundation that benefits Goochland County versus a continuance of maintaining the status quo in keeping Goochland primarily rural? In short, the answer is increased revenue that comes into the County by way of taxes paid by homeowners and business owners alike who live, or conduct business, within Goochland County. Since only a portion of Goochland is slated for commercially zoned business, the areas most impacted would be towards Manakin and Centerville. However, economic and taxpayer revenue is distributed throughout the entire County meaning that the western part of Goochland could see a potential impact as well. Whether this is good or bad depends largely on who you ask. Businesses that only remain open for a year or two, and then close, are not sustainable. Bringing in businesses that residents are familiar with, and who have a demonstrated history of financial success, are more likely to stay for longer periods of time so long as it is financially feasible to do so.
Homeowners who move into the County have a great deal of potential to invest their time, energy, and resources back into their immediate community as they have a vested interest in seeing the County in which they pay taxes thrive. There are a plethora of opportunities to volunteer or serve on one of the many County committees that are dedicated to staffing the interests and projects that ensure our dedicated rural spaces are cleaned up, maintained, and preserved. This potential brings with it a level of practical growth that benefits our community as a whole.
On the other side of the same coin, concerned residents question whether or not such growth would bring with it an increase in traffic incidents and possibly a climb in crime rates. Local law enforcement officials in Goochland County will require additional, and ongoing, support and training. Hiring, alongside more consistent auditing, of qualified law enforcement officers, as well as fire and emergency service employees, will need to be addressed in a timely manner so as to keep up with the changes and requirements that more growth can bring. This November Goochland County will be electing leaders, including a Sheriff who can hit the ground running, so to speak, in order to accommodate the anticipated growth that is expected to occur within the near future.
This sort of leadership, along with that of the Board of Supervisors and committee chairpersons, will play an integral role in maintaining safety standards and values that are in line with the best interests of County residents and businesses. This is why it is vital that every eligible resident of Goochland County vote in the local elections that are rapidly approaching. Review the qualifications, resumes, and actualized work history of all candidates, and vote accordingly based on their demonstrated professional history. Those elements, more than anything else, should be of the highest priority when selecting a candidate to represent the voices of those who call Goochland home.
Is there an easy answer as to how best keep Goochland rural while maintaining an area that is currently seeing an advancement in growth and development? An answer that will ease concerns while simultaneously stimulating the local economy? Probably not. It is next to impossible to hear voices though that will not speak, so do vote. Attending committee and planning meetings can also provide those who represent Goochland residents with a real pulse as to what taxpayers wish to see, and not see, occurring around them. The discussions into future developments will continue to take place, and residents participating in them can make a huge difference. Their presence within the County is the key to being heard and noted.
As Goochland County moves ahead the questions and ideas of local residents become ever more important and vital. Ethical and practical leadership from elected officials will reflect our overall presence within the State of Virginia.
As we continue forward, what changes would you like to see occur within the County? Comments are open to the public, and may be made below by scrolling down to the bottom of this article.