This week in county government; BOS finds unanimity at June 7 meeting; Dominion official apologizes to county; Dems choose McAuliffe, Ayala, Herring statewide and locally
Engage Louisa is a community newsletter aimed at keeping folks informed about Louisa County government. It’s free, non-partisan, and powered by volunteers. We believe our community is stronger and our government serves us better when we increase transparency, accessibility, and engagement.
This week in county government: public meetings, June 14-19
Tuesday, June 15
Louisa County Water Authority, Public Meeting Room, 1 Woolfolk Ave., 6 pm. (public notice). At publication time, an agenda was not available.
The Louisa County Water Authority will convene for its regular monthly meeting and discuss a hike in connection and repair fees. According to The Central Virginian, the authority will hold a public hearing to consider raising connection fees for new residential and commercial users. The fees to connect a typical single family home to both water and sewer would each rise about $1,500. The authority will also consider hiking the fee to repair clean-outs and blocked sewer lines from $20 to $100.
Thursday, June 17
Additional information about Louisa County’s upcoming public meetings is available here.
Interested in taking your talents to one of the county’s numerous boards and commissions? Find out more here, including which boards have vacancies and how to apply.
BOS finds unanimity at June 7 meeting; Dominion official apologizes to county
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors found plenty to agree on at its June 7 meeting, concluding each of its six public hearings with unanimous decisions. (video)
But, before supervisors got to that portion of the meeting, they heard a rare apology from a Dominion Energy lobbyist.
News to know from the meeting:
Dominion official apologizes to county for runoff at Belcher solar site: Dominion Energy’s Belcher solar facility off Waldrop Church Road continues to cause problems for neighbors. Dominion lobbyist Sarah Marshall apologized during public comment at Monday’s meeting for poor communication on the part of the company and ongoing stormwater issues at the site.
Marshall said that significant rainfall on June 3 “caused heavy flow and increased turbidity in the water at the Belcher solar facility,” noting that Dominion failed to adequately communicate with residents and the county regarding runoff and sediment control. Neighbors have repeatedly complained about stormwater issues around the facility, which cause flooding and muddy Harris Creek and its tributaries.
Marshall told the board that Dominion is working to establish vegetation at the site in an effort to control erosion and sediment. She noted that the company has run into problems growing grass in some areas. Dominion is working with a vendor to explore different seed mixes and application methods, and also laying sod.
In addition, Marshall said that the company is focused on decreasing water levels in its sediment control ponds, and may install berms and apply flocculation in the ponds, though its permit doesn’t require such measures. Dominion plans to meet one-on-one with impacted landowners.
In March, the State Water Control Board fined Dominion $50,000 for the unauthorized discharge of sediment into streams and wetlands surrounding Harris Creek.
Problems at the Belcher site and the larger battle over solar facilities in the county could emerge as an issue in this year’s Board of Supervisors’ races. Following heavy rain late last week, Republican William Woody, who is challenging Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes, mentioned the runoff on his campaign’s Facebook page. The Belcher facility is located in Barnes’ district.
“The damage caused by the Belcher Solar Project is unacceptable. Just this morning, more damaging runoff from the property is affecting Louisa’s farms and streams. It is clear that the due diligence was not done to protect our community,” Woody wrote.
Woody posted a video later in the day showing muddy runoff on a farm he visited.
“This runoff is coming from a ‘solar farm.’ It’s running into the fresh water streams that are used to water livestock,” he said. “There are more solar projects in the works but has the Board of Supervisors really thought of the long term ramifications to the citizens of Louisa?”
Barnes supported the conditional use permit for the roughly 1000-acre Belcher facility when it was proposed in 2017. That board, which didn’t include current members Duane Adams, Bob Babyok and Eric Purcell, unanimously approved the CUP in a 6-0 vote. Supervisor Toni Williams missed the meeting.
When the developer asked the board for another conditional use permit to expand the project last year, neighbors spoke out in strong opposition. Supervisors voted down the expansion 4-2-1 with Barnes making the motion to kill the request.
Board approves site for New Bridge Fire and EMS station: Lake Anna residents got one step closer to a long-awaited fire and EMS station Monday night. The board voted unanimously to build the new station at 1856 New Bridge Road (Route 208), adjacent to the bark park and just down the street from the Lake Anna Food Lion. The station will primarily serve the central part of the lake and surrounding areas.
Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams told the board that soil work indicated the station would require an alternative sewage system. He also noted that VDOT would not require a turning lane off New Bridge Road to serve the site.
With that info in hand, Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams motioned and the board approved the location and $50,000 for design work.
The county included an $800,000 allocation for the station’s construction in its FY21 Capital Improvement Plan budget. The Foundation for Lake Anna Emergency Services has raised over $167,000 in support of the facility.
CUP for assisted living facility and school wins support: The board enthusiastically approved Sheila Thurston’s request for a conditional use permit to operate an assisted living facility and private school to train certified health and home care professionals. The facility will be located at 961 S. Spotswood Trail (Route 33) in the Patrick Henry Voting District (tmp 23-62C). The CUP caps the number of residents in the facility at eight.
Thurston and the board agreed that the business will be an asset to the county’s health care and education infrastructure.
“If there was ever a business needed in Louisa County, it’s a business to train skilled and compassionate home health care workers,” Thurston said, noting that her neighbors “have graciously supported my efforts.”
No one spoke in support or opposition to the facility during the public hearing but County Administrator Christian Goodwin read two letters in favor of the project.
Considering conditions on sale of county-owned land: The board heard public comment on the potential sale of a 32-acre parcel (tmp 67-28A) adjoining Reedy Creek subdivision. Several people have expressed interest in purchasing the land, which was gifted to the county by Reedy Creek’s developer. Board members pointed out that they’ve made no decision about the parcel’s fate. State code requires a public hearing before the land can be sold.
The potential sale of the wooded lot tucked behind Carter Lane and accessed via Flint Place raised concerns among some Reedy Creek residents. Michael Breen, representing the Reedy Creek Property Owners Association, spoke in opposition to the sale, encouraging the county to turn the parcel into a park, transfer the property to the subdivision’s POA or find some other way to preserve the land.
Breen expressed particular concern about possible clear-cutting on the land, noting that community members are worried heavy logging trucks would increase traffic and damage the subdivision’s roads.
Adams asked Breen if Reedy Creek residents would be back in front of the board complaining about traffic from a county-owned park. Breen responded that the parcel could potentially be accessed via adjoining property.
Adams dismissed the idea that the county would be willing to transfer a taxpayer-owned asset to a private property owners’ association at no or low cost. “That’s a nonstarter,” he said.
Barnes, whose district includes Reedy Creek, said he didn’t want the land clear cut and he opposed any additional subdividing beyond a possible family division. “I don’t want to change the tranquility of the neighborhood. I want to preserve it,” he said.
Louisa District Supervisor Eric Purcell, whose family deeded the property to the county, said that the land was once considered as a location for a new elementary school. The school was later built along Route 208. He and County Attorney Helen Phillips noted that the property is subject to Reedy Creek’s restrictive convenances though it is not part of the subdivision.
Barnes suggested that staff research what restrictions currently apply to the property and what conditions could potentially be placed on it. On a motion by Barnes, the board voted unanimously to direct county staff to research conditions on a possible future sale.
Clean energy financing program takes root: The board approved an ordinance “to create the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) Financing and Resiliency Program” in Louisa County.
Abigail Johnson from the Virginia PACE Authority provided a presentation to the board at its April 19 meeting, touting the program as an innovative clean energy financing tool available for commercial and multi-family properties. C-PACE allows for the financing of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water management improvements and infrastructure, secured by a voluntary special assessment lien on the property.
The financing, made through approved lenders, is available for both existing buildings and new construction. Johnson explained that C-PACE financing runs with the property, allowing for longterm loans at fixed rates. She said the program is both environmentally beneficial and a way to reduce costs for property owners and tenants. C-PACE has minimal costs for participating localities.
VDOT road plan approved: The board held a public hearing and approved the Virginia Department of Transportation’s “6-Year Plan for Secondary Road System Construction in Louisa County.” The $1.1 million plan designates secondary roads in the queue for improvements over the next six years.
The board convened a special called meeting in early April to discuss the plan. At Monday’s public hearing, VDOT’s Alan Saunders offered the board two slightly different versions to consider.
The board opted for a version that allows flexibility in how the county allocates telecommunication fee funding. These funds can be used to upgrade public roads already in the state system or improve private roads to bring them into the system via the “rural additions” program.
The plan creates a line item, setting aside $10,000 in 2027, for use in upgrading private roads. Saunders explained that the line item allows the county to prioritize its transportation infrastructure needs, pointing to a neighboring locality that opted to spend funds on upgrading a private road with 30 to 40 houses versus a lightly-travelled public road.
The county also uses “rural rustic’ program funding, which is specifically aimed at paving unpaved public roads. A stretch of Rolling Path Road (Route 698) is first up for paving, per the plan. That work is scheduled for later this year.
AFDs grow in western part of county: In the first of two public hearings concerning land conservation, the board approved the creation of the Trevilian Station Agricultural and Forestal District (AFD). AFDs are a conservation tool that allow land owners to protect agricultural and forest land from future development for at least a 10-year period.
Earlier in the meeting, the board green-lighted two late additions to the proposed district, which encompasses 64 parcels and just over 4,400 acres, The district includes land owned by the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation (TSBF), Civil War Preservation Trust, and American Battlefield Trust, among others.
Gerald Harlow, representing TSBF, applauded the conservation efforts, telling the board, “This land is not costing the county anything because it is not being built upon. People are preserving their land for agricultural and forest uses.”
In the second public hearing, supervisors approved the addition of 68 parcels covering nearly 5,400 acres to the Green Springs Ag/Forestal District. The district now includes 128 parcels parcels covering over 12,000 acres.
Dems choose McAuliffe, Ayala, Herring statewide and locally
Democrats in Louisa County, like their counterparts statewide, selected Terry McAuliffe as the party’s nominee for governor, Hala Ayala for lieutenant governor, and Mark Herring for attorney general in the June 8 primary.
McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014-2018, won Louisa County with about 66 percent of the vote. He racked up 62 percent statewide, outpacing former Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, who finished second in the five-candidate field with 19 percent. Carroll Foy garnered just over 19 percent of the vote in Louisa and won the Yanceyville precinct, one of only 84 precincts McAuliffe lost statewide.
Delegate Hala Ayala claimed victory in the crowded field vying for the lieutenant governor nomination. Ayala won statewide with nearly 38 percent of the vote well ahead of Delegate Sam Rasoul, who finished second with 24 percent. Ayala won Louisa with nearly 41 percent of the vote, claiming victory in every precinct expect Cuckoo. Rasoul finished second with almost 23 percent and won the Cuckoo precinct.
Two-term Attorney General Mark Herring earned Democrats’ approval to seek his third stint in office, capturing nearly 57 percent of the vote statewide to Delegate Jay Jones’ 43 percent. Herring garnered 53 percent of votes in Louisa, winning 11 of 16 precincts, while Jones claimed nearly 47 percent.
McAuliffe and Ayala were boosted by endorsements from Governor Ralph Northam and much of Virginia’s Democratic establishment. Northam endorsed Jones in the AG race.
According to unofficial results, more than 492,000 people cast ballots in the primary, roughly 8 percent of registered voters. Turnout fell short of the record-breaking 2017 Democratic gubernatorial primary where over 542,000 Virginians voted, nearly 10 percent of the electorate.
In Louisa County, 1653 people participated, roughly 6 percent of registered voters. In 2017, 1884 voters cast ballots.
Most Louisa voters showed up at the polls on Election Day. According to the Virginia Department of Elections, 454 people voted early in person or via absentee ballot.
The Republican Party of Virginia chose its candidates for statewide office in a May 8 unassembled convention. Using ranked choice voting, roughly 30,000 delegates chose former Carlyle Group executive Glenn Youngkin as the party’s nominee for governor, Winsome Sears, a former member of the House of Delegates, for lieutenant governor, and Delegate Jason Miyares for attorney general.
Richmond activist Princess Blanding announced on Twitter that she qualified for the ballot as an independent gubernatorial candidate. At publication time, the Virginia Department of Elections had not yet released its official list of candidates for the November 2 General Election.
Louisa County residents will also elect four members of the Board of Supervisors and School Board and the 56th District representative in the House of Delegates this November.
Incumbents Tommy Barlow (I-Mountain Road), Fitzgerald Barnes (I-Patrick Henry), Bob Babyok (I-Green Springs), and Duane Adams (R-Mineral) are all seeking re-election to the Board of Supervisors. Republican challengers William Woody and Rachel Jones are vying for the Patrick Henry and Green Springs seats respectively. Barlow and Adams are running unopposed.
All four incumbents on the School Board are running to retain their seats: Greg Strickland (I-Patrick Henry); Sherman Shifflett (I-Mineral); Deborah Hoffman (I-Green Springs); and Gail Proffitt (I-Mountain Road). They face no opposition.
Councilor Tommy Runnett and challenger David Lawson will vie for a seat on the Mineral Town Council, according to The Central Virginian.
Click here for contact information for the Louisa County Board of Supervisors.
Find agendas and minutes from previous meetings as well as archived recordings here.
Click here for contact information for the Louisa County School Board.
Click here for minutes and agendas for school board meetings.