This week in county government; Gentry won't seek re-election to Cuckoo BOS seat; Good endorses Adams in SD10 race; Supes to talk budget and more; Neighbor files suit over LA Resort rezoning
Engage Louisa is a nonpartisan newsletter that keeps folks informed about Louisa County government. 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, Feb. 20 through Feb. 25
For the latest information on county meetings including public meetings of boards, commissions, authorities, work groups, and internal county committees, click here. (Note: Louisa County frequently schedules internal committee/work group meetings after publication time. Check the county’s website for the most updated information).
Tuesday, February 21
Louisa County Board of Supervisors, budget work session, Public Meeting Room, Louisa County Office Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 3 pm. (livestream)
Louisa County Board of Supervisors, Public Meeting Room, Louisa County Office Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 6 pm. (agenda packet, livestream) The board will convene in closed session at 5 pm.
Wednesday, February 22
Lake Anna Advisory Committee, Public Meeting Room, Louisa County Office Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 7 pm.
Ag/Forestal and Rural Preservation Committee, Extension Conference Room, Louisa County Office Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 7:30 pm.
Monday, February 20
Mineral Town Council, 312 Mineral Ave., Mineral, 6:30 pm. (agenda packet)
Tuesday, February 21
Louisa Town Council, 212 Fredericksburg Ave., Louisa, 6 pm. (agenda)
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.
Election 2023: Gentry won’t seek re-election to Cuckoo BOS seat; McCotter launches bid for Cuckoo seat
One of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors longest-serving members won’t seek re-election this November.
Willie Gentry, who has served as the Cuckoo District representative on the board for nearly 20 years, said last week that he doesn’t plan to run for a sixth term.
“I’m 74 years old (this year). My wife and I have a lot of other things we want to do,” Gentry said in a phone interview.
Gentry said that his long career in public service—35 years at the Virginia Department of Transportation and 20 on the Board of Supervisors—has been rewarding, but now it’s time to finish projects he’s long put off, spend time with family, and travel. He added that his daughter, Shelly, and her family are relocating to London for five years and he and his wife, Debbie, hope to spend time with their daughter and grandchildren while they live abroad.
“The timing is right,” he said. “When you get to a certain age, you start wondering how many years you have left.”
First elected in 2003, Gentry is the board’s second longest-tenured member after Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes, who narrowly won re-election to his 7th term in 2021.
Gentry said he’s seen a lot of changes in the county over the last 20 years, particularly a surge in population and economic development. He’s thankful he’s had the opportunity to help the county navigate that change.
“In the last 20 years, Louisa went from no growth to a growth county,” he said. “One of my goals was to manage change. We created growth areas and tried to protect rural area in the interior of the county. I think I’ve done a good job of keeping my campaign promises.”
Gentry recounted several key accomplishments during his tenure. He said the Board of Supervisors has a strong relationship with the the School Board, but that wasn’t always the case, noting that he’s proud of the role he played in improving communication between the two boards.
And he pointed to his efforts to oppose a regional landfill in the county, which some of his colleagues supported about a decade ago because of the promise of additional revenue.
“Someone came up to me the other day and told me they appreciated me opposing that,” Gentry said.
Gentry touted his advocacy for programs and initiatives that have improved the quality of life for children, the elderly, and some of the county’s most vulnerable residents especially his service as a liaison to the Jefferson Area Board on Aging and regional transit provider JAUNT, both of which provide critical services to older residents and people with disabilities. He highlighted his work to bring a public pool to the county, noting that he’s now pushing for an indoor aquatic center to serve everyone from youth swim teams to folks using the pool for therapeutics.
“We’ve got that included in the Capital Improvement Plan,” he said.
Gentry’s five terms haven’t been without their challenges. He observed that reaching consensus on the board has become a bit more difficult as partisan politics gained a foothold in local government. Gentry has run as an independent in each his five campaigns, only facing opposition in his first run. But, since 2017, three supervisors have bucked local tradition and won seats as Republicans.
Gentry said that he worries that running on a major party ticket could impede supervisors’ ability to effectively represent everyone in their district and he fears that, at times, party priorities are placed before local needs.
“You need to represent everyone,” he said, noting the diverse demographics in his district. “I’m concerned about party politics and the ability to represent the whole district. I never thought that was the right way to approach things.”
Beyond partisan politics, Gentry said that it’s sometimes difficult to overcome regional differences, pointing out that, as one of two supervisors representing a large swath of Lake Anna, he has to fight to get four votes to address lake-specific issues.
During last year’s redistricting process, the Cuckoo District became even more lake centric as supervisors approved new maps consolidating Lake Anna into the Cuckoo and Mineral Districts. Previously, the lake mainly spanned the Cuckoo and Mineral Districts with small slices in the Jackson and Louisa Districts. The Cuckoo District now includes nearly all of the lake below the Route 208 bridge.
McCotter launches bid for Cuckoo District BOS seat
The race to fill the Cuckoo District Board of Supervisors seat has already attracted one contender well known to many Lake Anna residents.
Christopher McCotter, a fixture in the lake’s business and advocacy community, publicly announced his candidacy in a February 2 Facebook post, describing himself as “a receptive, well-qualified man-of-the-people willing to serve his beloved community with dedication and humility.”
McCotter has lived at the lake for about 30 years, first working as a reporter for The Central Virginian before starting several small businesses including Lake Anna Outfitters, McCotter’s Lake Anna Guide Service, and a media group that publishes Lake Anna Life and Times newspaper, according to the post.
He was a founding member of both the Lake Anna Civic Association and the Lake Anna Business Partnership and currently serves on the Lake Anna Advisory Committee, an inter-jurisdictional panel that advises policymakers in Louisa, Spotsylvania, and Orange counties on issues impacting the lake.
In a series of Facebook posts that he signs “Proud to be Cuckoo,” McCotter has discussed his decision to run for the board, some of his priorities, and why he thinks he’d represent the district well.
“I think my best attribute as a candidate is my ability to listen to constituents from all sides of the district. Cuckoo District demographics vary from multi-millionaires and country club members to working middle class folk to some people truly down on their luck. We have old Louisa families and many newcomers. I am able to listen and relate to all kinds,” he wrote in a February 15 post.
In a February 6 post, McCotter highlights two concerns he plans to focus on if elected in November: infrastructure and litter. He said that one of his first moves as a supervisor would be to conduct an infrastructure review that evaluates the condition of roads and bridges around the lake. And he said that he would work to better enforce local rules and harness state resources to clean up trash that mars roadsides.
“Our infrastructure, specifically the condition of our roads, is not where it should be. Safety is my main concern. There are dangerous, accident-prone areas that continue to exist and are the sites of collisions every week during the main tourism season and even during the off season. The actual road surfaces are crumbling under the weight of traffic volumes they were never intended to see. Mind boggling amounts of litter accumulates along these roads as well,” he wrote.
While applauding grassroots efforts to clean up the county, especially the citizen group Louisa Clean, McCotter said that trash along the county’s roads is a persistent problem that demands more action from local and state government.
“The litter won’t ever stop, and citizens get tired of picking it up. We need scheduled, non-citizen litter clean ups along our roads, I will do my best to get them in place,” he wrote, noting that “we are paying enough in taxes that we should have prisoner clean-ups or VDOT contractor clean ups as well.”
McCotter also said that he’d push for better enforcement of a covered trash vehicle ordinance, citing “unsecured trash in private and commercial trash services” as a contributing factor to roadside litter.
It’s unclear if McCotter plans to run as an independent or on a major party ticket. At publication time, he hadn’t formally filed paperwork with the Virginia Department of Elections to seek the seat. In an email last week, he declined to comment on his candidacy, saying only that he’s running for the Cuckoo District seat and directing folks to his McCotter for Cuckoo District Supervisor Facebook page for future announcements.
Candidates file for re-election
Eleven county offices are on the ballot this November. Here’s a rundown of the candidates who have formally filed to run as of Friday, February 17, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.
Stephen Harris (I) filed to run for re-election to the Cuckoo District seat on the School Board. Harris was first elected to the board in 2007 and has never faced opposition.
William “Billy” Seay (I) filed to run for re-election to the Louisa District seat on the School Board. Seay was first elected in 2007 and only faced an opponent in his first campaign.
Stacey Fletcher (I) filed to run for re-election as Commissioner of the Revenue. She won a three-way race for the job in 2019 and is seeking her second term.
Henry Wash (I) filed to run for re-election as Treasurer. First elected from a six-candidate field in 2011, Wash is seeking his fourth term.
Patty Madison (I) filed to run for re-election as Clerk of Court. Madison was first elected in 2017 after former clerk Susan Hopkins retired. Virginia’s Clerks of Court serve eight-year terms.
To learn more about what’s on the ballot this November, click here. To learn more about running for local office, click here.
Election 2023: Good endorses Adams in SD10 race
Congressman Bob Good on Friday threw his support behind Louisa County Board of Supervisors Chair Duane Adams in a hotly contested race for the Republican nomination in the 10th state Senate District.
"We need true conservatives in the Senate who won’t back down to pressure or compromise their values. Duane Adams has proven, time and again, that he will be that leader. He will protect our freedoms and fight for our families,” Good (R-VA05) said in a press release.
Adams is battling three other Republicans for the nomination in the ruby red 10th: 56th District Delegate John McGuire, Hanover County GOP Chair Jack Dyer, and Powhatan resident Sandy Brindley.
Redrawn during the once-a-decade redistricting process, the district includes most of Louisa County and part of western Hanover at its northern edge and stretches south encompassing all or part of eight other rural localities. The district covers a significant swath of Good’s 5th Congressional District where he defeated Democrat Josh Throneburg by more than 15 points to win a second term last November.
“I am truly honored to have Congressman Good’s endorsement,” Adams said. “He has stood his ground against liberal priorities and career politicians in D.C. and that’s the line-in-the-sand mentality I’ll bring to Richmond to halt Democrats’ efforts to trample our rights.”
Good’s endorsement comes at a pivotal time in the race as Republicans gear up to choose their nominee at a May 6 convention in Buckingham County.
Adams and McGuire are widely regarded as the frontrunners for the nomination, prompting McGuire to sharpen attacks on Adams in recent weeks. In emails to supporters and interviews on conservative talk radio, he’s questioned Adams’ conservative credentials, citing a House of Delegates campaign some 30 years ago in which Adams ran as a Democrat.
Adams has shrugged off the attack, saying that he was a Reagan Democrat in the 1980s and pointing to his conservative track record on the Board of Supervisors. He notes that he hasn’t voted for a tax increase, led a successful campaign to make Louisa a “2nd Amendment sanctuary” county, and derailed efforts to remove Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s surnames from the name of the regional library system.
Good’s endorsement could further undercut McGuire’s claims as he’s considered one of the House of Representatives’ most conservative members. In January, he led an intra-party revolt against eventual House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a party leader disparaged by many on the far right. McCarthy won the speakership on the 15th ballot, but Good was one of six Republicans who refused to vote for him.
Despite never holding state office in Virginia and only serving as a supervisor since 2018, Adams’ campaign quickly gained momentum after its December 2021 launch. He’s garnered endorsements from more than a dozen local officials and party activists across the district and raised nearly $260,000. As of December 31, he had more than $215,000 in the bank to lead the money race.
McGuire, who represents part of the district in his 56th District House of Delegates seat, has made a name for himself as a relentless campaigner since first winning election to the House in 2017. In 2020, he launched a failed bid for the Republican nomination in the 7th Congressional District, which then included part of the 10th. The next year, he was an early endorser of Governor Glenn Youngkin prior to his winning the Republican gubernatorial nomination, occasionally acting as a surrogate for Youngkin’s campaign and attending events with him across the state.
McGuire has aligned himself with his party’s hard right, embracing unfounded claims of voter fraud after the 2020 election and attending a rally-turned-riot at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, where a mob stormed the building as Congress prepared to certify the election results. McGuire has said he didn’t enter the Capitol.
Adams and McGuire held dueling events last Saturday to vie for convention delegates. Adams hosted a convention kickoff in Fluvanna County with Good as the headline speaker while McGuire crossed the district on a “MAGA Bus Tour” with conservative radio host John Fredericks and firebrand state Senator Amanda Chase in tow.
Democrat Jacob Boykin has also filed to run in the district. In a post on Twitter, Boykin said he’s the youngest candidate to ever run for a Virginia state Senate seat.
All 140 seats in the General Assembly—40 in the Senate and 100 in the House of Delegates—are up for grabs in newly-drawn districts this November. The general election is November 7.
Supes to talk budget, consider brief agenda
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors will gather for a pair of meetings on Tuesday, digging into the Fiscal Year 2024 budget during a 3 pm work session and holding their regular bimonthly meeting at 6 pm. Check out a preview of both meetings below.
Supervisors to talk FY 2024 budget: Supervisors will take a deep dive into the FY24 budget during a two-hour work session prior to their regular meeting. The board is in the early stages of crafting the spending plan for the next fiscal year, which kicks off July 1.
Via the annual budget, the board allocates millions of dollars in local, state, and federal funding to pay for a variety of government services, from police to public schools. The operating budget for FY23 topped $135 million with another $10.8 million allotted as part of the county’s capital spending plan.
Finance Director Wanda Colvin previewed the preliminary budget picture for FY24 at the board’s February 6 meeting, noting that anticipated revenues and expenses for the coming fiscal year are outpacing last year’s projections.
County revenues are expected to rise about 11.5 percent, or $16.15 million, over last year, Colvin said, reaching nearly $157 million. That’s driven largely by increases in real estate and personal property tax revenue. Based on the current tax rates, revenue from real estate taxes is projected to rise some 17 percent, about $7.45 million, while revenue from personal property taxes could jump as much as 24 percent, roughly $2.75 million.
The county’s real estate tax rate sits at 72 cents per $100 of assessed value while the personal property tax rate is $2.43 per $100 of assessed value for individuals and $1.90 for businesses. Those rates rank as some of the lowest in the area. Supervisors will set tax rates for FY24 as they craft the budget over the next two months.
Operating expenses are expected to increase as well, Colvin said, reaching $149.6 million based on preliminary funding requests. That’s 10.6 percent, or $14.4 million, more than last year.
A variety of factors are driving up expenses, according to Colvin, including an anticipated 13.5 percent hike in employees’ health insurance costs, a potential five percent pay raise for staff and a pay hike for part-time hourly workers to a minimum of $15 an hour, and departmental requests for 14 new staff positions.
Funding requests from outside agencies and Louisa County Public Schools have also risen, Colvin said. Outside groups are asking for $884,000 more than last year and LCPS’s request is up $7.5 million with more than $4 million of that expected to be offset by revenues from state and federal sources.
Outside of the operating budget, Colvin said that capital spending requests are up $38.6 million over last year as several big-ticket infrastructure projects—completing the James River Water Project, purchasing and upgrading a wastewater treatment plant at Lake Anna, and bringing wet utilities to the Shannon Hill Regional Business Park—are on supervisors’ spending agenda. Preliminary capital requests total more than $49 million.
Colvin said that supervisors could use an anticipated $7.27 million operating surplus to help cover capital expenses. They also have about $6.1 million in the general fund and more than $15 million in capital reserves. Supervisors are expected to contract debt by issuing bonds to cover some capital expenses, and a nearly $11.6 million state grant will offset part of the cost of bringing water and sewer infrastructure to Shannon Hill.
Click here to learn more about the county’s budget process.
Board to consider approving six new FEMS staffers: Supervisors will consider green-lighting a request from the Fire and EMS Department to hire six new firefighters and medics to help staff the New Bridge Fire and EMS Station.
The station—the first to be built almost entirely with county funds—is currently under construction on Route 208 just west of the Lake Anna Food Lion. It’s expected to be finished this spring, according to County Administrator Christian Goodwin.
The additional staff would cost the county $550,716 annually and $213,572 this fiscal year. There would also be a one-time $30,000 cost for uniforms and protective equipment.
The FEMS Department requested eight full-time medics/firefighters and one part-time staffer to handle logistics as part of the FY24 budget process. The total staffing request would cost the county about $747,100 annually.
Supervisors to consider green-lighting FEMS grant application: Supervisors will consider approving a resolution authorizing the Fire and EMS Department to apply for a grant to purchase new self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA). The resolution states that the department’s current SCBA equipment is at the end of its lifespan and out of compliance with National Fire Protection Association regulations. The grant requires a 90/10 local match, so the county would be on the hook for up to $194,650 in equipment costs if it’s awarded.
Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District to update board: Representatives from the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District will update the board on the organization’s work. The meeting materials don’t include any additional information about TJSWCD’s presentation.
Mitchell Creek property owner files suit over LA Resort rezoning
A Lake Anna property owner asked Louisa County Circuit Court to nullify a controversial rezoning approved by the Board of Supervisors in January, which opens the door for mixed-use development just west of the Route 208 bridge.
In a February 10 filing, Candace Dowling alleges that supervisors “wrongly approved” LA Resort, LLC’s application to rezone, from commercial to Planned Unit Development, 15.27 acres on the south side of Route 208 across from Lake Anna Plaza. Dowling asks the court to declare the rezoning “void and of no effect.”
Approved in a 6-1 vote at the board’s January 17 meeting, the rezoning clears the way for LA Resort to build a mixed-use development featuring an up to 96-unit residential condominium building, a 130-key hotel, restaurant, and marina fronting Mitchell Creek, a narrow cove just south of Route 208 that’s lined with single-family homes. The board also approved a Conditional Use Permit that allows the condo building to reach 80-feet high, 20 feet taller than what’s permitted for multi-family residential structures in a PUD, but equal to what’s allowed for hotels.
Dowling and her husband, David, own a 2.66-acre parcel across Mitchell Creek from the subject property, according to county records.
The county has 21 days to respond to the suit. Louisa County Board of Supervisors Chair Duane Adams, who represent the area, declined to comment on the case last week. County Attorney Helen Phillips said in an email on Friday that the county is working on its response.
The rezoning sparked significant opposition from neighbors, who argued that the development would overwhelm local infrastructure, threaten public safety, harm the environment, and lower their property values, among other concerns. They pleaded with the board at numerous public meetings to maintain the property’s commercial zoning, contending that allowing residential development on the parcel is a risky deal for taxpayers, in part, because LAR hadn’t offered sufficient assurances that the project’s commercial component would materialize.
Dowling’s 16-page complaint reiterates many of the concerns raised during the rezoning process, arguing that Mitchell Creek residents “will suffer particular harm, unique from the general public in that our property values and privacy will be diminished, we will be subjected to increased noise and light disturbances, increased pollution of the water and will be endangered by the significant increase in boat traffic in the cove where our property exists.” The filing argues that supervisors “failed in their duty to the citizens by approving zoning that’s not in the protection of the public health, safety, or general welfare.”
Dowling alleges that supervisors violated both county and state code in approving LAR’s application and voices broader concerns about the rezoning process. Specifically, she claims that supervisors failed to require an environmental impact study, as mandated by county code, approved a height exception for the residential condo building without proof of undue hardship, failed to require a sufficient performance bond to protect taxpayers as recommended by the Planning Commission, and failed to properly notify adjacent property owners about the rezoning request.
Dowling further contends that the developers didn’t submit a complete land use application and that, during a 2019 update, supervisors made “arbitrary and capricious” changes to the county’s Comprehensive Plan in an apparent effort to help the developers. She also argues that supervisors failed to provide an explanation for how LAR’s proposal is “materially different” from another developer’s 2015 request to rezone the property, which the board rejected
In approving the rezoning, several supervisors said that permitting a Planned Unit Development on the commercially-zoned property would better protect neighbors and the lake when considering what LAR could build by-right. During several presentations, the developers said that if their application didn’t win board approval, they’d build a condo-hotel that would be “highly-transient” and more disruptive to the neighborhood.
Board members said the PUD provided them with some control over the parcel’s development, enabling them to mitigate its impact. Supervisors also pointed out that the development conformed with the Comp Plan’s vision for the area and that the plan was updated in 2019 after extensive public input. The property is designated for mixed-sue development on the plan’s Future Land Use Map.
During the rezoning process, the developers tweaked their proffers in response to some community concerns, beefing up measure to rein in light pollution, tacking on a $2 million performance bond if the project’s commercial component is slow to materialize, and placing some limits on the condos use as short-term rentals.
At several meetings, county officials pushed back on claims that the developers failed to follow code, particularly with respect to the requirement for an environmental impact study. Staff said that the Phase One Environmental Assessment that LAR submitted met the county’s requirement.
Click here for contact information for the Louisa County Board of Supervisors.
Find agendas and minutes from previous Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission 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.
Click here to access past editions of Engage Louisa.