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: April 26-May 1)
Monday, April 26, 2021
Louisa County Health Center Commission, 4:30 pm, Public Meeting Room, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa (public notice)
The Health Center Commission’s primary purpose is to acquire, construct, and operate health care facilities to support the public health and welfare of local residents, to carry out the business of such facilities, and to establish rules and regulations that govern their operation.
According to a recent article published by The Central Virginian, the commission gifted its cash assets to county government, county schools, and a nonprofit last week. In 2019, they gave their main asset, The Louisa Memorial Medical Center, to the county. Commission chair Tom Filer told the paper that the group recommended to the Board of Supervisors that it disband because its model is no longer practicable.
Note: Community members wishing to attend this meeting are encouraged to call Louisa County at 540-967-3400 to confirm the accuracy of the public notice and meeting details.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Louisa County Ag/Forestal and Rural Preservation Committee, 7 pm, Public Meeting Room, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa (public notice)
The committee will discuss an addition to the Yanceyville Agricultural and Forestal District. AFDs provide landowners, who are involved with agriculture and forestry, a way to protect their land from future development. Members of a district agree not to develop their land for a fixed period, subject to renewal.
To learn more about the committee’s work and the Agricultural and Forestal District program, click 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.
Highlights: April 19 BOS meeting
Last Monday, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors met for their regularly scheduled meeting. Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams participated remotely. A recording of the meeting and related materials are available here.
A few highlights:
The board adopted the FY22 Operational and Maintenance Budget, totaling $121,360,450, and the FY22 Capital Improvement Plan Budget, totaling $7,414,840. The board also adopted several tax levies for the coming fiscal year including a real property tax rate of 72 cents per $100 of assessed value and a personal property tax rate of $2.43 per $100 of assessed value. Tax rates will remain the same as they were in FY21 but with real estate assessments rising nearly 6 percent county-wide, many homeowners should expect a hike in their tax bill. (Budget information page)
Following a public hearing, the board approved Apple Grove Solar LLC’s request for a conditional use permit to construct a 15 MW, 111-acre solar facility along Jefferson Highway (Rt. 33) near the intersection of Apple Grove Road (Rt. 657).
Apple Grove Solar previously applied for a CUP to construct a 20MW facility at this location, which the board denied last summer. The developer made what the county deemed substantial changes to the CUP application, then resubmitted for approval.
Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes contended that the applicant should’ve been barred from resubmitting, a nod to county policy that prevents denied or withdrawn requests from reconsideration for 12 months if they are “substantially the same.” Other board members argued that the changes to the application met the county’s subjective standard. (More info on this policy below).
Adams expressed concerns about buffering around the solar array, which will cover 88 acres. At the request of Robert Bunting, who is leasing his land for part of the project and also owns land that abuts it, the facility is not entirely surrounded by an opaque vegetative buffer. In a letter to the board, Bunting argued that a tree-lined buffer would impede his ability to farm his property. Adams maintained that the facility shouldn’t be exempt from buffering requirements applied to other solar projects, adding that Bunting wants to “have his cake and eat it too.”
A group of community members showed up to support the project, with neighbor Bruce Stone noting that he’d prefer a “renewable resource” like a solar field to other projects that could increase traffic in the area.
In the end, the board approved the CUP as presented in a 4-2-1 vote. Supervisors Williams, Barlow, Gentry and Babyok supported while Supervisors Barnes and Adams opposed. Louisa District Supervisor Eric Purcell abstained, citing his own involvement with solar developments in the county.
Following a public hearing, the board amended Section 86-13 of county code, adding a definition for the term “substantially the same.” Those words caused concern for some board members when Apple Grove Solar LLC was allowed to resubmit an application for a CUP with the same land use objectives. County code prevents applicants from resubmitting a denied or withdrawn application within 12 months if the county deems the project “substantially the same,” a term that code left undefined.
In December, the board directed county staff to come up with a clear definition of the term. After some discussion, the board settled on and unanimously approved the following language:
Land use applications of any type are substantially the same as a previous application if the application includes one of the following:
1. A previously requested land use action on any parcel(s) included in a previous application; or
2. Any requested land use action that may result in the ability to gain the same or similar land use by definition.
County Attorney Helen Phillips provided a brief presentation summarizing the cannabis legislation that passed the General Assembly during the 2021 session.
The legislation legalizes possession of small amounts of cannabis as of July 1 and allows for limited home cultivation. Parts of the bill, particularly as it relates to Virginia’s regulated cannabis market, must pass again in the 2022 session. Regulated sales of recreational cannabis are currently set to begin in 2024.
Phillips told the board that localities can bar cannabis sales in their community via referendum. The board could move for a ballot measure after July 1, 2022. The referendum would then go to voters in November 2022.
Phillips said the county could potentially raise revenue by allowing cannabis sales. The legislation allows localities to levy up to a three percent sales tax on the product.
Follow the money: who’s funding local candidates?
On April 15, candidates who filed to run for local and state office submitted campaign finance reports for the first quarter of 2021. The reports show how much money candidates raised and spent, who contributed, how they expended funds, and their cash on hand at the close of the reporting period (March 31).
Candidates who don’t raise or spend any money may be exempted from regularly filing reports, and donations of $100 or less aren’t required to be itemized.
The Virginia Public Access Project offers a user-friendly rundown of filings for candidates across the Commonwealth.
Here in Louisa County, three candidates for local office filed reports. A few highlights:
Republican Duane Adams, seeking re-election to the Mineral District Board of Supervisors seat, collected $780 including $750 in cash contributions and a $30 in kind donation. He spent $98 and ended the quarter with $985 cash on hand. Adams’ top donor, real estate developer Michael Larkin, chipped in $500. Click here for Adams’ full report.
Republican William Woody, vying for the Patrick Henry District Board of Supervisors seat long held by incumbent Fitzgerald Barnes, raised $2,800, the bulk of that in cash contributions. Woody received $2,500 from Buffy Jo Woody. He spent $100 and ended the quarter with $2,700 in the bank. Click here for Woody’s full report.
Deborah Hoffman, seeking re-election to the Green Springs District School Board seat, neither raised nor spent any money and ended the quarter with $90 cash on hand. Click here for Hoffman’s full report.
Two candidates competing for the right to represent Louisa County and the 56th District in the Virginia House of Delegates also filed reports.
Republican incumbent John McGuire raised $10,313 from 75 donors and spent $3,840. Louisa Commonwealth Attorney Rusty McGuire’s campaign committee was the top donor to his brother’s campaign, giving $1,903. McGuire spent $1,456 on signs and bumperstickers, his top expenditure. His campaign has $21,891 cash on hand. Click here for McGuire’s full report.
Democratic challenger Blakely Lockhart garnered $10,019 from 92 donors. She spent $762 and ended the quarter with $9,257 cash on hand. Lockhart’s top donor, Marc Lockhart, contributed $2,000. Click here for Lockhart’s full report.
Stay tuned for more coverage of local candidates’ fundraising as election season heats up in the months to come!
Note: Residents wishing to run for one of four seats up for grabs on the Louisa County Board of Supervisors or the Louisa County School Board have until June 8 to file. Click here for more information from the Virginia Department of Elections.
In accordance with Covid-19 guidelines, in-person attendance at Louisa County public meetings is limited. Click here for the county’s public meeting protocols.
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.