This week in county government; Jones, Barnes prevail in supervisor races; BOS hears update on James River Water Project; BOS Roundup: news from Nov. 1 meeting; McGuire files for congressional run
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, Nov. 8 through Nov. 13
Wednesday, November 10
CANCELED: James River Water Authority, Fluvanna County Public Library, 214 Commons Blvd., Palmyra, 9 am. At publication time, an agenda was not publicly available. (public notice)
Louisa County Water Authority, Virtual Meeting, 6 pm. At publication time, an agenda was not publicly available. A Zoom link is available in the public notice.
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.
Jones ousts Babyok in Green Springs BOS race, Barnes narrowly wins in Patrick Henry
Republican Rachel Jones ousted independent incumbent Bob Babyok in a hotly-contested race for the Green Springs District Board of Supervisors seat on Tuesday while independent incumbent Fitzgerald Barnes narrowly beat Republican challenger William Woody in the Patrick Henry District race.
Barnes, seeking his seventh term, faced his toughest re-election bid to date, besting Woody by just four votes, 1239-1235. When all votes were tallied on election night, Barnes held just a one vote lead, 1234 to 1233. But, he added five votes to that total to Woody’s two when the Louisa County Electoral Board tallied late-arriving mail-in and provisional ballots Friday afternoon.
Absentee ballots sent by mail are required to be postmarked by Election Day and to arrive by noon on the Friday after the election to count. Provisional ballots are offered to voters when their eligibility is in question at the polling place and under other special circumstances. The Electoral Board then determines if those voters are qualified to cast a ballot.
Two provisional ballots were counted in the Patrick Henry District and six mail-in ballots arrived after Election Day tallies were complete.
Woody beat Barnes among Election Day voters in both the Patrick Henry 1 and Patrick Henry 2 precincts, garnering 665 votes to Barnes’ 554 in the former and 222 votes to Barnes’ 136 in the latter. Barnes won among early voters 422 to 302 and mail-in voters, 126 to 45.
Woody posted a video on Facebook Friday evening, congratulating Barnes on his re-election. The concession suggests that he won’t pursue a recount, an option available to candidates who lose by one percent or less.
“I just got off the phone with Supervisor Barnes and congratulated him on his re-election to the Board of Supervisors for the Patrick Henry District. First and foremost, I’m proud of our campaign and I want to thank everyone who supported me, whether it was knocking on the doors or financially but, most importantly, everyone who trusted in me and believed in me and voted for me,” he said. “I’m proud to live in Louisa. Louisa has a very bright future and I look forward to being a part of it.”
Barnes is the board’s only African American member. When he first won his seat in 1997, he was the second African American elected to the body.
The race in Green Springs couldn’t equal the dramatic finish of its neighboring district but it was competitive nonetheless.
Jones, who centered her campaign on the need to control growth and protect the county’s rural character, beat Babyok by 213 votes, tallying 1,660 to his 1,447. She claimed 53.22 percent of votes cast while he garnered 46.39 percent.
Jones won Election Day voting in both of the district’s precincts, winning Zion, 793 to 613, and Mechanicsville, 463 to 217. Babyok won with early voters, 432 to 296 , and mail-in voters, 184 to 106.
In a post on NextDoor Wednesday, Babyok, elected in 2017 and currently the board’s chair, congratulated Jones and reflected on his term.
“Looking back, this has been truly a rewarding four-year experience. It is hard to fully measure what I have gained with how much I have learned and how many people I have met. I am all the better person as a result with no regrets or misgivings,” he wrote. “Probably the most significant gain is profound appreciation for our county government, school officials and teachers, fire/rescue and law enforcement personnel and all the other dedicated individuals who serve for the benefit of others.”
When she begins her term in January, Jones will be the board’s only woman. She’s just the fourth woman elected as a Louisa supervisor.
Jones joins two other Republicans already on the body, Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams and Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams. The other four supervisors identify as independents.
Adams ran unopposed to retain his seat, earning his second term. Mountain Road District Supervisor Tommy Barlow also ran unopposed, winning re-election to his fourth term. In his four campaigns, Barlow has never faced opposition.
All four incumbents up for re-election on the Louisa County School Board ran unopposed and kept their seats: Sherman Shifflett (Mineral); Greg Strickland (Patrick Henry); Debbie Hoffman (Green Springs); and Gail Proffitt (Mountain Road).
Republicans win in HD56, statewide
Tuesday was a good day for Republicans in Louisa County and across the commonwealth.
In the 56th District House of Delegates race, Republican incumbent John McGuire won a third term, cruising to a roughly 10,000-vote victory over Democrat Blakely Lockhart. McGuire received 27,706 votes, 61.63 of those cast, while Lockhart garnered 17,187, for a 38.23 percent share. McGuire won Louisa County with 66.83 percent of the vote to Lockhart’s 33.1 percent, 11,679 to 5,784.
The 56th House of Delegates District includes all of Louisa, a slice of western Henrico, eastern Goochland, and a small piece of southern Spotsylvania.
McGuire will return to Richmond in the House majority as Republicans gained seven seats to flip the chamber. They now hold a 52-48 advantage, pending official certification of the results. Democrats hold a 21-19 advantage in the Senate. Members of that chamber aren’t up for re-election until 2023.
Amid heavy turnout, particularly among voters riled up by Democratic control in Richmond and Washington, Republicans swept all three statewide offices for the first time since 2009.
Businessman Glenn Youngkin (R) defeated former Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) in the governor’s race, earning 50.7 percent of the vote to McAuliffe’s 48.51 percent. Youngkin won Louisa County with the support of 66 percent of voters while 33.4 percent supported McAuliffe.
Former Delegate Winsome Sears (R) became the first Black woman to win statewide office, defeating Delegate Hala Ayala (D) for the lieutenant governor’s job. She won the support of 50.83 percent of voters to Ayala’s 49.05 percent. Sears claimed 66.1 percent of the vote in Louisa County while Ayala garnered 33.8 percent.
Delegate Jason Miyares (R) ousted incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring (D) to become the first Latino elected to the position. He got the support of 50.48 percent of voters statewide while Herring received 49.43 percent. Like his Republican counterparts, Miyares rolled in Louisa, claiming 66.1 percent of the vote to Herring’s 33.9 percent.
Roughly 63 percent of Louisa County’s registered voters participated in the election compared to 50 percent in the last gubernatorial race in 2017. About 19 percent of registered voters cast ballots early or by mail.
Supervisors hear update on James River Water Project
The James River Water Authority could decide as soon as December whether to move its planned water intake and pump station from a controversial site near the confluence of the James and Rivanna rivers to an alternative location slightly upstream. (meeting materials, video)
JRWA legal counsel Justin Curtis said in a presentation at the Board of Supervisors November 1 meeting that the authority has two potential paths forward to complete the James River Water Project, a joint effort between Louisa and Fluvanna counties to channel water from the river to meet both localities’ longterm needs.
The authority could plow ahead with plans to construct the final pieces of its waterline’s infrastructure at a site originally chosen in 2013. That location is believed to be Rassawek, the ancestral capital of the Monacan Indian Nation.
The federally-recognized tribe strongly opposes building the pump station at the site, citing the destruction of a place of profound cultural and historical importance, and the likelihood that it’s home to a burial ground. Under pressure from the tribe and its allies, JRWA paused its Army Corps of Engineers permit application for the site earlier this year.
In September 2019, the Corps informed JRWA that it would be required to obtain an individual permit to construct at Rassawek, a far more rigorous process. That decision came after the Virginia Department of Historic Resources deemed a lead archeologist working on the project unqualified.
The other, and potentially far simpler, path is to move the project roughly 2.3 miles upriver to a site dubbed the Forsyth alternative and reroute a yet-to-be constructed portion of the pipeline to connect to it. The Monacan agreed to support the location as long as certain conditions are met including that archeological field work doesn’t confirm or strongly indicate the presence of human remains.
Curtis said that JRWA’s consultants, including Gray & Pape, an archeology firm chosen by the Monacan, just completed the first phase of an archeological survey at the alternative site. He indicated that, as expected, artifacts were found but there was no indication of human remains.
The second phase of the study started Monday. Curtis expects archeologists to complete the study by early December with its findings shared at JRWA’s December meeting.
Curtis told the board that, provided the Monacan continue to support the Forsyth location, permitting could take anywhere from six month to two years while construction could take two to three years. He said there aren’t significant environmental impacts at the site outside of historic and cultural resources. If all goes smoothly, he said, JRWA could complete the project between June of 2024 and June of 2026. He emphasized that his projected timelines are rough estimates and subject to change.
“We should have a relatively simple, clean and clear permitting pathway provided the Monacan Indian Nation is not opposed,” Curtis said. “We are very hopeful at the end of this survey, we won’t find any evidence of burials. That’s what we are all expecting, in which case we have a much shorter permitting timeline.”
The timeline for construction at Rassawek would be lengthier and far more complicated, Curtis said.
“To resolve all of the issues that result from the opposition of the Monacan, we are probably talking about at least adding three years and as much as six, seven, eight years to the process. There’s a lot of additional archeological study to get through, additional negotiations to get through, and additional permitting to get through,” he said, estimating that construction could be complete at the original location between March of 2027 and June of 2032.
Curtis didn’t provide cost estimates or comparisons for moving forward at the original location or shifting the pump station to the alternative site. He did note the potential for litigation if the authority moves forward at Rassawek but didn’t discuss the possibility of failing to obtain the required permits.
Curtis told the board that the authority initially chose to locate the pump station near the confluence of the rivers because the site afforded the shortest waterline route, lowest operation cost, impacted the fewest landowners, and provided ideal water quality and quantity, among other factors.
He said that JRWA had some conversation with the Monacan after the site’s selection. But, the tribe only asserted strong opposition to the project in 2018.
The federal government officially recognized the Monacan as a tribe in January of 2018. That recognition gave the group far more power to protect its cultural resources.
“We expected to have water flowing before now. We encountered some very significant problems and opposition. It flows from some of the issues raised by the Monacan. We believe we have a path for resolving those concerns and issues and we are going to move forward,” Curtis said. “Assuming everything turns out alright with the study that’s in progress right now, I think we’ll have a decision about the path forward as soon as December.”
BOS Roundup: Cutalong developer offers land swap; Solar committee in discussions with Dominion; Vulgar signs catch board’s eye
Here’s a roundup of other news from Monday’s board meeting. (meeting materials, video)
Cutalong developer proposes land swap, CDA: Cutalong’s developer proposed a land swap to the Board of Supervisors Monday night in hopes of bringing a nationally-known hotel chain to Lake Anna.
Nathan Kiser, from Stillwater Equity Partners, Cutalong’s developer, told the board that his company has been approached by a national hotel brand interested in locating at Cutalong. He said the hotelier wants visibility along Route 208 but Cutalong is limited in its developable land in that area.
Kiser suggested that the county could site the New Bridge Fire and EMS station, currently slated for a county-owned parcel along Route 208, on another portion of Cutalong’s 45 acres around the Food Lion shopping center. He pointed to a parcel along Kentucky Springs Road (Route 652) that he said is flatter and would offer the station adequate ingress and egress.
In exchange for that piece, Cutalong would get the parcel on Route 208 that’s currently home to a dog park. Kaiser said his company is open to offsetting some of the “soft costs” that the county has spent on the station and admitted his proposal comes at “the 11th hour.”
County Administrator Christian Goodwin explained later in the meeting that the board has appropriated funding for the station and recently received a roughly $1.2 million quote for its construction. He expects more than $200,000 will be required for additional work at the site. Goodwin said that the window for switching to a new location is short.
Supervisors expressed interest in exploring what sort of deal Cutalong’s developer could offer. The Board directed county staff to continue discussion with the developer but emphasized that the conversation would need to move quickly.
“It’s a very short window of opportunity to move forward on that but see what they have to offer,” Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams said.
In a Facebook post Sunday afternoon, Adams appeared uninterested in moving the station.
“Nothing that I have seen or heard gives me reason to support moving the location of this much-needed facility,” he wrote, adding, “At this point, engineering and architectural work is on track for an imminent groundbreaking.”
Cutalong representatives also proposed to the county the creation of a community development authority to cover the cost of infrastructure for the project. The development is already home to a golf course and is expected to include townhomes, single-family homes, golf cottages, and other resort amenities.
Community development authorities are permitted under Virginia law to finance infrastructure for specific developments via bonds. Generally, those bonds are paid off over time by property owners in the CDA district via taxes and/or special assessments generated by the new development.
Mike Graff, a public finance attorney with McGuire Woods, told the board that Cutalong's developer plans to create the authority primarily to finance water and sewer improvements. He likened the CDA structure to a homeowners’ association, only the county would serve as the collection agency for the assessment and distribute the money to the development.
“It’s not a tax that’s imposed on folks without their consent. Rather, it’s an assessment that a developer imposes on himself and his land. When he, in turn, sells land to home builders and, ultimately, to people that purchase residences in the development, the assessment has already been imposed, it’s recorded in the land records and travels with title to the property, and it’s completely disclosed to anyone that purchases property within the district,” Graff explained.
Graff said that creating a CDA requires board approval and he expects that Cutalong’s developer will submit a petition to the county to begin that process in the coming weeks.
Adams said he generally supports the CDA concept but wants to ensure that Louisa taxpayers aren’t on the hook for any administrative costs since the county is in charge of collecting and distributing the assessment.
Graff assured Adams that the county would bear no cost. He told supervisors that all costs associated with the CDA’s legal framework and administration would be tied to its financing and any extraneous costs would be covered by the developer.
Graff estimated that about 30 CDAs have been established by Virginia localities. The Richmond area is home to several such authorities including at Short Pump. Henrico County is expected to use a CDA as a financing vehicle for the new GreenCity arena project.
Solar committee in talks with Dominion: Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes told the board that the solar committee, comprised of he and Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams, recently met with representatives from Dominion Energy to discuss their concerns about stormwater runoff at the company’s Belcher Solar Facility off Waldrop Church Road.
Significant runoff from the facility has caused erosion and other damage on neighboring farms and, at previous meetings, the board expressed concerns that Dominion is failing to adequately address the problems. At the board’s October 18 meeting, the committee mentioned the possibility of revoking the facility’s Conditional Use Permit.
Barnes said that, at the committee’s request, Dominion agreed to hire a third-party engineering firm to investigate the problems and offer remedies. Dominion would pay for the firm’s work. He added that he, Adams, and County Attorney Helen Phillips are still talking with Dominion representatives about what can be done to fix the damage on neighboring properties, which Adams has described as “pretty catastrophic.”
Dominion agreed to take Barnes, Adams, Phillips, and a county code enforcement staffer on a tour of the Belcher property, a sprawling 1,300-acre tract once covered in trees but now home to hundreds of acres of solar panels. The tour was expected to take place last Thursday. The committee indicated it would provide a report at the board’s next meeting, now slated for Monday, November 22.
“I’m interested to see some of the fencing, the buffers, some of the distance in the buffers from some of the neighbors. I am very hopeful that Dominion will be very open and inclusive with the tour,” Adams said.
Vulgar signs catch board’s eye: A handful of vulgar signs in eastern Louisa County have caught the eye of supervisors. Now, county officials will explore what, if anything, they can do about them.
During public comment at Monday’s meeting, two Louisa County residents told the board that they are upset about a cluster of political signs displaying profanity near their home along Wisteria Lane off Crewsville Road in the Jackson District.
Amy Ware said that the signs are located near the end of her driveway and they’re upsetting to her and others in her neighborhood. She added that she sponsors a Cub Scout troop and doesn’t feel comfortable advertising for the group on her property for fear it will be associated with the signs.
Her son, Nathan, echoed those sentiments. He told the board that several school buses travel past the signs, with one stopping nearby, and he doesn’t think it’s appropriate that children see them regularly.
Mountain Road District Supervisor Tommy Barlow said that he has heard complaints from constituents about the signs and talked with Ware. He wants county officials to at least attempt to address signs that display vulgar language in public view.
Barlow proposed an amendment to the county’s sign ordinance to prohibit any sign, in public view, that “displays vulgar, obscene, indecent or profane language.” He cited federal regulations that seek to limit such language over public airwaves as the basis for his amendment.
Barlow moved that the board send the proposed amendment to the Planning Commission for further discussion while asking the county attorney to explore exactly what language might be legally permissible. He acknowledged that prohibiting speech could put the county on shaky constitutional ground.
“I don’t want the public, certainly not my constituents, to think that we are doing nothing. If we send it out and federal or state law says we can’t do it then fine. It’s on the federal and state people,” he said.
With a second by Williams, the board unanimously approved Barlow’s motion.
Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams said he too is concerned by vulgar language, noting that he has confronted people using such language at public events. But, he also acknowledged that any amendment to the county’s sign ordinance that limits speech needs careful crafting so as not to infringe on residents’ First Amendment rights.
“We may come back at the end of the day and our legal counsel may say ‘it’s 100 percent protected as free speech under the constitution and there’s nothing you can do about it,’” Adams said. “But, I agree with Mr. Barlow. I think it’s important that this board look at this issue and say, ‘you know what? Everybody today seems to be offended by everything. But, there are actually things that are offensive.’”
Supervisors also had concerns about how the ordinance could be enforced, with several noting that the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office has said they can’t do anything about the signs.
Cuckoo District Supervisor Willie Gentry said, if the county moves forward, he’d like to see an ordinance that gives the Sheriff’s Office sufficient guidance.
“What’s vulgar to me may not be vulgar to anyone else. It’s kind of a wide open statement,” he said. “I really want to make sure that whatever we do, there’s enough teeth in it so that the Sheriff’s Office can actually go out there and enforce it. Otherwise, we are probably wasting time.”
Exactly what the county can do about vulgar signs is unclear. Earlier this year, a Virginia Beach resident placed a large, profane sign on a fence around their home, upsetting neighbors.
A Virginia Beach official told the Virginia Pilot that the city couldn’t do anything about the sign because local government prohibiting speech violates the First Amendment. Exceptions apply in the case of threats, some forms of libel, and speech that incites violence. Courts have also permitted bans on some hate speech and some sexually-explicit speech.
In Cohen vs. California, a 1971 Supreme Court case, the high court ruled that, generally, government can’t criminalize the public display of profane language.
The case was brought after the arrest of a Vietnam War protestor who wore a jacket adorned with the words, “F- the draft” into a California courthouse. Both the signs in eastern Louisa and Virginia Beach include the f-word.
“One man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric,” Justice John Marshall Harlan II wrote in his majority opinion.
During the board’s discussion of the proposed amendment, County Attorney Helen Phillips didn’t weigh in.
Board approves TJPDC legislative priorities: The board unanimously approved the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s legislative priorities for the 2022 General Assembly session. TJPDC staffer Dominique Lavorata presented a draft of the priorities at the board’s September 7 meeting. Legislative Director David Blount briefed the board on the platform again Monday night, pointing out some highlights and revisions.
The priorities broadly focus on supporting action to protect communities and to ensure their viability in the face of the COVID-19 health emergency, urging the governor and legislature to enhance state aid to localities and public schools, opposing unfunded mandates that shift costs to localities, enhancing local revenue sources, and encouraging state and federal efforts and financial incentives that assist localities in deploying universal, affordable access to broadband.
A new-look General Assembly will convene in mid-January with Republicans taking control of the House of Delegates and Democrats still holding a narrow majority in the Senate (see above for more information). The GA will convene for a 60-day session that includes crafting a biennial state budget.
Board approves contract for new holding cells at Louisa County General District Court: Supervisors unanimously approved and awarded a contract for the construction of new holding cells at Louisa County General District Court. The county received three bids for the project.
According to the resolution, the county selected the lowest bidder, HSL, Inc., dba Loudin Building Systems, a Louisa-based company. HSL, Inc. bid $1,643,000.00, $20,000 under Kenbridge Construction, the next lowest bidder.
According to County Administrator Christian Goodwin, about $800,000 of that estimate will pay for an overhaul of the building’s HVAC system, installed in the 1950s. He added that construction of the new holding cells will provide separation between members of the public and incarcerated defendants, additional security layers for law enforcement, and another way to exit the building.
Funds for the project will be drawn from the Building Enhancements/Building Spacing Capital Project.
McGuire files for congressional run
Just three days after winning a third term in the 56th House of Delegates District, Republican John McGuire filed to run for another office.
The fitness instructor and former Navy Seal filed a Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Friday to pursue the Republican nomination in the Seventh Congressional District, a seat currently held by Democrat Abigail Spanberger.
The filing is required within 15 days of becoming a candidate. An individual becomes a candidate for federal office when they, and/or someone operating on their behalf, receives or spends an aggregate of $5,000. McGuire hasn’t officially announced his candidacy.
The Goochland resident’s entrance into the race was widely expected. Delegate Nick Freitas bested him for the Republican nomination in the district last year. Since then, McGuire’s spent significant time and resources preparing for another run.
He fundraised across the country during his delegate race, pitching donors on his potential run for a swing congressional seat. He raised over a half million dollars in a district he won by about 20 points in his two previous campaigns and spent more than $380,000, much of it on adverting and consulting. His fundraising and spending in the state-level contest are separate from his federal campaign and don’t fall under FEC rules.
An early endorser of Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin prior to his winning the Republican convention, McGuire occasionally served as a surrogate and often campaigned by Youngkin's side.
He joins a crowded Republican field in the race, which already includes a candidate well-acquainted with Louisa voters.
State Senator Bryce Reeves (R-17), who represents much of Louisa County in Richmond, jumped in the race last month, touting his decade of experience in the legislature and work passing bipartisan legislation including reforms to the state’s foster care system. He too has military experience, having served as an Army Ranger.
Five other candidates have announced they’re running.
Tina Ramirez, a Chesterfield resident and religious freedom activist, announced her candidacy in early July. Ramirez also ran for the nomination in 2020, finishing third in the Republican convention behind Frietas and McGuire.
Taylor Keeney, a Goochland resident with deep ties to the state’s Republican establishment, also launched her campaign this summer. Keeney worked as a press secretary for former Governor Bob McDonnell and served as spokesperson for John Adams’ failed run for attorney general in 2017. She has already earned the endorsement of State Senator Siobhan Dunnavant of Henrico, part of a powerful family well-versed in Republican politics. Currently, Keeney directs strategic communications at Hunton Andrews Kurth.
John Castorani, an Army veteran and Orange County resident, Henrico resident Gary Barve, and Goochland resident Derrick Anderson are also in the race. In 2020, Castorani finished a distant fifth in his run for the Republican nomination in Alabama’s First Congressional District. Barve is coming off a loss in his bid for a seat on the Santa Clara, CA City Council. Anderson, a former Army Green Beret with a Georgetown law degree, worked in the Office of National Drug Control Policy during the Trump administration.
It’s unclear exactly what the Seventh District will look like in 2022. A constitutional amendment passed last year tasked the Virginia Redistricting Commission with drawing new maps for the General Assembly and Virginia’s 11 congressional districts based on data from the 2020 census. But, the bipartisan group failed to reach consensus, leaving the Virginia Supreme Court in charge of drawing new districts. Residency in the district one represents isn’t required in Congress though it is a requirement in Virginia’s legislature.
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