This week in county government; McGuire joins Adams in SD10 race; Transportation changes proposed for Zion; BOS roundup; School Board accepting letters of interest before filling vacant seat
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, Feb. 28 through March 5
Tuesday, March 1
Louisa County School Board, Central Office Administration Building, 953 Davis Highway, Mineral, 7 pm. (agenda) School Board meetings are not available via livestream or archived video. The only way to access the meetings is to attend in person.
Thursday, March 3
Board of Building Code of Appeals, Public Meeting Room, Louisa County Administration Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 5:30 pm. (public notice) At publication time, an agenda was not publicly available.
Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, Virtual Meeting, 7 pm. (meeting materials) A Zoom link is available in the meeting materials.
Other meetings of note:
Tuesday, March 1
Turkey Solar Community Meeting, Cornerstone Pentecostal Church, 1457 James Madison Highway, Gordonsville, 5:30 pm to 7 pm. This meeting is not affiliated with Louisa County government.
Pine Gate Renewables will host a community meeting to provide information and answer questions about its proposed Turkey Solar Facility. According to its website, Pine Gate hopes to build a 15.6 MW solar array on about 120 acres between Route 15 and Klockner Road near Gordonsville. Click here for more information.
Pine Gate held a pre-application meeting with Louisa County staff but has not formally filed an application for a Conditional Use Permit, per the county’s website.
Apple Grove Solar Project Development Open House, Gilboa Christian Church, 6870 Jefferson Highway, Mineral, 5:30 pm to 7 pm. This meeting is not affiliated with Louisa County government.
SolUnesco and Energix, developers of the 15 MW Apple Grove Solar Facility on 111 acres along Jefferson Highway, will host an open house to update residents on the project. Louisa County granted a Conditional Use Permit for the facility’s construction and operation in April 2021. It’s currently undergoing site plan review and working its way through the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Permit by Rule process. Learn more about the project here.
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.
McGuire joins Adams in 10th District Senate race
Although the election is more than a year away, the battle for the Republican nomination in the newly drawn 10th state Senate District is already heating up.
Delegate John McGuire (R-Goochland), who currently represents Louisa County in the 56th District House of Delegates seat, announced Wednesday that he’s running in the district, joining Louisa County Board of Supervisors Chair Duane Adams (R-Mineral), who launched his campaign in late December. All 40 seats in the state Senate are up for grabs in 2023 under new maps adopted during the decennial redistricting process.
“Today, I am proud to announce my candidacy for the Senate of Virginia’s 10th District. After much prayer and reflection, my wife Tracy and I are fired up to continue serving and doing our part to help make Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family. We will win this open seat, continue serving Virginia, and help other conservatives across the commonwealth hold onto the House and take back the Senate in 2023,” McGuire said in a written statement.
A Republican-friendly district with no sitting incumbent, the new 10th includes most of Louisa County at its northern edge. It reaches east across part of Hanover and stretches south taking in all of Fluvanna, Goochland, Powhatan, Amelia, Buckingham, Cumberland, and Appomattox counties as well as part of northern Prince Edward.
McGuire, a Goochland resident, has represented the 56th District since 2018. The fitness instructor and former Navy Seal easily beat Democrat Blakely Lockhart to win a third term last November.
Just after securing that victory, McGuire filed to run for the Republican nomination in the 7th Congressional District, which he failed to win in 2020, with hopes of challenging Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Henrico) this fall. But redistricting derailed those plans.
McGuire’s Goochland home was drawn into the 5th District, currently represented by Republican Bob Good. He opted not to challenge an incumbent from his own party for that seat and pulled back on plans to run in the 7th after the district was relocated to the outskirts of northern Virginia. (Members of Congress aren’t required to live in the district they represent though members of the General Assembly are required to live in their district).
In his announcement, McGuire touted his conservative credentials and military background.
“The meaning of public service was a lesson I learned during my time as a Navy SEAL. To this day, serving in our armed forces is one of the highest honors of my life. I learned leadership is about respect, taking care of people, and getting things done as a team. I have taken this same approach to my time in the Virginia House of Delegates, where I have fought hard to preserve our conservative values including protecting life and our 2nd amendment,” he said.
McGuire’s entrance into the race sets up an intriguing battle between two men with deep political ties in Louisa County.
Adams is kicking off his second term as the Mineral District representative on the Board of Supervisors. His colleagues unanimously chose him to chair the body in January. In 2017, he was the first Republican to win a seat on the board—Louisa has a long tradition of local candidates running as independents—and has since helped his party capture three of seven seats.
A close ally of state Senator Bryce Reeves, who currently represents most of Louisa County in Richmond, Adams has already won Reeves’ endorsement in the race. He’s also announced endorsements from Louisa County Sheriff Donnie Lowe, Louisa County Republican Committee Chair Robin Horne, and Louisa resident George Goodwin, Chief of Staff for state Senator Mark Peake. The new 10th includes more than 40 percent of the residents in Peake’s current 22nd District.
Beyond endorsements, Adams is quickly amassing a campaign war chest. He told Engage Louisa Friday afternoon that his campaign has raised “in excess of $80,000” since he filed to run about two months ago.
“I am very pleased by the positive response to my Senate campaign and the continued financial support and endorsements of people across the commonwealth, which I believe is a reflection of my nearly five-year commitment to my constituents,” Adams said.
While McGuire resides in Goochland, he has cultivated a loyal political base in Louisa in his own right, aided by his brother, Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty McGuire.
In an interview on the John Fredericks Show Thursday morning, McGuire said that he decided to run in the 10th because many of the residents he currently represents live in the district, noting that redistricting separated him from voters with whom he’s built a relationship over the last five years.
“All the people that I’ve represented for five years, friends that I’ve made, I’ve shovel their driveways. I’ve knocked thousands of doors. I’ve been to 257 churches in this district. Well, this redistricting drew me out of the district. So, by running for state Senate, I get to continue to serve, and the majority of those people are in the state Senate seat,” he said.
Under the new maps, McGuire’s Goochland home is still in the 56th House District but the district has been dramatically reshaped, stretching from western Goochland south to Appomattox. It includes less than 5,000 people who reside in the current 56th.
A prolific fundraiser, McGuire hauled in more than $538,000 during his delegate campaign last year, receiving sizable contributions from wealthy out-of-state donors wooed by his potential run for a swing congressional seat. He donated some of that cash to fellow Republicans locked in tight down ballot races including Rachel Jones, who ousted incumbent Bob Babyok by over 200 votes to win the Green Springs District Board of Supervisors seat, and William Woody, who narrowly lost to six-term incumbent Fitzgerald Barnes in the Patrick Henry District Supervisor’s race. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, McGuire had about $37,000 cash on hand in his delegate campaign’s coffers as of December 31.
McGuire highlighted his work to elect fellow Republicans and his early endorsement of Governor Glenn Youngkin when announcing his campaign.
“I am proud to have been the first elected official to endorse Glenn Youngkin for Governor. In addition to our statewide victories in 2021, we helped elect 21 new members to the school board, Board of Supervisors, and the House of Delegates. However, the fight does not stop there,” he said.
It’s unclear which nominating method 10th District Republicans will use to select their candidate in the spring of 2023. But McGuire told Fredericks that he’s prepared no matter the process.
“I’ll fight on whatever battlefield they give us. I’m just going to out-work them,” he said. “The people will decide who they want. I think we’ve done a pretty good job over the last five years. I think they know me by now.”
While McGuire and Adams are the first candidates in the race, they may not be the only Republican contenders. According to VA Scope, Goochland resident Taylor Keeney is also considering a run.
Like McGuire, Keeney, who served as press secretary for former Governor Bob McDonnell, planned to seek the Republican nomination in the 7th Congressional District before new maps placed her home in the 5th and moved the 7th north.
Transportation changes proposed for Zion
Consultants working on the Zion Crossroads Small Area Study shared their initial recommendations for transportation improvements along the Route 15 and Route 250 corridors at a virtual public meeting on Wednesday, February 23.
The study is part of the Zion Crossroads Small Area Plan, a joint effort between Louisa and Fluvanna counties, with heavy involvement from the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, to develop a unified vision for development in the Zion Crossroads area. Driven by rapid growth, the planning process seeks to develop traffic improvement solutions while identifying opportunities for future development and establishing a unique sense of identity for the area.
Kittelson and Associates, an engineering firm contracted by VDOT, unveiled a series of suggestions to improve traffic flow and safety at Zion Crossroads, as well as to enhance transit options, including a novel bowtie intersection at Route 15, Camp Creek Parkway, and Spring Creek Parkway. Kittelson staff said they designed the improvements with a keen eye on future growth, noting the safety and congestion challenges already facing the area.
The bowtie design, one of two recommendations floated for the intersection, would eliminate left turns on and off Route 15 and instead route drivers to a pair of roundabouts located along Spring Creek Parkway and Wood Ridge Terrace and Camp Creek Parkway and Market Street. A driver wishing to turn left on to Spring Creek Parkway from Route 15, for example, would instead turn right, make a U-turn at the roundabout on Camp Creek Parkway then travel back across Route 15 to reach their destination. A driver wishing to turn left on to Route 15 from Camp Creek Parkway would instead cross the intersection, make a U-turn at the roundabout on Spring Creek Parkway then make a right on Route 15. Motorists wishing to go straight on Route 15 or turn right on to or off the thoroughfare would proceed as they do at a normal intersection. (See video below).
Kittelson and Associates Engineer Chris Tiesler, who hosted Wednesday night’s meeting, acknowledged that the bowtie is an innovative design that may catch some motorists by surprise—Kittelson staff noted the importance of proper signage to direct travelers through the intersection—but he said that Zion Crossroads is no stranger to unique traffic configurations.
“To our knowledge, (a bowtie intersection) hasn’t been built. But Zion Crossroads is actually a place familiar with installing innovative and new intersection forms,” Tiesler said, referencing the diverging diamond interchange along Interstate 64, which was the first of its kind built in Virginia.
Andrew Butsick, another Kittelson engineer, said that, by eliminating left turns, the traffic signal at Route 15 and Spring Creek and Camp Creek Parkways would decrease from eight phases to two, lessening the time it takes to traverse the intersection.
“It looks like a little bit of out of direction travel…but it’s expected to be much quicker under the future travel patterns than the traditional intersection,” Butsick said, contending that the configuration would ease congestion and improve safety, enabling the intersection to handle projected future growth.
Kittelson engineers also suggested a hybrid alternative. Butsick explained that the hybrid combines two intersection forms: the bowtie and the quadrant. It limits left turns along Route 15 by including a roundabout along Spring Creek Parkway and Wood Ridge Terrace, which would be utilized as it is in bowtie configuration, but it eliminates the roundabout on Camp Creek Parkway. It instead includes another roundabout at Freedom Trail, providing motorists a second enhanced access point to Route 15 within Zion’s dense commercial development.
Kittelson staff said that when comparing travel time through the intersection under three scenarios--bowtie, hybrid and existing conditions--the bowtie cuts travel time in half when compared to the no-build scenario. The hybrid cuts travel time when compared to the no-build option but takes longer than the bowtie.
Kittelson and Associates also recommended a series of roundabouts along Route 15 between its intersection with Route 250 and its intersection with Stonegate Drive, parallel roads to Route 15 to handle local traffic, the addition of a right turn lane at Route 250 and Poindexter Road, and upgrades to the Interstate 64 interchange.
Butsick said that several intersections along the corridor don’t meet the traffic volume to warrant a traffic signal and that roundabouts, while more expensive to construct, are ultimately cheaper over time because they require limited maintenance. He also pointed to the safety benefits of roundabouts, which reduce speed and, by removing turns, eliminate the possibility of certain types of angled collisions. Butsick emphasized that the corridor’s roundabouts are designed with all types of vehicular traffic in mind including the many tractor-trailers that travel through the area.
Kittelson also focused on making Zion Crossroads more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists. In an initial public survey, the project team found that only six percent of respondents walk or bike along the Routes 15 and 250 corridors but “a much higher percentage have a desire to do so,” according Kittelson engineer Liz Byrom. The project team incorporated a shared use path to better accommodate cyclists and pedestrians as well as a signalized pedestrian crossing and wide median at Route 15, Spring Creek and Camp Creek Parkways.
Butsick noted that the project team included gateway signs along entrance corridors “to create a more community feel.” Roundabouts also act as entryways, he said.
Kittelson staff fielded a handful of questions about their proposal Wednesday night including whether they evaluated a wide range of improvements before settling on roundabouts and if they considered the corridor as a whole or just as individual intersections.
The project team said they took a holistic approach with an eye on what travel conditions would look like in 2040. Butsick said they considered “a litany of options” from small fixes like additional turn lanes to far more elaborate and costly projects.
Specifically, Butsick said that the project team considered a grade-separated intersection at Route 15 and Spring Creek and Camp Creek Parkways but didn’t recommend that option for two reasons: cost and safety. He noted that the grade-separated project recently completed at Rio Road and Route 29 in Charlottesville cost some $70 million and that the Zion intersection presents spacing challenges.
“Market Street and Wood Ridge Terrace are within 400 to 500 feet of US 15 so, when you have grade separation, you have people crossing over Route 15 on a bridge and folks coming underneath, getting those folks from US 15 up to grade to meet that bridge, it requires a lot of distance, but it also would require some room for folks to weave,” he said. “So, if you are coming northbound on US 15 and you wanted to go to the Wendy’s or just go north on Market Street, you are going to have to weave across someone coming across that bridge in a very short amount of time. It doesn’t really provide a safe movement.”
When it comes to paying for significant transportation upgrades at Zion, Tiesler said that Louisa and Fluvanna counties could apply to VDOT’s Smart Scale program in which transportation projects are selected for funding via a data-driven scoring system. The system focuses on potential for safety improvement and impact on economic development.
At its January 18 meeting, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors discussed the county’s Smart Scale applications for 2022. At the recommendation of VDOT’s Alan Saunders, the board tentatively okayed the intersections of Route 15, Spring Creek and Camp Creek Parkways and Routes 15 and 250 as two of the three projects it plans to submit for funding. Saunders said that the Route 15, Spring Creek Parkway and Camp Creek Parkway intersection ranked highest in his team’s preliminary scoring of local intersections, pointing to a crash history from 2016 to 2020 that shows 32 accidents around the intersection. Eleven crashes resulted in a combined 19 injuries.
Smart Scale applications are due August 1 and VDOT and county staff are currently working through the pre-application phase. Saunders didn’t provide any specific design proposals, but he said that the Zion study would inform the application process. The county previously submitted the Route 250 and 15 intersection for Smart Scale funding but it wasn’t selected.
The Commonwealth Transportation Board will select Smart Scale projects next spring. If a project is chosen for funding, it generally takes six to seven years to build, Tiesler said, with numerous opportunities for public feedback included in the process.
The meeting marked the second virtual public gathering since stakeholders began crafting the small area plan several years ago. Kittelson and Associates used feedback from previous public outreach to inform some of the recommendations it shared Wednesday night. Tiesler said that the project team is eager to gather more input as it works to build consensus around a final report, which it hopes to complete this summer.
Some recommendations highlighted Wednesday night, including the bowtie intersection, sparked concerns in the run-up to the meeting as Zion Crossroads residents flooded social media sites like NextDoor with negative comments about the proposals.
“Spring Creek is not benefitting one bit! With all the approved planned construction in the future on both the east and west sides of Rt. 15, those living (here) will be enduring this nightmare on a daily basis,” Bob Babyok, a Spring Creek resident and former member of the Board of Supervisors, wrote in a post on NextDoor.
In a video posted Wednesday, Green Springs District Supervisor Rachel Jones said that she had received phone calls, text messages, and emails from residents regarding Kittelson’s recommendations. She said that she and county staff requested a meeting with VDOT to share residents’ concerns.
Tiesler encouraged residents to check out the project’s websites for more information (here and here), to watch a YouTube video explaining the bowtie concept (below), and to fill out a survey focused on the recommendations (here).
“We’re really excited to get your feedback so that we can take that feedback, summarize it, and start to see how it may impact some of the design recommendations that we’ve made,” he said.
BOS roundup: news from supervisors’ Feb. 22 meeting
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors dispatched with public business in short order Tuesday night. In less than 45 minutes, the board unanimously approved an amendment to county code that limits the display of political opinions and offensive language on county property, extended a waiver on landfill tipping fees for residential tree debris, and allocated up to $15,000 for soil work on prospective sites for a multi-field sports complex. (video)
Board authorizes up to $15k for soil work at potential sites for sports complex: The board voted unanimously to authorize spending up to $15,000 on soil work at several sites where the county could construct a multi-field sports complex.
Supervisors didn’t specify exactly where the soil work would be done. But, at previous meetings, county officials acknowledged that they’re considering sites in the Zion Crossroads area so that the park is easily accessible off Interstate 64 and close to hotels and restaurants. In a presentation to the Planning Commission in January, Parks and Recreation Director James Smith touted the park, which could include turf fields for baseball, football, lacrosse, soccer, and other sports as well as an equestrian facility, as a potential destination for “sports tourism.”
One property under consideration is 190 acres of county-owned land along Route 15 just north of Zion. That property, located in the Green Springs National Historic Landmark District, is home to ultra-deep wells that supply water to the area.
At a budget work session in mid-February, supervisors discussed possible locations for the park, only specifically identifying the Green Springs property. Green Springs District Supervisor Rachel Jones cautioned against selecting the site, noting that it could lead to years of litigation with residents in the historic district.
Board Chair and Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams said the county should take a “hard look” at the Green Springs land given its proximity to the interstate and that it’s county owned.
The board included $8.9 million for the complex in the preliminary Capital Improvement Plan. That spending is currently slated for FY24 and, according to discussion at February’s work session, could hinge on approval from Louisa County voters via a bond referendum this November.
No landfill tipping fees for residential, storm-related tree waste through April 15: As county residents continue to clean up from winter storms, supervisors voted unanimously to waive landfill tipping fees for residential tree waste through April 15.
The board initially waived the fee for 60 days at its January 10 meeting. That move came just after Winter Storm Frida pummeled the area, downing trees and knocking out power to some residents for more than a week.
The waiver applies only to storm-related tree debris from residences in Louisa County and does not include commercial tree services.
Board votes to limit display of political opinions and offensive language on county property: The board held a public hearing and voted unanimously to approve an amendment to county code that prohibits the posting or display of political opinions or any statement using offensive language on county property during regular business hours.
The amendment includes a carve out for “the distribution of campaign materials” when the “Voter Registrar’s Office is open for absentee, in-person voting.” County Administrator Christian Goodwin clarified Tuesday night that the amendment also allows for the posting of campaign signs during early voting. In accord with Virginia law, campaign activity is permitted outside all polling locations when they’re open for voting but prohibited within 40 feet of their entrance. The Registrar’s office is considered a polling location during the 45-day early voting period.
Mountain Road District Supervisor Tommy Barlow wondered how the amendment differed from a change to the county’s sign ordinance that he proposed in November. In response to constituent concerns about a cluster of vulgar political signs in eastern Louisa County, Barlow urged the board to adopt an amendment that prohibited any sign that displays vulgar, obscene, indecent, or profane language in public view. After holding a public hearing, supervisors tabled the proposal because of First Amendment concerns.
Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams responded that Barlow’s amendment would’ve applied to private property while this prohibition applies to public property under the county’s control.
Goodwin explained that the board has the authority to regulate activity in and around its facilities. The amendment states that county property is not a forum for “general public announcements or other expressive activities of the general public” and that “work performed at county facilities should be carried out in a non-partisan manner.” It further states that the county administrator “has the authority to designate areas for public announcements and to limit the time for posting or display of such announcements and notices.”
The amendment stipulates that “any material posted or displayed in violation of this policy shall be confiscated by the county, and, if possible, returned to its owner. If the confiscated materials are not claimed within twenty-four hours of confiscation or if the materials are of negligible value, then the County Administrator may authorize disposal of such materials.”
No one spoke for or against the amendment during the public hearing.
School Board prepares to fill vacant Mineral District seat ahead of special election
The Louisa County School Board plans to appoint an interim member to fill the vacant Mineral District seat through the end of the year at a special called meeting on March 22. A special election is set for November 8, the date of the next general election, to fill the remainder of the term, which expires Dec. 31, 2025.
According to a public notice posted on the division’s website, the board is accepting letters of interest through Thursday, March 10 at 4 pm. Those seeking an appointment to the board must be a voter in the Mineral District and should detail their qualifications.
Sherman Shifflett, who represented the Mineral District since 2006, passed away on Feb. 14. A retired teacher, coach, and administrator, Shifflett was re-elected to a four-year term last November with no opposition.
Submit letters of interest to Louisa County School Board Office, Attn: Becky Fisher, School Board Clerk, 953 Davis Hwy., Mineral, VA 23117 or fisherba@Icps.k12.va.us.
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.
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