This week in county government; PC chair announces departure; PC supports solar site, rejects sign regs; JRWA nears decision on pump station site; Draft redistricting maps released; BOS Roundup
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, Dec. 13 to Dec. 18
Wednesday, Dec. 15
Louisa County Board of Zoning Appeals, Public Meeting Room, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 7 pm. According to a public notice in The Central Virginian, the BZA will consider a variance request from Vallerie Holdings of Virginia LLC. Read more about the request here.
Thursday, Dec. 16
Louisa County Industrial Development Authority, Public Meeting Room, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 8:30 am. (public notice) At publication time, an agenda was not publicly available.
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.
Planning Commission chair announces departure; PC gives thumbs up to solar site, thumbs down to new sign regulations
There was plenty of action at the Louisa County Planning Commission meeting Thursday night. In a gathering that stretched more than three hours, commissioners gave a thumbs up to a utility-scale solar site and a commercial rezoning near the Louisa Industrial Air Park, a thumbs down to new sign regulations that seek to prohibit the display of vulgar language, and finally decided how they’ll address towing yards in county land development regulations. And just as the meeting was about to adjourn, one commissioner announced it would be her last. (meeting materials, video)
Commission’s chair announces departure
As she gaveled Thursday night’s proceedings to a close, Planning Commission Chair Holly Reynolds informed her colleagues that the meeting would be her last.
Reynolds, who has represented the Green Springs District on the commission for about a decade, said she will no longer serve on the body come January. Her term is set to expire Dec. 31. Supervisor-elect Rachel Jones has selected James “Jim” Friend Dickerson to replace her, pending Board of Supervisors’ approval.
Reynolds told Engage Louisa that she made the decision to leave the commission, in part, because of its time demands.
“I’m running a little thin,” she said, adding that she has a full-time job and other interests.
Reynolds also noted that Louisa County’s Planning Department is going through significant changes with the recent departure of Assistant County Administrator Jeff Ferrel and the coming retirement of Community Development Director Robert Gardner. She said that the time is right for “new blood” and fresh ideas.
In an email to Engage Louisa, Jones, who defeated incumbent Bob Babyok for the Green Springs District Board of Supervisors seat in November, expressed gratitude to Reynolds.
“Holly Reynolds has been an asset to the Planning Commission under two Green Springs District supervisors. Sadly, she has decided to step down from the Planning Commission board. Ms. Reynolds has represented the Green Springs residents with a high level of dedication and she will be greatly missed on the commission. I believe all of us in the Green Springs District owe her much gratitude for her public service,” she wrote.
Jones wrote that she chose Dickerson, a veteran realtor, because of his experience and deep knowledge of the area.
“Moving forward, I wanted someone knowledgeable of Louisa County and the Green Springs District, like Ms. Reynolds. Someone understanding of the rural character of our community but able to balance that character with the growth which is expected in and around the Zion Crossroads area,” she wrote. “Keeping all that in mind, I asked James Dickerson if he would sit on the commission. I believe his experience and knowledge of our community will be an asset to us all.”
According to his real estate blog, Virginia Homes, Farms, and Land, Dickerson was born in Charlottesville and grew up in Louisa and Albemarle counties. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Forestry and Wildlife Management from Virginia Tech and, since 1991, has worked full-time in real estate. He won the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors’ Realtor of the Year award in 2018.
Reynolds said that she didn’t make specific recommendations to Jones on whom she should appoint to replace her but she did outline the qualities necessary to do the job well. She said you need thick skin, a mind that works quickly, and a willingness to dig into the details of proposed projects and work hard.
Commission okays solar site sans battery storage system
Commissioners voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval of what could be the county’s seventh utility-scale solar site. But, a significant part of the project won’t move forward as planned.
Two Oaks Solar LLC applied for a Conditional Use Permit to construct and operate an up to 118 MW solar array and an up to 50 MW battery storage system on parts of 1234 acres between the towns of Louisa and Mineral. The Commission green lighted the solar site but the applicant chose to remove the battery storage facility from the CUP request.
After learning about battery storage systems during a work session with representatives from Dominion Energy prior to the meeting, commissioners quizzed Two Oaks representatives about that portion of the project, particularly focusing on fire hazards and the facility’s proximity to nearby homes.
In its land use application, Two Oaks explained that the system would include banks of fully enclosed lithium-ion batteries. The batteries would store power produced by the panels, allowing for its redistribution to the grid during peak demand.
The applicant noted that the battery storage facility, the first proposed in the county, would be located on land zoned industrial and agreed to surround it by a 150-foot buffer. Louisa County Fire and EMS staff would receive specialized training to ensure they are “knowledgeable about and prepared for any potential interaction with the technology,” per Two Oaks’ application. In addition, the facility would be monitored by infrared cameras, among other safety features.
Still, concerns lingered about a technology new to the county, prompting a Two Oaks representative to suggest removal of the battery storage system from the CUP request.
“(Two Oaks) would be fine with the solar portion of this application proceeding and removing storage for the time being. In the event they do choose to proceed with storage, we could either amend the CUP or execute a separate one,” said Scott Foster, land use counsel for Two Oaks’ parent company, Energix. Energix bought Two Oaks’ owner, NCRE, earlier this year.
“You guys are asking all the right questions. You are just on the front end of a learning curve on energy storage so allow us to be good partners on the educational piece,” Foster said.
The CUP approved Thursday night applies to more than 50 parcels primarily located north of Davis Highway (Route 22) between Chopping Road (Route 623) and Chalklevel Road (Route 625). Much of the property is zoned Industrial (IND) but it also includes parcels zoned General Agricultural (A-2) and General Residential (R-2). All but six parcels lie within the Mineral Growth Area Overlay District and are designated for industrial use on the Future Land Use Map in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The remaining parcels are designated rural/agricultural. Currently, most of the site is covered in pine trees.
The Louisa County Industrial Development Authority owns about 800 acres of the property, which comprise the Cooke Industrial Rail Park. The William A. Cooke Foundation owns more than 400 acres, mainly via Rail Park North LLC. Several smaller parcels, owned by Isaiah Sims, Betty Sims, Stella and Lowry Davis, Kim and Phillip Harris, and Clarence and Edna Moubray, are also included in the project.
The applicant plans to construct a substation and transmission lines as accessory uses. According to a preliminary site plan, the substation would be constructed off Old County Road (Route 746). The facility would connect to Dominion Energy’s electric grid via a nearby 230 kV transmission line.
Two Oaks agreed to plant a vegetative buffer around the substation to protect views from nearby properties and act as a sound barrier. Dominika Sink, who presented the project on the company’s behalf, said the substation would be, at minimum, 150 feet off Old County Road and that Two Oaks is willing to make modifications during site plan approval to address potential impacts from the station.
As required by county regulations, the solar facility would include a 150-foot vegetative buffer. The applicant notes that mature trees exist around much of the property and such vegetation would, generally, comprise 75 feet of the buffer. In areas where vegetation is insufficient, the applicant originally agreed to plant 45 feet of fast-growing, non-invasive, evergreens. That shifted to 60 feet Thursday night. The remainder of the buffer strip would consist of pollinator plantings. Solar panels would cover about 793 acres of the 1234-acre site.
Louisa County has embraced a phased approached to utility-scale solar development in an effort to address concerns about stormwater runoff and erosion and sediment control. Problems with runoff have plagued Dominion’s Belcher Solar Facility off Waldrop Church Road where some 1,100 acres were cleared and no phased construction required.
Two Oaks initially proposed to construct the project in three phases, encompassing from 201 to 386 acres, but agreed to county planning staff’s recommendation that no phase exceed 100 acres. Each phase would require soil stabilization, via specified measures, and approval by county staff.
Entrances to the solar site would be located along Chopping and Chalklevel Roads. The applicant agreed to limit traffic to and from the facility during peak hours and employ other traffic control measures as necessary. Two Oaks plans to instruct all its contractors traveling to and from the facility along School Bus Road (Route 767), Chalklevel Road, and Chopping Road to not exceed 35 miles per hour and ask the Board of Supervisors to request that VDOT adopt a 35 mph speed limit for those roads during project construction.
Two Oaks estimates that, during the nine to 12-month construction period, the facility would generate about 10 truck trips and 30 car trips per day. The facility would create little traffic once constructed.
Originally, Two Oaks projected that the site, including the solar array and battery storage system, could contribute over $15 million in tax revenue to the county over its 35-year lifespan. That figure would decrease without the battery storage component.
The applicant also noted that the William A. Cooke Foundation, which is leasing more than 400 acres for the project, could increase its funds for local grant-making and scholarships by $700,000 a year.
Among other charitable endeavors, the foundation provides thousands of dollars in scholarships annually to Louisa County High School students and recently gifted $1 million to Louisa Little League for the construction of a new baseball and softball complex on land it donated near Cuckoo.
The Louisa County Industrial Development Authority would also draw significant revenue from the project. The IDA signed a ground lease agreement with Two Oaks last year. The lease included a $45,000 up-front payment to the authority. If the facility is built, the IDA would receive about $700 an acre annually for usable land under lease during the life of the project.
Economic Development Director Andy Wade said earlier this year that the funds would allow the authority to pay down a note on the property. The IDA would likely dedicate additional revenue to promoting economic development and industrial growth in the county, Wade said. The Cooke Foundation sold the rail park to the authority in 2015.
Nine Louisa County residents spoke during the public hearing or submitted written comment. They expressed a range of views about the project. Several said they supported it because of revenue it would bring to the Cooke Foundation.
Deborah Pettit, former Superintendent of Louisa County Public Schools, said the project would be a “win-win” for the division. It’s a clean use of industrial land near Louisa County Middle School and High School, which will generate little traffic after construction, she said. In addition, she noted that the tax revenue generated by the facility would benefit local schools and students would benefit from the Cooke Foundation’s stake in the project.
“(Cooke Foundation) scholarships, in particular, have made lasting impact on lives of students. Since 2002, the Cooke Foundation has awarded $3.5 million in local scholarships. I have personally witnessed the impact. It has made attending college or trade school possible for students who couldn’t afford to go and are likely the first generation to pursue education beyond high school,” Pettit said.
Several residents who live near the project expressed concerns. Mary Havasy, who lives in Hidden Farms Estates off Chopping Road, said she was speaking on behalf of her neighborhood, submitting a letter signed by 12 residents. She said people in the community are worried about the impact of sound and light from the substation and potential safety hazards, among other concerns. She noted that she isn’t against solar energy but wondered why the substation would be placed so close to homes when there are other options.
Economic Development Director Andy Wade said that the nearest property line in Hidden Farms Estates is 500 feet from the property line of the proposed substation site and there’s already a mature treed buffer of pines and hardwoods. He added that Two Oaks has agreed to add an additional 150 foot buffer around the substation.
Sink noted that Two Oaks is willing to use dark sky compliant lighting around the substation where possible. Earlier in the meeting, she showed a chart from a Yale University study that suggested the substation would produce little sound impact beyond 300 feet.
If approved, the facility would be the seventh utility scale-solar site okayed by the county and the third approved under the its new solar ordinance adopted in February. Of the six approved sites, only Dominion’s Belcher and Whitehouse facilities have been constructed. The site would be Energix’s second facility permitted by the county. The company won approval for an 11 MW project off School Bus Road earlier this year.
In split vote, planners reject vulgar sign prohibition
In a 4-3 vote, commissioners recommended that the Board of Supervisors reject an amendment to county sign regulations that would prohibit “any sign that displays vulgar, obscene, indecent, or profane language” in public view.
Cuckoo District Commissioner George Goodwin made the motion against the proposal, citing First Amendment concerns. Patrick Henry District Commissioner Ellis Quarles, Green Springs District Commissioner Holly Reynolds, and Jackson District Commissioner Cy Weaver voted with Goodwin. Mineral District Commissioner John Disosway, Mountain Road District Commissioner Gordon Brooks, and Louisa District Commissioner Manning Woodward supported the amendment.
Mountain Road District Supervisor Tommy Barlow proposed the amendment at supervisors’ November 1 meeting in response to constituents’ concerns about a cluster of vulgar political signs in eastern Louisa that prominently display the F-word. He recently attended a funeral where several constituents complained to him about the signs, he said. Two Jackson District residents spoke at the same meeting, expressing their frustration about the signs, noting that school buses pass them daily.
Barlow said that he crafted the proposed amendment based on federal regulations that seek to limit “vulgar, obscene, indecent, or profane language” over public airwaves.
Goodwin said that while he doesn’t approve of or condone the signs, the county can’t prohibit them.
“I would never put a sign on my property that would expose my neighbors, friends, children, visitors to this county to language that is vulgar, obscene or offensive and I would hope, if someone did, people in that community would do everything they could to let them know that what they are doing is not in keeping with the moral fiber of the citizens of Louisa County,” he said. “However, there’s a button and it’s not a small button. Free speech is guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. I cannot, in good conscience, approve an action that violates that constitution when I have sworn to uphold it. Furthermore, I can’t subject this county to litigation and public humiliation by our actions.”
Disosway took a different view, saying the signs violate community standards.
“I don’t believe censoring a few words restricts anybody’s freedom of speech,” he said, adding “I do believe the community has a responsibility for establishing a standard that community members feel like is appropriate for use in the community. It’s a matter of decency.”
Two residents submitted written comment for the public hearing. One opposed the ordinance and one supported it.
Jackson District resident Bernie Hill argued that the proposed amendment is a violation of the First Amendment, per court precedent.
“In Cohen vs. California in 1971, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits states from criminalizing the public display of a single four-letter expletive. The decision has been cited in numerous First Amendment acts,” he wrote.
Hill quoted Justice John Marsall Harlan’s majority opinion in the case: “Government might soon seize upon the censorship of particular words as a convenient guise for banning the expression of unpopular views.”
Planners finally settle on how to address towing yards, services in county code
Commissioners voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval of amendments to county land development regulations regarding the establishment and operation of towing services and motor vehicle impoundment yards.
The proposed amendments have been months in the making. Community Development Director Robert Gardner told commissioners earlier this year that several people had approached the county in hopes of establishing a towing yard. But, county regulations don’t define such a use so it’s currently not permitted.
Staff and planners worked to craft a definition of “towing yard,” eventually opting to delete the existing definition of “impoundment lot” and add definitions for “motor vehicle impoundment yard” and “motor vehicle towing services.”
In addition, the proposed amendments establish Conditional Use Permit criteria for a “motor vehicle impoundment yard” and designate the zoning districts where these uses would be allowed.
In short, motor vehicle impoundment yards would include facilities that store “motor vehicles towed or otherwise removed from one place to another by the use of a motor vehicle specifically designed for that purpose. Storage of towed vehicles means the keeping of such vehicles in an approved impoundment yard for a time not to exceed that which is required to return it to the owner or dispose of it in accordance with the Code of Virginia, state and local law enforcement, judiciary order, or insurance settlement.”
Motor vehicle towing services would cover smaller operations that tow but only temporarily store vehicles. Such services are defined, in part, as a “business that tows or otherwise moves vehicles from one place to another by the use of a motor vehicle specifically designed for that purpose. Motor Vehicle Towing Services may include the temporary storage of motor vehicles. For towing services that store less than six (6) vehicles, the business is exempt from fencing, visual barriers, or other local ordinances that apply to Motor Vehicle Impoundment Yards. Towing services that temporarily store less than six (6) vehicles may do so up to thirty (30) days.”
The proposed amendments lay out criteria specific to Conditional Use Permits for a “motor vehicle impoundment yard.” For example, the use would require an opaque security fence a minimum of eight feet tall that encircles the entire impoundment yard.
As proposed Thursday night, impoundment yards and towing services would be permitted via CUPs in Industrial (IND), Industrial Limited (I-1), and Industrial General (I-2) zoning designations in Growth Area Overlay Districts.
But, limiting smaller towing services to parcels zoned industrial struck some planners as overly restrictive. The commission instead opted to allow towing services in all zoning districts with a Conditional Use Permit except residential.
Planners also worried how the amendments would impact towing services already operating in the county. Gardner noted that the proposed regulations would only affect the county’s existing towing services if they sought to expand operations or start a new business. He said, as is, they would be considered a nonconforming lawful use.
Commission okays rezoning for self-storage facility
Planners voted to recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval of an application to rezone for commercial use about four and a half acres adjacent to the Louisa County Industrial Air Park.
At its November 18 meeting, the commission held a public hearing on Louisa Mini Storage LLC’s request to rezone to General Commercial (C-2) two parcels along Davis Highway (Route 22) just east of its intersection with Industrial Drive (Route 780) in the Mineral Voting District.
Darrell and Brandon Payne, Louisa Mini Storage’s owners, hope to build a 72,000-square foot self-storage facility on the parcels, which include a 4.2-acre lot (tmp 41-207), currently zoned industrial (IND), and an adjoining roughly half acre property (tmp 41-208), currently zoned General Agricultural (A-2).
Worried about the rezoning’s potential impact on an already-congested area with residential dwellings nearby, commissioners tabled action on the request at their previous meeting. Cuckoo District Commissioner George Goodwin expressed particular concern that the applicant only offered to exclude five potential uses for the site in its proffers. C-2 zoning allows for more than 40 by-right uses, according to county land development regulations including high-traffic uses like a grocery store and post office.
The Paynes returned Thursday night with amended proffers that excluded 13 potential uses. Justin Shimp of Shimp Engineering, who represented the Paynes, told the commission that they chose to exclude uses that were likely to generate the most traffic including a grocery store and post office. He said that excluding all other possible uses for a property in a designated growth area isn’t a good zoning practice.
The Paynes’ amended proffers satisfied most planners. The rezoning passed 6-1 with Goodwin opposing the request.
The Paynes, who already operate a self-storage business in Greene County, agreed to allow access to the facility only between 5 am and 10 pm. County planning staff recommended that the facility only open between 7 am and 9 pm.
Newcombs defer public hearing on CUP for agricultural operation in residential zoning
Nathan and Chelsea Newcomb of Farmhouse 5 LLC opted to defer a public hearing on their request for a Conditional Use Permit to establish an agricultural operation on three adjoining parcels zoned General Residential (R-2).
The properties (tmp 97 68A, 97 68 B, and 97 68 C) cover about 8.2 acres located along Owens Creek Road in the Mountain Road Voting District and lie between a larger parcel owned by the Newcombs. The land is surrounded by properties zoned Agricultural (A-1, A-2) and General Residential (R-2).
According to their land use application, the Newcombs hope to establish a farmette with a garden and some livestock. The Newcombs told commissioners Thursday night that they aren’t looking to run an extensive livestock operation but they want to get their three children involved in 4-H.
Louisa County’s land development regulations allow for passive agricultural activity on property zoned residential by-right including the cultivation of crops and silviculture. But, keeping and raising farm animals and fowl is specifically excluded, requiring a CUP on R-2-zoned property.
Cuckoo District Commissioner George Goodwin asked the Newcombs if they would be willing to cap the number of animals they’d raise. He offered a list of suggestions that he said was sourced from “agricultural colleges across the country.” Goodwin suggested a limit of six sheep and goats per acre and 50 chickens per acre, for example. He also noted a setback may be appropriate for some types of livestock.
Chelsea Newcomb said they’d like to do some research before agreeing to specific limits. The Newcombs chose to defer their public hearing until January.
Under a condition recommended by county planning staff, the CUP would prohibit the Newcombs from raising swine, apalcas or llamas on the portion of their properties zoned residential. The Newcombs also own land zoned agricultural.
James River Water Authority nears decision on pump station site
Consultants for the James River Water Authority (JRWA) shared findings from an archeological study Wednesday that are expected to play a key role in where the authority sites a controversial water pump station.
Justin Curtis, JRWA’s legal counsel, told board members that a recently-completed Phase 1 archeological study found no evidence or potential evidence of human burial sites at a proposed alternative location for the pump station along the banks of the James River in Fluvanna County.
With that key information in hand, Curtis said he anticipates the project team will make a recommendation at JRWA’s January meeting that the board authorize the development of an Army Corps of Engineers permit application for construction of the pump station at the alternative site.
JRWA is a joint venture between Louisa and Fluvanna counties, established in 2009, to channel water from the James River to meet both localities’ longterm needs. The authority originally chose to build its pump station and a submerged water intake at the confluence of the James and Rivanna rivers about 2 miles downstream. That site is believed to be Rassawek, the ancestral capital of the Monacan Indian Nation. It’s selection met strong opposition from the Monacan, a federally-recognized tribe, prompting the authority to pause its Army Corps of Engineers permitting process and study another site.
In a letter submitted earlier this year, the Monacan agreed to support an alternative location as long as certain conditions were met including that archeological field work didn’t suggest the presence of burial sites.
Jonathan Glenn, an archeologist with GAI, told the authority’s board that weeks of shovel testing and trench testing at the alternative site unearthed arrowheads, parts of tools, and other artifacts. But, he said archeologists didn't find as many artifacts as anticipated. He also indicated that they found very few features like fire pits or post holes and no evidence of human burials.
“We found far fewer artifacts than we expected. In a floodplain like this, especially on the James, sites are intensely used and many artifacts are found in testing like this,’ he said.
Glenn explained that archeologists will now compile a full technical report “to interpret the site and assess whether it has the potential to be an important site.” In that report, archeologists will also include recommendations for additional testing if they believe its warranted. They’ll share the report with both the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the Monacan. If the board authorizes an Army Corps of Engineers permit application for the site, dubbed the “Forsyth 1C alternative,” additional testing will be required, Glenn said.
Joe Hines of Timmons Group, the project’s managing consultant, said that his team would need to work on some concept design in preparation for the application process. That includes considering potential adjustments to the pump station’s excavation footprint and realignment of the pipeline based on archeological findings. He also said Timmons would need to conduct a topographical study and wetlands delineation.
Hines told the board that his team is crafting a budget for review at its January meeting and putting the pieces in place to tackle the project as expeditiously as possible.
“As many of you are aware, we’re seeing really unprecedented supply chain issues and materials pricing increases like we’ve never seen before in the industry. Obviously, we want to get stuff done as quickly as possible, get y’all’s pricing locked down as soon as possible,” he said, adding that billions of dollars in federal infrastructure funding for water and sewer projects is likely to “further max out the system.”
The James River Water Project, including a pipeline, water treatment facility at Ferncliff, and other infrastructure, was originally expected to cost about $50 million with Louisa County footing much of that bill. Most of the project’s infrastructure is already in place.
Louisa County’s growth along the Interstate 64 corridor largely hinges on the pipeline’s completion. Curtis briefed the Board of Supervisors on the project at its November 1 meeting. He told supervisors that if JRWA elects to move forward at the Forsyth site, the project could be complete between June of 2024 and June of 2026. Moving forward at the original location would likely be a lengthier and far more complicated process, he said.
Draft redistricting maps released
A pair of special masters appointed by the Supreme Court of Virginia (SCOVA) released draft maps for state legislative and congressional districts last week that could shake up Virginia’s political landscape and significantly impact Louisa County.
If SCOVA chooses to adopt the proposed maps, Louisa voters would find themselves in unfamiliar territory at both the state and federal level. The map drawers drew the county into a new congressional district and split it into two new state senate and House of Delegates districts.
The proposed Congressional map moves all of Louisa County from the Seventh Congressional District into a redrawn First Congressional District. The right-leaning district would stretch from central Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay and include all or part of 22 localities.
It would reach as far west as Fluvanna and stretch east across the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck, encompassing a slice of western Henrico where current Seventh District Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (D-Henrico) resides. The First is currently represented by Republican Rob Wittman, whose Montross home would remain safely within its boundaries.
The map dismantles Spanberger’s current district, moving parts of the Seventh into redrawn First, Fourth, Fifth, and 10th districts. Map drawers plotted a new Seventh in northern Virginia, centered on Democratic-leaning Prince William County.
The proposed state legislative maps would sever Louisa from its current representatives in Richmond: 22nd District Senator Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg), 17th District Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania), and 56th District Delegate John McGuire (R-Goochland).
The senate proposal splits Louisa County, drawing the Zion, Mechanicsvillle, and Patrick Henry 1 precincts into the Democrat-friendly 11th District, which includes the City of Charlottesville, and Albemarle, Nelson, and Amherst counties. No incumbent lives within the proposed district’s boundaries.
The rest of Louisa would be drawn into the 10th Senate District, which includes all or part of 10 localities. The strong Republican district would stretch east into Hanover and encompass Fluvanna and Goochland while reaching as far south as Appomattox. No incumbent currently lives in the proposed district.
The House of Delegates draft also splits the county, placing the same three precincts into the 55th House District. The Democrat-leaning seat includes most of Albemarle and a slice of northern Nelson. Republican Delegate Rob Bell resides in the proposed district.
The remainder of Louisa would fall into the 59th House District, which would reach across western Hanover and grab a slice of Henrico around Glen Allen. The solid Republican district currently has no incumbent within its boundaries.
Under Virginia law, state legislators are required to live in the district they represent. There is no such requirement for Congressional representatives.
Voters revamped Virginia’s redistricting process last year, passing a constitutional amendment aimed at limiting partisan gerrymandering. The amendment established the bipartisan Virginia Redistricting Commission, tasking its sixteen members with crafting new districts based on data from the 2020 census. Beset with partisan bickering, the commission failed to reach consensus, leaving the Virginia Supreme Court in charge of drawing new maps.
In November, the court selected a pair of special masters to collaborate on the maps: Real Clear Politics analyst Sean Trende and University of California-Irvine professor Bernard Grofman. Republican leaders in the General Assembly recommended Trende while Democrats recommended Grofman.
Though the maps aren’t final, they’ve already thrown the race in the current Seventh Congressional District into disarray, potentially complicating Spanberger’s path to re-election and the plans of a host of Republicans eager to challenge her.
At publication time, Spanberger hadn’t issued a statement on the proposed district. She could choose to run in the new Seventh, a seat already attracting interest from a crowd of northern Virginia Democrats.
Reeves, who announced plans to run in the Seventh last month, quickly retooled Wednesday night, shortly after the draft maps were released. He tweeted that he now intends to run in the 10th, a Loudoun County-anchored district that would stretch south to include much of Spotsylvania, where Reeves resides, and other parts of his 17th Senate District. Democrat Jennifer Wexton currently represents the 10th.
Other Republican contenders in the Seventh have found themselves potentially drawn into the First with Wittman, a Republican incumbent. Taylor Keeney, a Goochland County resident who announced plans to run this summer, released a statement late last week, saying she would wait for final maps but has no intention of challenging Wittman.
McGuire, who quietly launched his campaign last month, is also taking a wait-and-see approach. According to Virginia Scope, he said in a statement that he and his wife are “waiting for a final congressional map to be approved by the Virginia Supreme Court before we make any decisions.”
The public has several opportunities to provide feedback on the proposed maps. The court will hold two virtual public hearings on Dec. 15 and Dec. 17 from 1 pm to 4 pm. In addition, comments are accepted via email and directly on the interactive maps. To learn more about how to provide virtual testimony or written feedback, click here.
BOS Roundup: news from supervisors’ Dec. 6 meeting
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors breezed through a light agenda Monday night. Among other business, County Administrator Christian Goodwin briefed the board about a potential real estate acquisition in the Louisa County Industrial Air Park and supervisors authorized the establishment of a community development authority serving the Cutalong community at Lake Anna. (meeting materials, video)
Board okays Cutalong CDA
Supervisors voted to authorize the establishment of a community development authority at Cutalong, a neighborhood and resort under development along the shores of Lake Anna.
Stillwater Equity Partners, Cutalong’s developer, proposed the creation of a CDA at the board’s November 1 meeting. CDAs 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. Cutalong representatives indicated they will use the CDA as a financing vehicle for water and sewer improvements and other public infrastructure.
The development, located off Route 208 near the Lake Anna Food Lion, is already home to a golf course and is expected to include townhomes, single-family homes, golf cottages, and other resort amenities. The CDA district would include about 723 acres.
At a previous meeting, Michael Graff, a bond attorney with McGuire Woods, 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.
State law requires that the governing bodies of localities where CDAs plan to operate authorize their establishment, appoint board members, and formally set assessments.
Mountain Road District Supervisor Tommy Barlow worried that the board’s role in establishing the CDA would somehow obligate the county to contribute financially or pay off outstanding debt.
“Can you assure us that this, in no way, obligates Louisa County to spend monies in the development of this project,” Barlow asked.
“I can provide that assurance because the statute provides that, the petition provides that, the ordinance that’s before you provides that,” Graff responded, referring to legal steps required to establish the CDA.
Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams said that, while the board isn’t contractually obligated to pay for anything related to the CDA, there could be a political obligation.
“If the CDA goes bankrupt for some reason and there’s 400 voters out there. There’s no contractual obligation from the county but there’s certainly going to be an implied political one to come and fix this and takes this over,” he said.
The board voted 5-2 to approve the CDA with Barlow and Williams opposing its establishment.
Goodwin briefs board on potential purchase of office building, adjoining lot
County Administrator Christian Goodwin provided the board with more details about an opportunity to buy an office building and adjoining lot in the Louisa County Industrial Air Park. The potential acquisition was first publicly discussed at the board’s November 22 meeting.
The county is eying a pair of properties located along Industrial Drive including a roughly 5.4-acre parcel, formerly home to Virginia Community Bank’s corporate offices, and an adjoining 3.95-acre lot. The properties would provide much-needed office space for county agencies as well as room for future growth.
The office building and lot (tmp 41B 1 4) are assessed at about $1.86 million while the vacant adjoining parcel (tmp 41 200) is assessed at $172,400, per county records.
Goodwin told supervisors Monday night that he’s in discussions with representatives of the property’s owner about a potential purchase price for the parcels.
“We’ve been throwing some numbers around that are in the assessment ballpark, if you will,” he said, adding that the current owner could vacant the building in 60 days or less and some furnishings could convey.
Goodwin said that he is continuing to evaluate which agencies would move into the office space if the county follows through with its acquisition.
He plans to bring a final proposal for purchasing the parcels to the board at its December 20 meeting. No board member publicly commented on Goodwin’s briefing.
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