This week in county government; Supervisors to hold public hearings on roaming dogs, tax relief, and secondary road plan
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, May 2 through May 7
Monday, May 2
Among other public business, supervisors will hold three public hearings and appropriate the FY23 budget. See below for more details.
Tuesday, May 3
Louisa County School Board, Central Office Administration Building, 953 Davis Highway, Mineral, 7 pm. (agenda)
Thursday, May 5
Louisa County Industrial Development Authority, special meeting, Public Meeting Room, Louisa County Office Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 8:30 am. At publication time, an agenda was not publicly available.
Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, virtual monthly meeting, 7 pm. (meeting materials) A Zoom link is available in the meeting materials.
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.
Supervisors to hold public hearings on roaming dogs, tax relief, secondary road plan
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors will gather for its first May meeting Monday night with three public hearings on the agenda. The board will consider adopting a beefed up dogs running at large ordinance, approving VDOT’s six-year secondary road plan, and broadening a program that offers tax relief to some elderly and disabled residents. In addition, the board will appropriate the FY23 budget and Capital Improvement Plan, among other business. Check out the agenda highlights below.
Supervisors to hold public hearing on reining in roaming dogs: Supervisors will consider adopting beefed up regulations aimed at reining in roaming dogs. The new rules would bar roaming dogs year-round and implement an escalating penalty structure for habitual offenders.
Residents have repeatedly asked the board to crack down on roaming dogs, arguing that the county’s current ordinance, which only bars dogs from running at large during April, May, and June, doesn’t provide animal control officers adequate tools to remedy the problem. Several residents have complained that dogs regularly cross their property, at times endangering their pets.
Chief Animal Control Officer Alyssa Ellison expressed similar concerns when discussing a revised ordinance with supervisors at their March 7 meeting, noting that current regulations are particularly problematic in addressing habitual offenders.
“(The current ordinance) doesn’t really have a lot of bite with a lot of people. A lot of folks know that I don’t have a summons that I can leave them for the dog running at large (most of the year),” she said.
Under the draft proposal, dog owners who allow their canine to run at large any time of year would receive a written warning for their first offense. A second violation within one year would result in a second written warning. A third violation within two years of the second violation would result in a $100 fine. A fourth violation within two years of the third violation would result in a Class 4 misdemeanor. Animal control would pick up roaming dogs and return them to their owner, if possible, under each tier of the penalty structure.
Louisa District Supervisor Eric Purcell, who helped craft the draft ordinance, said at the board’s March 21 meeting that the proposed rules are specifically designed to deal with repeat offenders and not to penalize dogs owners whose pet escapes once or twice.
“This seems to be a situation where we’ve got people who are repeat offenders and that’s been addressed several times, both by members of the public and by members of our body. The thinking was when a dog gets out of your house or there’s just a mistake once or twice, just give a warning and give (the dog) back. But, if this becomes a continual problem, raise the fine to something more substantial and, if it continues, we have remedies at court,” Purcell said.
Under state and county code, a dog is considered running at large when its “roaming or running off the property of its owner or custodian and not under its owner's or custodian's immediate control.” The draft ordinance includes a specific exemption for dogs “engaged in lawful hunting” as required by state law. It also exempts hunting dogs when training and dogs assisting in farming activity.
The proposed ordinance would apply county-wide except in about 25 subdivisions, mostly around Lake Anna, and the Mineral Trailer Park. Those areas already bar dogs running at large year-round and violators are subject to a maximum $150 fine on their first offense. The towns of Louisa and Mineral also bar roaming dogs year-round under their own ordinances.
Public hearing set for changes to tax relief program: Supervisors will consider broadening a program that offers tax relief to some elderly and disabled residents.
Currently, the program provides real estate tax relief to permanently disabled residents and residents 65 years old and over whose income falls at or below $40,000 a year and whose net worth, excluding their home and 10 acres, falls at or below $200,000.
The new proposal raises the income cap from $40,000 to $50,000 and tweaks the sliding scale that determines how much relief residents qualify for. (See the proposed matrix below).
“The whole purpose of this is to try and broaden that relief a little bit so we went from $40,000 to $50,000, which should encompass some more people,” Mountain Road District Supervisor Tommy Barlow said at the board’s April 4 meeting. Barlow and Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams served in a working group that crafted the proposal.
Williams said it’s difficult to precisely determine how much the plan would cost the county, but he and Barlow estimate that it could have a $500,000 impact. He said that if the board adopts the changes after the public hearing, the May 1 deadline to apply for relief could be extended to June 1.
In anticipation of the proposal’s approval, Finance Director Wanda Colvin accounted for a $500,000 reduction in revenue in the FY23 budget that supervisors adopted at their April 18 meeting.
Monday’s public hearing marks the third time the board has considered changes to the tax relief program in the last year. Supervisors broadened the program last spring, raising the net worth cap from $100,000 to $200,000 and doubling from $1,000 to $2,000 the amount of tax relief allowed. At the request of Commissioner of the Revenue Stacey Fletcher, they adjusted the sliding scale last fall to distribute relief more equitably.
Some residents have criticized the board for adopting a level real estate tax rate this year in the face of a more than 12 percent hike in real estate assessments. The board decided to consider additional changes to the relief program at its March 21 meeting following a public hearing focused on rising assessments.
Supes to hold public hearing on six-year secondary road plan: Supervisors will hold a public hearing and consider approval of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s six-year secondary road plan for Louisa County. The plan covers road improvements in the secondary system from FY23 through FY28. It earmarks between $178,838 and $234,381 a year for the improvements for a total projected allocation of roughly $1.27 million. The funds are drawn from the state’s Rustic Road program, which is specifically aimed at paving unpaved public roads, and “telefee” funds, money paid by telecommunications companies that use public right of ways.
The plan earmarks about $1.21 million to pave parts of the following roads: Colemans Lane (Route 735); Pine Ridge Drive (Route 1046); West Green Springs Road (Route 617) outside of the Green Springs National Historic Landmark District; Poplar Avenue (Route 645); Harts Mill Road (Route 647); Albemarle Avenue (Route 1104); Piedmont Avenue (Route 1117); and Midway Lane (Route F188). Colemans Lane, Pine Ridge Drive, and West Green Springs Road sit atop the priority list with each slotted for funding in FY22-23.
The plan allots $55,000 in telefee funds for the county-wide rural additions program, which improves private roads to bring them into the state system. A $10,000 allocation is slated for FY26-27 and a $45,000 allocation is slated for FY27-28.
Supervisors review and approve an update to the six-year secondary road plan annually.
Board set to appropriate $146.2 million for Operations and Maintenance Budget, Capital Improvement Plan: Supervisors are set to wrap up the Fiscal Year 2023 budget process by formally appropriating the FY23 Operations and Maintenance Budget and Capital improvement Plan. The operating budget totals nearly $135.4 million while spending on capital projects exceeds $10.8 million. Supervisors adopted the budgets at their April 18 meeting.
County officials are still awaiting a final state budget, which could impact local revenue. Finance Director Wanda Colvin said at the board’s last meeting that supervisors could tweak the budget as necessary after appropriation. The new fiscal year kicks off July 1.
Supes to consider supplemental appropriation for Children’s Services Act funding: Supervisors will consider a resolution authorizing a $200,000 supplemental appropriation to the Children’s Services Act fund. Of that money, $88,000 would be drawn from the county’s general fund while $112,000 would come from state funding.
The Children’s Services Act, passed in 1993, established a single state pool of funds to purchase services for at-risk youth and their families. The state funds, combined with local community funds, are managed by local interagency teams who plan and oversee services to youth. The services provided under CSA are mandated services as prescribed in the Act, according to the proposed resolution.
Louisa County’s FY22 CSA case load projections exceed budgeted expectations by $200,000, necessitating the supplemental appropriation.
Board to discuss bylaws change, Courthouse Road speed assessment: The board’s agenda includes two discussion items: “to consider amendments to the bylaws of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors” and “speed assessment on Route 208 (Courthouse Road).” The agenda packet doesn’t include any additional information about either item.
According to Board Chair and Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams, the board will discuss amending its bylaws to state that members of the public are required to share their name and voting district when speaking during the public comment period or during a public hearing. Currently, community members are asked to share their name, address, and voting district though those requirements aren’t explicitly laid out in the bylaws.
Adams said that he’s grown concerned about asking speakers to share their address, noting that he recently read an article about a woman who provided her address while speaking during a city council meeting and was later the target of retaliation at her home. He said that meetings are now live-streamed and recorded making it easy for bad actors to obtain residents’ addresses and he doesn’t see the benefit in requiring speakers to share anything beyond their name and voting district.
Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes told Engage Louisa that residents who live near the Interstate 64 and Courthouse Road (Route 208) interchange at Ferncliff are concerned about the speed limit in the area. The board will discuss taking steps to request a speed limit reduction along Courthouse Road. The Virginia Department of Transportation must approve changes to the speed limit.
Other news of note:
Race in HD59 heats up, field vying for Republican nomination in SD10 grows: New state legislative maps adopted by the Virginia Supreme Court last December shook up Virginia’s political landscape, carving the commonwealth into 40 new state Senate districts and 100 new House of Delegates districts without regard for where incumbents live.
The state is tasked with drawing new districts every 10 years based on results from the latest census. Last year’s redistricting process was the first under a new constitutional amendment that handed map-drawing power to a bipartisan redistricting commission. The commission failed to agree on new districts, leaving the state Supreme Court in charge of the process. That opened the doors to maps that don’t protect incumbents and present challenges and opportunities for politicos across the state.
The new maps place much of Louisa County in the 10th state Senate District and the 59th House of Delegates District. When adopted, neither district was home to a sitting incumbent and both races have already attracted several contenders.
The Republican-friendly 59th House District, which includes most of Louisa, western Hanover, and a slice of Henrico around Glen Allen, has drawn candidates from both sides of the aisle. Republican Philip Strother, a Henrico lawyer who owns a winery in Fauquier County, and Democrat Rachel Levy, a Hanover educator, have both filed Statements of Organization to run. Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) won the district by almost 33 points last November, per an analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Delegate Buddy Fowler, who currently represents the 55th District, also plans to run in the 59th though he hasn’t formally filed paperwork with the Virginia Department of Elections. Fowler’s home was drawn into the 60th House District along with Delegate Scott Wyatt, a fellow Hanover County Republican. Fowler told the Times-Dispatch that he recently moved to Beaverdam, which lies in both the current 55th and the new 59th. Fowler and Levy faced off in the 55th last November with Fowler winning re-election to his fifth term by about 12,000 votes.
All 100 seats in the House of Delegates are currently up for grabs under new maps in 2023. But a lawsuit pending in federal court could result in House elections this November as well. The suit, filed by Democrat Paul Goldman, argues that last year’s House of Delegates elections violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment because they were run on maps based on data from the 2010 census.
Those districts contained out of balance populations, which run afoul of the one-person, one vote doctrine, and the remedy, according to Goldman, is to hold elections on new maps this fall. The most heavily populated House district was home to more than 130,000 residents, per the 2020 census, while the least populated included about 67,000 people. Based on the latest census data, the ideal district population is roughly 86,000 residents. The Covid-19 pandemic and other factors delayed census data, forcing the state to hold elections in the old districts.
So far, the new 10th state Senate District has only drawn Republican contenders. Hanover County Republican Committee Chair Jack Dyer is the latest candidate to jump in the race, formally filing to run in late March. He joins Louisa County Board of Supervisors Chair Duane Adams and 56th District Delegate John McGuire, two men with deep political ties in Louisa County. McGuire has represented Louisa in the House of Delegates since 2018 while Adams was just elected to his second term as the Mineral District representative on the Board of Supervisors.
The Republican-friendly 10th includes most of Louisa County and western Hanover at its northern edge. It stretches south to Appomattox and northern Prince Edward encompassing Goochland, Fluvanna, Buckingham, Amelia, Powhatan, and Cumberland counties along the way. According to VPAP, Youngkin won the district by about 36 points last year. All 40 seats in the Virginia Senate are on the ballot in 2023.
Stay tuned for more coverage of redistricting’s impact on Louisa County and the scramble for seats in the General Assembly in upcoming editions of Engage Louisa.
New report offers statewide overview of solar boom: Like its neighbors across central Virginia, Louisa County is grappling with how to navigate the solar boom. In 2015, Virginia didn’t have any utility-scale solar facilities. By the end of 2021, the commonwealth was home to 51, producing more than 2,657 MW of power. Two of those facilities are in Louisa County with five more approved for construction. The number of distributed solar arrays, often placed on rooftops and in yards, has also ballooned, growing from about 3,000 in 2017 to more than 26,000 in 2021.
Some localities have scrambled to respond to the demand for solar power by implementing ordinances that regulate solar generation via land use rules and zoning codes. In Louisa, county officials adopted in early 2021 ordinances that directly address both small and large-scale solar projects. As they’ve learned more about the opportunities and challenges presented by solar generation, officials have already reconsidered some of those rules.
In March, the Board of Supervisors raised the generation cap for small-scale, distributed solar projects, which typically serve individual residences, and allowed for more flexibility in their construction. Meanwhile, the Planning Commission will continue at its May 12 meeting a public hearing on significant revisions to utility-scale solar regulations. If adopted, the proposed rules will sharply limit large-scale solar generation in the county.
A new report from the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center and the Virginia Department of Energy places the conversation about solar generation in Louisa County in broader context. The report provides a comprehensive breakdown of the state of solar generation in the commonwealth. It documents the proliferation of solar arrays, big and small, over the last six years, driven in part by the passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act, and offers an overview of how localities are addressing the demand for solar power.
The report draws much of its data from a solar survey distributed to all 133 localities in mid-2021 and completed by 109. It provides a snapshot of a shifting energy landscape that is particularly impacting rural communities in central and Southside Virginia. Based on the survey’s findings, the report concludes that “that if Virginia is to make the most of its energy transition, attention needs to be paid to supporting localities, both regarding distributed generation and large-scale solar. Additional research, support and resources can assist localities in continuing to prepare for the increased development of solar.” Check out the report here.
Louisa finishes in middle of the pack in latest health rankings: Louisa County ranked 62 among 133 Virginia localities in an annual report that assesses the overall health of communities across the United States.
The report, published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute, compiles health data, ranging from length of life to access to clinical care and smoking rates to air pollution, then ranks localities based on those factors. Falls Church ranked as the healthiest community in Virginia while Petersburg ranked as the least healthy.
Louisa lagged behind surrounding localities in the rankings with Albemarle ranking sixth, Goochland ranking 14th, Hanover ranking 15th, Fluvanna ranking 24th, Spotsylvania ranking 35th, and Orange ranking 49th.
Check out Louisa County-specific data here.
Click here for contact information for the Louisa County Board of Supervisors.
Find agendas and minutes from previous Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission meetings as well as archived recordings here.
Click here for contact information for the Louisa County School Board.
Click here for minutes and agendas for School Board meetings.
Click here to access past editions of Engage Louisa.