This week in county government; Supes to consider solar site, truck restriction; Planners table rezoning vote, agree to hold public hearing on sign regulations; McGuire, Chase launch campaigns in VA07
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. 22 through Nov. 27
Monday, November 22
Louisa County Board of Supervisors, Public Meeting Room, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 6 pm. The board will convene in closed session at 5 pm. See below for more information about the meeting. (agenda packet, livestream)
Wednesday, November 24
Lake Anna Advisory Committee, Public Meeting Room, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 7 pm. At publication time, an agenda was not publicly available. (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.
Supervisors to consider solar facility near Town of Mineral, through truck restriction on Chopping Road, Davis Highway
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors will convene for its second November meeting Monday night with two public hearings on the agenda and several other items of note.
Public hearing on solar facility near Town of Mineral: Supervisors will hold a public hearing to consider Aura Power Development LLC’s request for a Conditional Use Permit to construct and operate an up to 94 MW solar array on parts of a 448.9-acre parcel (tax map parcel 43-4) near the Town of Mineral. The property is owned by Louisa District Supervisor Eric Purcell and his father, Charles, via Mine and Hemmer LLC.
The site is located east of Chopping Road (Route 623) behind Hidden Farms Estates, west of Zachary Taylor Highway (Route 522), and north of the CSX railroad line in the Mineral Voting District. Much of the property is zoned agricultural (A-2) but portions fall into residential (R-2) and commercial (C-2) zoning. The property is accessed by Old County Road (Route 746).
According to the staff report, the solar array and ancillary equipment would cover a maximum of 224 acres. The remainder of the property would “be used for setbacks, vegetative buffers, pollinator plantings, creeks, streams, wetland protection areas, erosion and sediment control measures, stormwater management, roads, and construction staging areas.”
The facility, which is expected to operate for 35 to 50 years, would connect to Dominion’s electric grid via a 230 kV transmission line that traverses the property. If approved, construction could begin in 2023.
At its October 14 meeting, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval of the CUP.
Aura already has one solar facility approved in the county: a yet-to-be constructed up to 244 MW array on portions of a roughly 1400-acre tract owned by the Purcells. The Board of Supervisors okayed that project, which stretches from just south of Davis Highway (Route 22) to the county’s reservoir, last year in a 6-0 vote. Eric Purcell recused himself from considering the CUP request.
If approved, Mine and Hemmer would be the sixth utility-scale solar site okayed by the county. Only two of those facilities, Dominion’s Belcher and Whitehouse projects, have been constructed.
The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to consider what could be the county’s seventh large-scale solar facility at its December 9 meeting. Two Oaks Solar LLC is requesting a Conditional Use Permit to build an up to 118 MW facility with an up to 50 MW battery storage system on more than 1,200 acres north of Davis Highway (Route 22) near the proposed Mine and Hemmer project. The applicant would also construct a substation and transmission lines. The Louisa County Industrial Development Authority owns about 800 acres of the proposed site.
Public hearing on through truck restriction, alternate route: The board will hold a public hearing to consider requesting that the Virginia Department of Transportation implement a through truck traffic restriction on Chopping Road (Route 623) and part of Davis Highway (Route 22-208). The latter restriction would encompass a stretch of Davis Highway from East 1st Street in the Town of Mineral (US Route 522) to School Bus Road (Route 767).
According to the proposed resolution, the restriction may apply to “any truck or truck and trailer or semitrailer combination, except a pickup or panel truck, that has no point of origin or destination along the subject route.” Louisa County would use its offices to enforce the restriction via the appropriate law enforcement agency.
State code requires that localities seeking to bar through trucks on eligible roads hold a public hearing and propose an alternate route. According to the resolution under consideration, supervisors would instead route through trucks, most of which are looking for a short cut from Interstate 95 to Interstate 64, along Route 522 (Mineral Ave/Pendleton Road) through the Town of Mineral and Jefferson Highway (Route 33). The trucks could use that road to access the Town of Louisa. The proposed alternate route is approximately 15 miles. (See map below).
The public hearing is just the first step toward barring through trucks. The proposed restrictions and alternate route require approval by state officials following an evaluation by VDOT.
VDOT guidelines stipulate that proposed alternate routes must be deemed “reasonable.” The route must be engineered to a standard sufficient for truck travel and judged at least as appropriate for truck traffic as the requested restricted route. Any necessary upgrades to the alternate route must be completed before a truck restriction can be implemented. The termini of the proposed restriction must be identical to the alternate route to allow a time and distance comparison between the two routes and the alternate route can’t create an undue hardship for trucks in reaching their destination.
Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams has led the effort to restrict trucks on Chopping Road, specifically. He said, at meetings earlier this year, that he regularly gets calls from constituents worried about tractor trailer traffic on the road.
“I really don’t care if Winn Dixie has to add 10 more miles to (its truck’s) route. I’m responsible and answerable to the people who live along that road and in Louisa County. It’s a major, major issue,” he said.
But, Adams could face pushback from other constituents because of the proposed alternate route. According to The Central Virginian, the Mineral Town Council discussed the proposal at its November 8 meeting, Several councilors expressed concerns about re-routing trucks through the town and suggested that widening Chopping Road might be a better option.
“[Changing the route] is going to pass the headache from there to here, and it’s going to be worse here,” Councilor Tony Henshaw said, according to the paper.
Appropriating additional funds for construction of New Bridge Fire & Rescue Station: Supervisors will consider a resolution authorizing an additional $600,000 for the construction of the New Bridge Fire & Rescue Station.
The board approved $800,000 in county funds for the station during the FY21 budget process and the Foundation for Lake Anna Emergency Services raised an additional $100,000, which it donated to the county.
But, County Administrator Christian Goodwin said at supervisors’ November 1 meeting that the station is now expected to cost $1.2 million with more than $200,000 in additional funds needed for site work. The proposed resolution cites “inflation and other factors” as the reason for the increase. If approved, the county plans to draw the supplemental appropriation from the Long Term School Capital Projects Assigned Fund Balance.
The station is slated for construction on a 2.4-acre county-owned parcel (tmp 29 35A1) on Route 208 near the Lake Anna Food Lion, which is currently home to a dog park. But, at the November 1 meeting, Stillwater Equity Partners, who is developing the Cutalong community nearby and owns about 45 acres around the Food Lion shopping center, proposed a land swap with the county.
The developer suggested that the station could be built on a parcel it owns along Kentucky Springs Road (Route 652) near the southern end of the shopping center. In exchange, Stillwater would get the parcel on Route 208. The developer said that site provides better visibility for a national hotel chain they hope to bring to the area.
County officials initially directed staff to explore the proposal but their interest appears to have been short-lived. In a November 7 Facebook post, Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams, who represents the area and has been instrumental in acquiring funds for the station, suggested he wasn’t interested in shifting to a new site.
“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.”
Supervisors to discuss buying office building that formerly housed Virginia Community Bank’s corporate offices: The board will discuss a potential real estate acquisition that could provide more office space for county government.
Supervisors are eyeing a 5.409-acre parcel off Industrial Drive (tmp 41B 1 4) in the Louisa County Industrial Air Park. The property is home to a large office building that formerly housed the headquarters of Virginia Community Bank. Blue Ridge Bank bought Virginia Community Bank in 2019. The land and improvements are assessed at about $1.86 million, per county records.
Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes told Engage Louisa that county officials have been searching for more office space over the last several years. He said the building could potentially house the county’s health and social services departments, noting that it would be far cheaper to buy an already-constructed office building than to build a new one.
Other business: Supervisors will hear a presentation from Virginia Career Works-Piedmont Region and consider a resolution to support VDOT’s action to abandon Old Route 208 from the state’s primary road system. In addition, the board will consider a handful of actions on its consent agenda including honoring Mary Johnson and James Ogg for their service on the Broadband Authority, appropriating more than $650,000 in federal grant funds to Louisa County Public Schools, and approving and awarding a contract to Hurricane Fence Company for construction of a roughly $38,000 chain link fence at the Louisa County Animal Shelter’s bark park, among other items. The shelter received grant funding to help pay for the project.
Planners table vote on rezoning for self-storage facility, agree to hold public hearing on amending sign regulations
An application to rezone about four and a half acres adjacent to the Louisa County Industrial Air Park for commercial use failed to gain approval from the Planning Commission Thursday night. Planners instead tabled a vote and plan to revisit the application at their December meeting. (meeting material, video)
Louisa Mini Storage LLC applied 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. One parcel (tmp 41-207) encompasses 4.214 acres, currently zoned industrial (IND). The adjoining parcel (tmp 41-208) includes 0.479 acres, currently zoned General Agricultural (A-2). The forested properties are included in the Louisa Growth Area and designated for industrial use on the Future Land Use Map in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
Brandon and Darrell Payne, who own Louisa Mini Storage LLC, plan to build and operate an approximately 72,000-square foot self-storage facility. The Paynes run a similar business in Greene County.
Planners worried about the rezoning’s potential impact on an already-congested area with residential dwellings nearby, expressing 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 use regulations.
“There are 43 by-right uses for a C-2 piece of property if my count is correct. You’ve chosen only five (to exclude). I can easily pick out two more that I would turn down in a heartbeat,” Cuckoo District Commissioner George Goodwin said.
Goodwin provided a pair of examples, arguing that a commercial kennel isn’t appropriate for an area with houses nearby and a grocery store would generate high traffic volume.
Justin Shimp of Shimp Engineering presented the application on the Paynes’ behalf. He said that self-storage facilities generate little traffic compared to many other commercial uses and the applicant opted to proffer out uses that have the highest peak-hour traffic including a day care, day care center, private school, restaurant and restaurant drive-in. He also questioned the value of excluding a multitude of future uses in an area designated for growth.
Still, Goodwin said he wasn’t inclined to support the rezoning if uses such as a grocery store remained available to the Paynes or a future owner of the property. But, he indicated he was willing to table a vote until the commission’s next meeting to give the applicant time to adjust the proffers.
“For whatever reason, if you decide you aren’t going to go forward with this project and you sell the land, 43 uses are on the table that convey with the property and there are some on there that I just would not vote for,” he said.
Darrell Payne told commissioners that he hopes to move forward with a storage facility in Louisa. Shimp and the Paynes agreed to review the list of by-right uses under C-2 zoning and return to the commission in December, likely with an expanded list of exclusions.
“We believe in doing it right. We don’t want a grocery store there. We don’t want some of these other things there. We want to move forward with this,” Payne said.
The commission voted 6-1 to table the application. Jackson District Planner Cy Weaver opposed, saying he didn’t understand why his colleagues were unwilling to move forward with approval.
Aside from proffering excluded uses, Shimp told commissioners that the applicant agreed to use dark-sky compliant lighting, to plant and maintain a tree-lined vegetative buffer, and to keep the area free of trash and debris.
Mineral District Planner John Disosway said he was concerned that the applicant didn’t limit access to the facility to certain times. In its report, county planning staff recommended only allowing access between 7 am and 9 pm.
Brandon Payne said that they don’t plan to operate a facility open 24 hours a day, indicating they’re willing to allow access only between 5 am and 10 pm as they do at their Greene County property. He noted that the facility would include an electronic gate system that allows for entry and exit when an employee isn’t on site and during specific hours.
Commission to hold public hearing on prohibiting vulgar signs
After some discussion, planners decided to move forward with a public hearing on a proposed amendment to the county’s sign regulations that seeks to prohibit signs that display “vulgar, obscene, indecent, or profane language.” The public hearing is expected to take place at the commission’s December 9 meeting.
Mountain Road District Supervisor Tommy Barlow, the board’s liaison to the commission, said that he proposed the amendment in response to constituents’ concerns about vulgar signs along the road in eastern Louisa.
At Supervisors’ November 1 meeting, Amy and Nathan Ware, who live on Wisteria Lane in the Jackson District, told the board that they are upset about a cluster of political signs that display the F-word near their home. Nathan Ware said that school buses pass the signs daily and he doesn’t think it’s appropriate that children see them.
Barlow told planners that he crafted the proposed amendment based on federal regulations that seek to limit “vulgar, obscene, indecent, or profane language” over public airwaves. He said that he presented the proposal at the November 1 meeting and the board unanimously agreed to send it to the Planning Commission for further discussion.
“I’ve been getting complaints from my constituents about signs on the side of the road that their children have to see. I agree with the First Amendment. You should be able to speak freely. But, I think this goes beyond that. For our citizens who were raised properly and don’t see this as language that should be displayed out in the public, they want to know what we are doing and why we allow this kind of trash to go on,” Barlow said. “If it turns out that this is what’s allowed by federal and state law then so be it. But, what I want my constituents to know and people in Louisa County is that we don’t condone it and that we are doing what we can so that this stuff is not displayed on the side of the road.”
Several commissioners agreed with Barlow.
“I think people’s rights are people’s rights but there’s a limit to it when it affects other people, particularly children,” Louisa District Commissioner Manning Woodward said. “So, I commend (the board) for bringing this up.”
Goodwin echoed Woodward.
“My rights end where yours start and I think that’s what we are addressing here. Yes, you have rights but if they cross into my territory, that’s where yours stop,” he said.
Shane Horn, who owns property on Micah Road in Mineral, spoke during the public comment period in opposition to the proposed amendment, arguing that it violates the First Amendment. Horn cited United States Supreme Court rulings to back up his claim including the 1971 case, Cohen vs. California.
In Cohen, 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 protester who wore a jacket adorned with the words, “F- the draft” into a California courthouse.
Horn also noted that, during the 2020 legislative session, Virginia’s General Assembly repealed a centuries-old prohibition on public swearing. Republican Delegate Michael Webert, who first patroned the bill in 2018, said that he was motivated to carry it to protect free speech and shrink the state code by removing a law already ruled unconstitutional.
“I think we should understand what our First Amendment rights are and leave the current sign ordinance as it stands,” Horn told the commission.
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors has the final say on amending county ordinances.
McGuire, Chase announce congressional bids
Delegate John McGuire of Goochland and State Senator Amanda Chase of Chesterfield are the latest candidates to announce bids for the Republican nomination in the Seventh Congressional District, a seat currently held by Democrat Abigail Spanberger.
Chase, who occasionally refers to herself as “Trump in heels,” announced her plans to run Wednesday morning, tweeting that she’s both a “true outsider” and “experienced legislator.” She’s represented Amelia County, the City of Colonial Heights, and part of Chesterfield County in the State Senate since 2015. The senate censured her earlier this year following comments she made about participants in the January 6th riot at the US Capitol.
Fresh off re-election to his third term in the 56th District House of Delegates seat, McGuire launched his campaign Friday evening via an email to supporters. He filed paperwork to run earlier this month.
The fitness instructor and former Navy Seal attacked Spanberger in the email, saying she believes in “raising taxes on hard working Virginia families, raising prices of everyday goods, allowing the IRS and FBI to target Americans, and implementing Socialist spending plans that will endanger VA small businesses.”
McGuire is a familiar face in Louisa County. He represents the locality in the House of Delegates and his brother, Rusty, has served as Louisa’s Commonwealth Attorney since 2011.
Both Chase and McGuire are coming off losses in their previous bids for higher office. Chase finished third behind Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin and Charlottesville businessman Pete Snyder in the Republican gubernatorial convention in May. McGuire finished second to Delegate Nick Freitas in the Seventh District Republican Convention last year. Freitas narrowly lost to Spanberger in the general election.
The duo’s commonalities don’t end there. Both have faced criticism, particularly from Democrats, for pushing conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and attending the January 6th rally near the Capitol that turned violent later in the day. Chase spoke at the event but said she left before the Capitol was breached. McGuire stayed quiet about his attendance for six months before revealing it in an interview with the Washington Post. He told the Post that he didn’t enter the Capitol.
McGuire and Chase join a crowded Republican field eager to challenge Spanberger in a race that’s expected to be one of the most competitive in the country, at least as the district is currently drawn. New district lines, set to be crafted using data from the 2020 census, are still in limbo. The bipartisan Virginia Redistricting Commission failed to reach consensus on new maps leaving the Virginia Supreme Court in charge of drawing the state’s 11 congressional districts and 140 state legislative districts.
The seventh’s uncertain geography hasn’t stopped six other candidates, in addition to McGuire and Chase, from jumping in the race.
State Senator Bryce Reeves (R-17), who represents much of Louisa County in Richmond, launched his campaign last month, touting his decade of experience in the General Assembly and work passing bipartisan legislation including reforms to the state’s foster care system.
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 Freitas 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.
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.
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