This week in county government; Supes discuss redistricting, roaming dogs, budget, and more; Chickahominy Pipeline hits pause; Light agenda for supervisors' Feb. 22 meeting
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. 21 through Feb. 26
Tuesday, Feb. 22
Louisa County Board of Supervisors, Public Meeting Room, Louisa County Administration Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa. 6 pm. (agenda packet, livestream) The board will convene for closed session at 5 pm.
With county offices closed on Monday in observance of Presidents’ Day, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors will convene on Tuesday night to consider a light agenda including one public hearing. See below for more information.
Wednesday, Feb. 23
Zion Crossroads Small Area Plan, Virtual Public Meeting, 5:30 pm. Click here to register.
According to Louisa County’s website, the Zion Crossroads Small Area Plan “is a joint effort between the counties of Louisa and Fluvanna to develop a unified vision for the development of the Zion Crossroads area. This effort is largely driven by the tremendous development pressure Zion Crossroads has experienced in recent years. With heavy involvement from the Virginia Department of Transportation, this planning process will include developing solutions to improving traffic safety and flow throughout the area, identifying opportunities for future development, and establishing a unique sense of identity. More information can be found on the project webpage.” The meeting offers an opportunity for the public to learn more about the plan and provide feedback.
Agricultural, Forestal and Rural Preservation Committee, Public Meeting Room, Louisa County Administration Building, 1 Woolfolk Ave., Louisa, 7 pm. (agenda)
Lake Anna Advisory Committee, Orange County Public Safety Building, 11282 Government Center Drive, Orange, 7 pm. (public notice) At publication time, an agenda was not publicly available.
Thursday, Feb. 24
Human Service Advisory Board, 103 McDonald Street, Louisa, 11 am. 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.
Board talks redistricting, roaming dogs, budget, and more
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors discussed several issues at its meeting Monday night, ranging from redistricting to roaming dogs. Prior to its formal meeting, the board held a budget work session to continue crafting the county’s spending and revenue plan for Fiscal Year 2023. Check out highlights from both meetings below. (meeting materials, video) (work session video)
Redistricting committee unveils proposed map for county’s seven voting districts: Louisa County is a step closer to adopting new lines for the county’s seven voting districts as part of the decennial redistricting process.
The board’s redistricting committee, comprised of Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes and Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams, unveiled a proposed map for the districts Monday night, drafted by county staff. The county is tasked with drawing new districts every 10 years using data from the latest census.
The seven districts correspond with the seven seats on the Board of Supervisors and School Board. The draft map doesn’t appear to draw any incumbents out of their current districts so, if they choose to seek re-election, they could run for the same seat.
The redistricting committee plans to continue to collaborate with staff on a final map over the next several weeks. Residents are encouraged to share their feedback with their supervisor and at a yet-to-be scheduled public hearing. The hearing is required before a map can be formally adopted.
In a brief presentation Monday night, County Attorney Helen Phillips explained that the districts must adhere to criteria laid out in state and federal law and the Virginia and US constitutions.
Specifically, they must be compact and contiguous with boundaries that align with observable geographic features like roads and creeks. They must be drawn in accordance with the Voting Right Act of 1965, which protects the rights of minority communities. And they’re required to have populations that are substantially the same, meaning they can’t deviate more than +/- five percent from the ideal district population.
Louisa County has 37,596 residents, according to the 2020 census, so each district has an ideal population of roughly 5,371. The proposed districts range in population from 5,600 residents in Green Springs to 5,116 residents in Jackson.
Because of significant population growth in the western end of the county and slower growth on the eastern end, the draft map pushes several districts westward and shrinks the Green Springs District, which grew more than 17 percent over the last decade.
The proposed Patrick Henry District, for example, takes in part of the Green Spring District around Zion Crossroads including the Stonegate Apartments along Route 15. The proposed Louisa District takes a chunk off the northern end of the current Green Springs District near the Town of Gordonsville. The Louisa District also grabs a slice of the current Patrick Henry District around Route 33 near Trevilians Elementary School.
The draft map consolidates nearly all of Lake Anna into the Mineral and Cuckoo Districts. Under the current map, the Mineral, Louisa, Jackson, and Cuckoo districts include slices of the lake. The Jackson District still touches an edge of the lake but appears to include few lake voters.
The draft Mineral District sweeps across part of the county’s northwestern border and includes western branches of the lake that currently reside in the Louisa District. The proposed Cuckoo District encompasses most of the far eastern reaches of the lake, which currently sit in the Jackson District.
Under the draft map, the Mountain Road District stretches from Gum Springs west past Yanceyville. The Yanceyville area is currently in the Mineral District.
The draft map doesn’t include voting precincts, which make up the larger districts, but the board is also tasked with drawing those lines. Phillips explained that precincts must include between 100 and 5,000 registered voters and, under a recently enacted Virginia law, they’re required to be wholly contained in state legislative and congressional districts. That provision prompted county officials to wait for the state to draw its maps before beginning the local redistricting process.
Maps approved by the Virginia Supreme Court in late December drew the entire county into the 5th Congressional District but split it between two new state Senate and House of Delegates districts. The maps moved the current Green Springs District and the southern part of the current Patrick Henry District into the 11th Senate District and 55th House District while placing the rest of the county into the 10th Senate District and 59th House District.
The move complicates local map-drawing. The proposed Louisa District, for example, now includes a slice of the current Green Springs District near Gordonsville. Because the current Green Springs District will be in different state legislative districts, the portion drawn into the Louisa District is required to constitute its own precinct.
The state legislative districts split the current and proposed Patrick Henry District along the South Anna River, meaning the southern portion of the district must comprise one precinct while the northern portion makes up another.
Williams said he is pleased with the draft but acknowledged that some supervisors have “small concerns,” which the committee plans to consider moving forward.
“Albeit imperfect, I thought (the map) was a really good first shot at getting it done,” he said, thanking Mathias Smith, who manages the county’s GIS and played a critical role in drawing the map.
Green Springs District Supervisor Rachel Jones said that she’s hoping to get a look at an alternative map as her district is significantly impacted by the redraw. Cuckoo District Supervisor Willie Gentry said that he has some concerns about shifts at the southern end of his district.
County Administrator Christian Goodwin said that it’s important for residents to understand that the districts are built using census blocks, which can’t be subdivided. Drawing the lines isn’t as simple as moving a house or street from one district to another.
“There are some census blocks that have big chunks of population in them so, as soon as you move that, then the balloon bulges out somewhere else,” he said.
Goodwin added that the county is creating a resource page on its website to get the public involved in the redistricting process and that the Electoral Board will be consulted in drafting precincts, each of which is assigned a polling place. Phillips noted that polling places are typically located in public building and must be accessible to those with disabilities.
The committee will work with supervisors to address concerns about the districts and plans to present another draft map at one of the board’s next two meetings. Phillips said that she hopes the board can hold a public hearing and adopt new districts and precincts no later than its April 4 meeting.
Check out the county’s redistricting resources here.
During work session, board discusses pushing back construction projects in CIP, eyes balanced budget with no tax increase: During Monday’s work session, supervisors discussed the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, drawing on recommendations from the board’s finance committee. Board Chair and Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams and Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams make up the committee.
Supervisors discussed three main aspects of the county’s budget: the Capital Improvement Plan; Operations, which cover the county’s in-house departments; and funding for outside agencies.
Finance Director Wanda Colvin said that, as it stands now, county officials are on track to present a balanced budget with no tax rate increase. The current real estate tax rate stands at 72 cents per $100 of assessed value and has not been raised since 2015 while the personal property tax rate stands at $2.43 per $100 of assessed value and was last increased in 2016. The county draws more than half its revenue from general property taxes.
The finance committee made the most significant changes to the preliminary Capital Improvement Plan, which included nearly $14 million in FY23 requests from department heads and other officials. They suggested cutting capital spending to about $9.3 million, noting that they chose to delay construction projects wherever possible due to the high cost of materials.
“We just didn’t feel like a lot of these things were priorities with construction costs the way they are right now,” Williams said.
Some of the projects tentatively pushed to FY24 include: a $500,000 renovation to improve the living quarters at the Louisa Volunteer Fire Department, which the committee reconfigured and cut to $250,000; a $500,000 upgrade to the spectator area at Louisa County High School’s baseball and softball complex; and $55,000 for a small park adjacent to Stonegate apartments at Zion Crossroads.
The finance committee also pushed back a $700,000 request to begin planning and design work for a multi-field sports complex. They included $8.9 million for the project in FY24.
Whether the county moves forward with the complex could hinge on Louisa voters. The board discussed placing a bond referendum on the ballot this November to determine if county residents want to fund it.
Exactly where the county would site the facility remains unclear. But 190 acres of county-owned land along Route 15 just north of Zion Crossroads is one property under consideration. That land, located in the Green Springs National Historic Landmark District, is home to ultra-deep wells that provide water to the area.
Green Springs District Supervisor Rachel Jones said she’s all for the complex but not on the Green Springs property, arguing that attempting to build it there would likely lead to years of litigation. Historic Green Springs Inc. has battled the county in the past regarding land use decisions in and around the historic district.
The finance committee delayed until FY25 construction funding for Louisa County Public Schools’ Career and Technical Education Center and an addition to Louisa County Middle School. The committee did include $250,000 in FY23 and FY24 to begin planning for the CTE center.
The committee recommended removing a $1.8 million request from Economic Development Director Andy Wade to begin construction of an elevated water tank for the Shannon Hill Regional Business Park. Williams said that the Industrial Development Authority should foot the bill for that project through revenue it’s expected to receive via a solar lease at the Cooke Industrial Rail Park. The board recently approved a Conditional Use Permit allowing Two Oaks Solar to construct and operate a 118 MW solar array and a 50 MW battery storage system on 1234 acres in and around the rail park, much of which is owned by the IDA.
Williams and Adams, two board members who have been resistant to funding outside agencies in the past, left that part of the budget largely intact. Of the 32 outside agencies that received county funding last year, the finance committee recommended meeting 27 of the agencies’ FY23 requests including a $13,000 funding hike for the Louisa County Resource Council and a $5,388 increase for the James Madison Regional Library. Most agencies either requested no increase or a slight increase from FY22 funding levels.
The board will hold a second budget work session on Monday, March 7, at 4 pm to revisit several topics discussed Monday afternoon and continue to fine tune the budget before formally introducing it to the public and advertising proposed tax rates.
School Board member dies: Board Chair Duane Adams noted the passing of Sherman Shifflett, a career educator and member of the Louisa County School Board. Shifflett passed away on Monday, February 14 at 79.
A retired teacher, coach, and administrator, Shifflett represented the Mineral District on the school board since 2006. He was re-elected to the board with no opposition last November. Read Shifflett’s obituary here.
“Simply put, there was no one who loved Louisa County Public Schools more than Mr. Shifflett. In his 53 years of service to Louisa County, Mr. Shifflett served as a teacher, an administrator, a coach, and a school board member. He excelled at each role because of his infectious personality, work ethic, and positive attitude. Beyond being a great educator, he was an incredible friend,” Louisa County Public Schools said in statement.
According to state code, the school board may appoint a Mineral District voter to replace Shifflett within 45 days. A special election to fill the remainder of the term would likely be held in November.
Supervisors discuss beefing up dogs at large ordinance: Supervisors are exploring ways to reign in roaming dogs.
The board briefly discussed the county’s dogs at large ordinance Monday night, which bars dogs from roaming off leash and out of the control of their owner, beyond their owner’s property, only in the months of April, May, and June. Violators aren’t subject to fines but animal control officers can pick up roaming dogs. There’s a fee to retrieve a dog from the county’s animal shelter.
The ordinance applies county-wide except in the towns of Louisa and Mineral and about 20 subdivisions, mostly around Lake Anna. Those areas bar dogs at large year-round.
A memo drafted by County Attorney Helen Phillips prompted the discussion. Phillips noted that state code, amended in 2019, provides that “any locality may by ordinance prohibit the running at large of all or any category of dogs, except dogs used for hunting.” Phillips recommended that the county clarify its ordinance by adding a specific exclusion for hunting dogs.
Phillips also pointed out that state code permits localities to levy a $100 civil fine to dog owners whose dog is “found running at large in a pack,” meaning, “if it is running at large in the company of one or more other dogs that are also running at large.”
Several supervisors appeared interested in exploring beefed up regulations to not just address dogs in packs but also dogs wandering on their own.
“If we are going to go down this road, it seems like we should address an individual dog and it also looks like, if we are going to put any teeth behind this ordinance, that it would be an escalating fine for repeated offenses,” Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams said.
Mountain Road District Supervisor Tommy Barlow took a different view. He said that roaming dogs are mainly an issue in housing developments where people live close together and that addressing it should start with homeowners’ associations. HOAs routinely petition the board for inclusion in the more stringent provision in the county’s ordinance, which bars roaming dogs all year.
Patrick Henry District Supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes disagreed.
“We’ve kicked the can down the road because we are a rural area. We’ve been hearing about this for years,” he said. “It’s getting to the point now where the HOAs have (a stronger policy) in effect but it’s really starting to go out in the rural areas now where dogs are going on their neighbor’s yards.” He emphasized that any changes to the ordinance would exclude hunting dogs as directed by state code.
During public comment at several recent board meetings, residents expressed concerns about roaming dogs and pushed county officials to strengthen the ordinance.
At the board’s January 18 meeting, Mineral District resident Jennifer Carter said that packs of dogs frequently cross her property and urged the county to implement a dogs at large ordinance like that adopted by Spotsylvania County. Spotsylvania prohibits dogs at large any time of year and violators are subject to criminal penalties.
At Monday’s meeting, Green Springs District resident Sheila Bernard asked the board to amend the ordinance to bar roaming dogs any time of year.
“This isn’t just an issue for certain days and certain months out of the year. This is an issue that, just last week, I dealt with four days out of the week. This isn’t an issue that takes place in certain subdivisions in the county as you’ve heard from countless residents from countless parts of our community. This isn’t an issue for dogs running in packs. It isn’t just an issue for aggressive dogs,” she said.
The board voted unanimously to instruct Phillips to work with the Sheriff’s Office and Animal Control to draft an amended ordinance for discussion at an upcoming meeting. Phillips said that she would research Virginia Code to see what sort of penalties the county could put in place should the board opt to beef up its regulations.
Any changes to the current dogs at large ordinance would require a public hearing prior to adoption.
Supes form committee to study short-term rental regulations: Board Chair Duane Adams appointed himself and Cuckoo District Supervisor Willie Gentry to a working group tasked with studying how the county could address the impacts of short-term rentals (STR), which are growing in popularity around Lake Anna.
Per state code, STRs include rooms and dwellings that are offered as lodging for less than 30 consecutive days in exchange for payment. They don’t include hotels, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds or accommodations offered by license realtors or rental agencies. STRs are typically offered by homeowners on platforms like Airbnb.
Gentry received several emails from constituents concerned about short-term rentals, prompting the board to include it as a discussion item on Monday’s agenda.
During the public comment period, nearly a dozen homeowners, mainly in the Overton Fork subdivision, shared their frustrations about STRs, citing public safety, environmental, and other concerns.
Many said that the proliferation of short-term rentals is altering the character of their community by drawing in strangers who don’t respect their property and crowd their common area. Speakers also suggested that unregulated rentals are a health and safety concern because they frequently exceed their occupancy limit. They said crowded STRs could lead to overloaded septic systems and fire safety issues.
Dawn Jackson, an Overton Fork resident, told the board that she bought a home at Lake Anna in 2018 and, until recently, enjoyed living in a tranquil lakeside community. But, overcrowded short-term rentals changed all that.
“For the first three summers, I went every single day down to our beach and swam with my neighbors. It was wonderful. Last summer, I couldn’t even swim at our beach anymore because of mobs of people,” she said.
Jackie Smoot, another Overton Fork resident, shared similar views. She said that she moved to the lake from northern Virginia to enjoy a quiet retirement closer to her grandchildren, but, now, her community is becoming an unruly resort.
“It was perfect until last summer. I get off work at 1 o’clock and I couldn’t even take my granddaughter to the beach,” she said, adding that, as a realtor, she’s seen neighborhoods decline because of short-term rentals.
“We are not a resort. It’s our neighborhood. We worked hard. We try to keep it clean, and we want to retire here. But now it has turned into a resort and it’s really bad,” she said.
Overton Fork resident Joanne Bradley said that her issues with STRs center on safety and sanitation due to overcrowding.
“My concern is that overcrowded homes could be leading to overloaded septic systems. As you know, a failed septic system could affect the groundwater, our drinking water for those who live downhill from them as well as the health of Lake Anna,” she said, noting that she is aware of two homes in her community that have an occupancy capacity of six but advertise as a rental for between 10 and 14 people.
Dennis Wallingsford, who also lives in Overton Fork, said that Louisa County is a magnet for STR investors because of its low property taxes and lack of regulations. He noted that, in his 100-lot subdivision, he knows of at least eight STRs.
Wallingsford urged the board to look at STR ordinances adopted in nearby counties like Henrico and Albemarle. Among other regulations, he pointed out that Henrico and Albemarle only allow homeowners to use their primary residence as an STR and Henrico caps the number of days in a year that a property can be rented.
“Unregulated short-term rentals are offering the same services as licensed bed and breakfasts and hotels but without the same regulations such as following the proper building code, fire and safety code, and insurance and health department certification,” he said.
John Wayne, chair of the Lake Anna Civic Association’s land use committee, told the board that his organization takes no formal position regarding the establishment of STRs but it does have concerns about their impact, particularly when they’re overcrowded.
“With the harmful algal blooms that we’ve seen in the past number of years, we are especially sensitive to the issues of septic system overuse. And, as important, overcrowded rental homes with folks sleeping in rooms without proper egress pose significant safety issues to visitors of Lake Anna. For those reasons, we would support any measures that preserve and protect the cleanliness and safe use of Lake Anna and the watershed,” he said.
Louisa County currently has no ordinances governing short-term rentals. But, the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office does operate a rental registry and collects a two percent transient occupancy tax. In FY21, the county collected taxes from 105 property owners on about 200 properties, according to county staff, though it’s unclear how many of those properties are residential dwellings that meet the definition of an STR.
Deputy Zoning Administration Linda Buckler told supervisors that state code permits localities to regulate STRs via the establishment of registries and other land use rules. She pointed to ordinances adopted by Spotsylvania and Orange counties, which are both home to Lake Anna shoreline.
Buckler said that both counties operate an STR registry through the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office. Spotsylvania hasn’t authorized any additional regulations while Orange levies a $500 per day fine on STRs that don’t register. Payment of the transient occupancy tax qualifies as registration.
Buckler said that staff identified several existing Louisa County ordinances that could be used to address some, but not all, concerns about STRs. She pointed to the county’s noise ordinance and solid waste ordinance as two examples and noted that the Commissioner of the Revenue’s office does attempt to track short-term rentals to collect the transient occupancy tax though a local registry is not codified by ordinance.
Staff also identified enforcement challenges in regulating STRs. For example, Buckler said that it would be difficult for the county to enforce per bedroom occupancy limits, adopted in some localities, unless inspections occur at specific times. She also pointed out that enforcement officers would need permission to access dwellings. In addition, Buckler noted that the Virginia Department of Health determines over-occupancy and its impact on septic systems not the county.
Jackson District Supervisor Toni Williams said that he doesn’t think levying taxes and fees is a solution to the proliferation of short-term rentals because property owners will just pass additional costs on to renters, who will most likely pay the higher rates. He suggested that some concerns about STRs might be best addressed through individual homeowners’ associations, noting that Overton Fork has unique issues because of its common area.
“We’ve heard from these fine people at Overton Fork tonight. I think they have some anomalies. They have a common area and not a lot of places have such a nice common area, so I think that’s a particular HOA problem. I don’t think that’s a county issue,” he said.
Gentry, who represents Overton Fork, suggested that the board has more to learn regarding what it can and can’t do to address STRs and recommended setting up a working group to explore the issue.
Adams, who lives on the lake and represents a significant swath of its shoreline, agreed that STRs deserve further exploration. He noted that he’s particularly sensitive to concerns about overtaxed septic systems and the impact on water quality.
Adams and Gentry agreed to work with Phillips and other county staff to learn more about STRs and what the county can do to address them.
Board approves incentive plan for FEMS volunteers: With no discussion, supervisors unanimously approved a new incentive plan for the county’s Fire and EMS volunteers. The plan is aimed at recruiting and retaining volunteers, who work alongside career staff in responding to emergencies. County officials are hopeful that having more volunteers on hand will reduce call response times.
With some conditions, the plan provides that volunteers who complete at least 288 duty crew hours in a calendar year, minus the number of calls ran, will receive $595 while volunteers who complete 144 hours, under the same provisions, will receive $300. In addition, leadership, limited to three per station, will receive $175.
The Management and Oversight Group, a collection of county officials and FEMS volunteers who act as an advisory body for emergency service-related matters, approved the plan last May. Read more about the plan here.
Board hears status update on James River Water Project: County Administrator Christian Goodwin provided supervisors with a status update on the James River Water Project, a joint effort between Louisa and Fluvanna counties to draw water from the river to meet both localities long-term needs. Goodwin, along with Louisa District Supervisor Eric Purcell, serve on the James River Water Authority, the entity spearheading the nearly-decade long project. Purcell was appointed to the authority in January.
Goodwin said that the authority “continues to make positive progress” in its effort to complete the necessary infrastructure to transport raw water from the river. With its pipeline largely complete, the authority’s next challenge is acquiring permits to construct a water pump station and submerged water intake on the banks of the James.
Goodwin said that the authority could vote as soon as its March meeting to formally begin the permitting process for the pump station at a new site, dubbed the 1C Forsyth alternative, thus pushing aside plans to build the structure at a location originally selected 2013. That site is believed to be Rassawek, the ancestral capital of the Monacan Indian Nation. Its selection met strong resistance from the federally recognized tribe.
Goodwin told the board that the authority is awaiting completion of a phase one archeological study at the alternative site, which it will then provide to the Monacan for review. The tribe agreed to support construction at the site if certain conditions are met including that archeological fieldwork doesn’t indicate or strongly suggest the presence of human remains. At JRWA’s February 9 meeting, consulting archeologist Jonathan Glenn of GAI said that there are no “red flags” at the site.
Goodwin told supervisors that Marion Werkheiser of Cultural Heritage Partners, the Monacans’ attorney, attended the meeting to reiterate that the tribe would support the site as long as its conditions are met and the archeological report is satisfactory.
Goodwin said that the authority received a $145,000 quote for preparation of a Joint Permit Application to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Army Corps Engineers for the alternative site. According to a February 9 presentation by Timmons Group, the engineering firm overseeing the project, an additional $65,000 is projected for post application responses to DEQ and other agencies. JRWA already holds a withdrawal permit from DEQ for the original location, but the application requires modification for the new site.
Chickahominy Pipeline hits pause
The company planning to build an 83-mile fracked gas pipeline through the heart of Louisa County announced last week that it’s pausing the project after a significant “regulatory setback” for the power plant it would’ve served.
In a February 13 announcement, Chickahominy Pipeline LLC (CPLLC) said that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission upheld a decision by PJM, the entity that oversees the electric grid in numerous eastern states, to remove Chickahominy Power Station from its permitting queue. Considering that decision and other regulatory uncertainty, the company “needs to press ‘pause’ on its pipeline efforts until its sole end-user, Chickahominy Power, is in a position to move forward,” the statement said.
Chickahominy Pipeline’s sister company, Chickahominy Power LLC, planned to build the 1600 MW plant in Charles City County. The proposed pipeline to serve it would’ve connected to existing gas infrastructure in western Louisa and crossed Hanover, Henrico, and New Kent counties en route to the Charles City plant. Based on its proposed route, the pipeline would’ve cut through 180 parcels in Louisa and about 400 overall.
In a filing with FERC, PJM said it removed Chickahominy Power from the queue for “missing project milestones and proposing no viable path forward.” The filing notes that the power plant had been in the queue since October 2016 and made “virtually no progress,” citing Chickahominy’s failure to complete 20 percent of the plant’s construction by November 2021 as projected. The filing also called the company’s plan to secure fuel for the plant, via the proposed pipeline, “too thin, aspirational, and speculative.”
In its statement, Chickahominy Pipeline said that the power plant could re-enter the permitting queue in the future but the company “will be suspending its project at this time, while Chickahominy Power evaluates its next steps.” CPLLC cancelled a Feb. 21 open house in Hanover County.
The decision to pause the pipeline comes after the State Corporation Commission dealt it another regulatory setback. In late December, the commission rejected CPLLC’s argument that it isn’t a public utility and, thus, doesn’t need SCC permission to build the pipeline. The commission was in the process of conducting a review of that decision.
Environmentalists and some impacted landowners cheered Chickahominy’s announcement.
“It never made sense to invest in so-called ‘natural’ gas at a time when Virginia has committed to a clean, zero-carbon energy grid, much less to construct what would have been one of the largest gas plants in the state,” Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Greg Buppert said in a statement. “As the cost of clean energy continues to decline — and the cost of gas projects continues to climb — the Chickahominy Pipeline would have been a backwards-looking investment at odds with Virginia’s track record of leadership in the South.”
Catharine Tucker, an organizer with Hanover Citizens’ Against a Pipeline, also welcomed the news while noting her group will closely monitor the company’s plans moving forward.
“The Chickahominy Pipeline would have carved right through the heart of Virginia. We are glad to see it suspended and will remain vigilant about any further plans with the potential to harm communities like ours,” she said in a statement.
Since its project came to light last summer, CPLLC ruffled the feathers of several impacted parties including officials in Louisa County. The Board of Supervisors invited Irfan Ali, the project’s lead developer, to a September meeting in hopes of learning more about the project but he failed to show up. He said he forgot to put the meeting on his calendar.
At the board’s October 4 meeting, a representative from Encompass Energy, a firm contracted to negotiate access to properties to investigate their suitability for pipeline construction, provided a brief presentation on Chickahominy’s behalf. The presentation offered little new insight into the proposed project and prompted Mineral District Supervisor Duane Adams to call it, “the worst presentation that I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Light agenda for supervisors’ Feb. 22 meeting
With county offices closed Monday in observance of Presidents’ Day, the Louisa County Board of Supervisors will gather for its second February meeting Tuesday night. Supervisors will consider a light agenda including one presentation and one public hearing.
Board to hold public hearing on limiting display of political messages and vulgar language on county property: Supervisors will hold a public hearing and consider amending a section of county code covering the “maintenance and care of county property,” which falls under the supervision of the county administrator.
Specifically, the amendment would prohibit “the posting or display of statements of political opinions and the posting or display of any statement using offensive language” on county property during regular business hours.
The amendment further states that county “buildings and the work performed at these buildings to carry out the daily operations of county government shall proceed in a non-partisan manner” and 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 includes a carve out for “the distribution of campaign materials” when the Registrar’s Office is open for early voting. In accord with Virginia law, campaign activity is permitted outside of all polling locations but prohibited within 40 feet of their entrance.
Outside of the resolution and amendment, the meeting materials don’t include any background information regarding the proposed change.
In November, Mountain Road District Tommy Barlow requested an amendment to the county’s sign ordinance that would’ve prohibited “any sign that displays vulgar, obscene, indecent, or profane language” in public view. Barlow said he was responding to constituent concerns about a cluster of vulgar political signs on private property in eastern Louisa County. Supervisors held a public hearing on the proposed amendment but tabled action because of First Amendment concerns.
In 2020, the board considered adopting a policy that sought to bar campaign activity outside of the Registrar’s Office during the early voting period. That action failed in a 4-3 vote.
Supervisors to hear presentation from Louisa Arts Center: The Louisa Arts Center will update the board on its activities and fundraising efforts over the last several months. The not-for-profit organization last presented to supervisors at their September 7 meeting. The center received $60,000 from the county in FY22 and, based on conversation at the board’s recent budget work session, is expected to receive the same amount in FY23.
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