Supervisor race


The forum, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters, drew about 90 people who wished to learn more about Fluvanna’s contested races.

When asked what experience and qualities she would bring to the Board of Supervisors, Eager said her 16 years on the Planning Commission has prepared her to serve on the Board of Supervisors.  She believes that Fluvanna’s leaders have a responsibility to “make things easy” for the people who ask for a special use permit or zoning change.  Everyone deserves respect, she said, particularly when they’re trying to run their own business in the county.  She also cited her “extensive” financial experience as a help to the Board during budget season.

Gooch said his 12 years on the School Board and four years as a previous member of the Board of Supervisors has equipped him to serve as supervisor.  Though if elected he would be the Palmyra representative, he said he would listen to all residents.  And if he were to vote against a proposal but it passed anyway, he said he would “get on board” with it as a “very strong proponent” because as supervisor he would represent the entire county.  “If a decision is made, we need to move forward with it,” he said.

When asked if the county’s planning and zoning procedures were helping or hindering reasonable growth, Gooch praised county staff as very qualified.  He allowed that there is always room for improvement, saying that the county needs to keep learning and improving.  He pointed out that moving Fluvanna forward requires the support of the Board of Supervisors.

Pointing to “specific problems” that hinder attracting businesses, Eager said that Fluvanna’s high tax rate makes it impossible to compete with Louisa County.  “If I were a businessman I’d think twice before I’d locate in Fluvanna,” she said.  She agreed that there are some adjustments to make in zoning and subdivision ordinances to “let businesses know that we’re more friendly than we might appear.”

When asked what steps she would take to encourage new businesses to move to Fluvanna, Eager said that attracting business will be a challenge until the tax rate is lowered to a more “competitive” level.  She pointed to some zoning steps to take, particularly in Zion Crossroads.  For example, she said, the county could put in place a floating zone over residences so that when homeowners wished to sell, their property would become zoned for businesses.  That way, she said, homeowners can stay in their homes and not be “taxed off their land,” but businesses would still know that land is available to them.

Until Fluvanna has water “pipes in the ground,” Gooch countered, businesses are going to have difficulty coming to the county.  “Taxes are something we have to pay,” he said.  Cutting back on taxes would require cutting services, he said.  He hopes instead to attract some smaller manufacturing businesses, perhaps through “proffer-type situations.”

When asked if he supports the water pipeline venture with Louisa County, Gooch said yes, adding that he was on the Board of Supervisors when the James River Water Authority was launched.  “I was one of the founding members of that authority,” he said.  At one point Fluvanna had the chance to be “in the driver’s seat” for growth at Zion Crossroads, he said, but that is no longer the case.  But Fluvanna at least needs to be “in the car.”  And to do that the county needs to get water to Zion Crossroads.

Eager, on the other hand, said that she didn’t understand how a pipeline running through the county’s rural preservation area to Louisa would benefit Fluvanna.  “I’ve been told that there are negotiations that we’re not allowed to know quite yet, but when that comes out we’ll have a better idea of how this will work,” she said.  “I wish we had more answers.”  When the topic came before the Planning Commission last month Eager said she didn’t feel as if she received answers to her questions, so she voted against the water line, “or at least” the location of the intake station at Point of Fork.

When asked if there is any way the Board could make it easier on small businesses to succeed in Fluvanna, Eager said that Fluvanna’s special use permit process takes months for small businesses.  Sometimes they pay the permit fees and are ultimately denied their permit, she said.  “It’s very discouraging to go through the process and be turned down,” she said.  She suggested returning fees to people whose permits are denied in an attempt to “encourage people to try.”  She wants to “let businesses know we want to have business here and support it.”


Gooch said that he owned his own business for 15 years in a different county and finally “threw up [his] hands” and decided he’d had enough.  Owning a business is very difficult, he said, between paying employees, taxes, insurance, zoning, and other expenses.  “We need to see what we can try to do to help” the area’s small businesses, he said.

When asked how the county should address the “disproportionate” tax base, in which 93 percent of taxes comes from Fluvanna’s homeowners and only 7 percent comes from businesses, Gooch said that he’d “get more business in the county.”  Fluvanna has been a bedroom community for a long time, he said, but that comes with significant expenses, such as educating the children of all the people who buy Fluvanna homes.  “The only way to get taxes off the homeowners is to get more businesses,” he said.

Fluvanna has got to “stop spending so much money,” countered Eager.  “We’ve built the high school, three fire houses, the library, the sheriff’s office… We needed many of these things, but we may have overdone it.”  Though Fluvanna was at one time the fastest growing county in the state, she said, that has changed, and the county needs to change its expectations.  The current spending rate just isn’t sustainable, she said.  New capital spending needs to be put on hold, she said, and the budget needs to be tightened.

When asked if Fluvanna schools are adequately funded, Gooch responded with a simple “no.”  Calling children the county’s greatest resource, Gooch said he spent his 12 years on the School Board trying to bring the county’s per-pupil expenditure rate higher.  “Low student-teacher ratio is paramount,” he said.

“It’s a concern,” said Eager, adding that only one county department has seen less of a funding increase over the years than the schools.  “We need to pay the teachers what they should have,” she said.

When asked how he would balance his decisions between his own personal beliefs and the will of his constituents, Gooch said that though relying on personal opinions is normal, he would seek to keep county-wide interests in mind.  “You really have to put your personal interests back,” he said, and “always try to do what’s best for the county.”  He admitted it can be tough to find input from a diverse group of citizens, not just the “squeaky wheels” who often speak up.

While listening to the people is very important, Eager said that supervisors also need to think about the merits of a proposal.  She recalled the controversy that raged when Tenaska Virginia Generating Station came to the county, but said the company has proved to be a good neighbor.  Supervisors need to “listen to the people but also think about what’s best for the county and ultimately the people,” she said.

Residents of the Palmyra district can vote for either candidate in the Nov. 3 election.


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