Board of Supervisors candidates discuss development, millennials at forum

Discussion of economic development, traffic concerns, millennials, smart growth, redevelopment, school system improvements and regional cooperation took center stage during a forum for Henrico Board of Supervisors candidates Sept. 28 at J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College.

Eight of the nine candidates for the board discussed their plans for office and answered questions during the two-hour forum, hosted by the Henrico Business Council. The event drew nearly 100 people.

Redevelopment is a hot topic in the county's aging regions – the Brookland, Fairfield and Tuckahoe districts specifically – and candidates offered different ideas about how they'd seek to re-energize pockets within those districts.

Danny Plaugher, a Democrat seeking to unseat seven-term Republican incumbent Dick Glover in the Brookland District, championed the idea of building more sidewalks, bike trails and crosswalks as a way to make the district more appealing to younger people.

Plaugher, the executive director of Virginians for High Speed Rail, also proposed turning the Amtrak station on Staples Mill Road into a multi-modal transportation hub as a way to appeal to those who don't drive or don't want to drive. And he suggested the creation of a "mini Short Pump" with mixed uses in the Glenside Drive/Staples Mill Road corridor.

"At some point we're going to have to start building up instead of building out," Plaugher said.

Glover pointed to the Libbie Mill development on Staples Mill Road and the successful redevelopment of the Shops at Willow Lawn as two recent examples of projects that have breathed new life into the county.

"If we bring companies here through economic development, through improving our school system. . . I believe that millennials will have opportunities in Henrico County," Glover said. "I don't believe there's anything that we need to do differently until they come and tell us."

Tuckahoe District Supervisor Pat O'Bannon, a Republican running unopposed Nov. 3 as she seeks her sixth term, told the audience that while government can offer certain assistance and programs to help foster development and redevelopment, it can't force businesses to locate or expand.

"You dress up and you look good and then other people will come," she said, comparing the county's efforts to those of a woman seeking a date.

Because most of the county's undeveloped land is located in the Varina District, "We need to make sure that as we develop, we're building quality communities, quality housing, that we continue to focus on improving our schools and economic development opportunities," Varina District Supervisor Tyrone Nelson said. "The future is Varina."

Nelson, a Democrat, is unopposed in his pursuit of a second term.

Three Chopt growth concerns
The issue of growth has a different feel in the Three Chopt District, where very little undeveloped land remains. That's creating traffic concerns and some school crowding issues, according to Democrat Robert Shippee, one of three men seeking to replace longtime Three Chopt Supervisor Dave Kaechele, who is retiring after 36 years on the board.

"It's not lost on residents that Bon Air and other communities say 'Don't Short Pump us,'" said Shippee, who retired recently after a career with Capital One.

Independent Eric Rohnacher, a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual, said he would work to make the district more walkable and bikeable in order to attract and keep millennials.

"From the outside, [the district] looks very attractive," he said. "There's been incredible business growth, this is the only district with 100 percent accreditation in all schools. But there are density concerns."

Rohnacher praised the West Broad Village community as an example of the right idea for future development but said it hasn't become the type of mixed-use community in which residents truly live, work and shop "because it wasn't developed the proper way to be conducive to that lifestyle."

Republican Tommy Branin, a member of the Henrico Planning Commission and Kaechele's choice to replace himself on the board, had a conflict and could not attend the Sept. 28 forum.

Jobs a focus in Fairfield
In the Fairfield District, retired French professor Frank Thornton, a Democrat, is seeking his sixth term in a race against independent John Dantzler, an independent who works as operations manager for a real estate firm.

Dantzler expressed concerns about the district's schools, some of which are not fully accredited, and said voters have lamented the lack of good jobs in the district.

"We have been failing our children in Fairfield," he said. "Our schools are just not doing what they're supposed to be doing. As a supervisor who actually sits and does the budgeting, we have a direct link [to the School Board] to demand some accountability."

Dantzler said he would work to bring more manufacturing jobs to the district, and he praised Thornton and other supervisors for dropping the county's machinery tax from $1 to 30 cents in order to attract and retain such businesses.

Thornton suggested that the continued growth of programs such as the Henrico Police Athletic League could help encourage children in the district and said that the county should continue efforts to assist aging neighborhoods as they take stock of themselves and revitalize where possible. The district has experienced some noticeable crime and violence issues recently, and Thornton said that addressing them will take the entire community.

"People have to take pride and say, 'These issues are not going to take place.' We need to work collegially with persons in those communities to identify 'What is the problem as you see it?' We have to have a team approach."
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Henrico Master Gardener training program accepting applications through Oct. 27


The Henrico County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension is accepting applications for its next volunteer Master Gardener training program, which provides instruction in all aspects of horticulture.

Applications for the 2018 training program will be accepted through Friday, Oct. 27. Classes will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from Jan. 16 through March 22. > Read more.

Henrico Schools to host Oct. 30 job fair


Henrico Schools will host a job fair Oct. 30.

The event, to be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fairfield branch library, is designed to attract potential full-time and substitute registered nurses, instructional assistants, bus drivers and school nutrition workers. > Read more.

Henrico Police to participate in ‘Tip a Cop’ Oct. 21


Henrico County Police Division and the Virginia Division of Capitol Police are participating in “Tip-A-Cop” to Support the Special Olympics Saturday, Oct. 21.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. that day at Red Robin, 11784 West Broad Street, members of the two agencies will be working for tips as a donation to the Special Olympics. > Read more.

Participants sought for ‘Walk to End Alzheimer’s’


The Richmond Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be held Saturday, Nov. 4, at Markel Plaza in Innsbrook, and the Alzheimer's Association of Greater Richmond is seeking participants.

The event, one of three walks the association will hold in its service area this year (the Middle Peninsula-Northern Neck walk was held Oct. 7 and the Fredericksburg walk Oct. 14) raises money to help the association fight the disease, which affects more than 26,000 people in the metro Richmond region. > Read more.

Fairfield meeting Oct. 25 to focus on cybersecurity


Henrico County Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman and Fairfield District Supervisor Frank J. Thornton will hold a constituent meeting Wednesday, Oct. 25 to discuss cybersecurity.

Thornton also has invited candidates who will be seeking election to local offices on Tuesday, Nov. 7 to introduce themselves. > Read more.

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