Green Springs district supervisor candidates argued about whether the Zion Crossroads area can handle more residential development at a forum at Spring Creek subdivision on Sept. 30.
The conflict between Louisa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Babyok and his challenger, Rachel Jones, came to the fore after Babyok said, “I am going gung-ho on commercial growth but cautious on residential growth.”
Jones asked for a rebuttal to Babyok’s answer and said, “Mr. Babyok would like you to believe that he is not for residential growth. He has not missed a vote to vote for residential development.”
Jones noted that the county was considering opening additional water wells within the well field at the northern end of the Zion Crossroads growth area, because of ongoing delays with the James River Water Project.
“When we built our house in 1998 and we dug our well, I remember we had to go deeper and deeper. We could not get a strong output and we still cannot. Not because of our well or our pump, but because there is a lack of water in Zion Crossroads,” said Jones. “[The county] wells are getting lower and lower right now.”
Babyok downplayed the risk of the wells running low, though he said this week that “to have high-quality jobs in Zion Crossroads, there needs to be an adequate water supply. By opening more wells, this will provide more water to these businesses.”
“The amount of water being currently used is approximately 230,000 [gallons per day], but this is during the high season which is summer time,” he said. “After summer time ends, it drops considerably. I have checked on the wells every three months for the past four years.” He said the wells’ capacity is about 540,000 gallons.
The candidates also sparred briefly over a proposed new residential subdivision, Wheeler Creek. The development is planned by the same company that manages Spring Creek and would be located between the subdivision and Columbia Road.
Jones suggested that Wheeler Creek is already under formal review by county staff, but Babyok said the developers haven’t submitted an application yet. But the developer has met informally with county officials, including Babyok to discuss the plans, he said.
“Part of the process is for the developer to meet with the county planner to get an idea of what is going to be required later on in the application process,” Babyok explained. “I am invited to that meeting as a district supervisor.”
One of the questions from the audience for the two candidates was, “If you were elected, what would be your top three economic development priorities?”
“My first one would have to be finishing the James River Water Pipeline because as we all know, with the history of Zion Crossroads, there is a water issue,” Jones said. “It is the reason Zion Crossroads has not built up. My second priority would be to show a commitment to small businesses and show them that Louisa County has a climate which is favorable towards them.”
She mentioned that the schools in Louisa have “a fabulous [career and technical education] program” and technology jobs should be created in the county to offer jobs for future graduates to keep them from moving to Richmond or Northern Virginia.
Babyok stated that 60 percent of employed county residents travel outside of the county for work.
“More quality jobs in the county reduce their [residents’] cost of travel. Strategic planning involves managing growth at a reasonable pace,” he said. “If people leave the county or do not keep coming, the cost of county services keep rising. We need economic development to foster a sustainable economy.”
Another question for the candidates was, “How do you propose to balance economic development while maintaining the rural character of Louisa?”
“We have and will continue to foster economic development, but not at the cost of endangering our treasured county’s rural nature,” said Babyok. “The revision of the comprehensive plan, which I promoted, rigorously analyzed all nine existing growth areas and reduced all of the areas by nearly 25,000 acres, thereby prohibiting any commercial development in those areas that were open previously.”
Jones expanded on her idea that the district does not need “mega uber growth.”
“We need strong leadership on our board of supervisors to move forward and to keep our rural areas where they are,” said Jones.
A resident criticized the loss of green space on the site of the new 7-11 convenience store and asked what the county can do to maintain tree cover even as development occurs.
“Developers have to have landowners who are willing to work with them and decide what is going to go on their land. It has to be within the zoning and it has to be within all of the other laws,” said Babyok.
“We have so many big box stores and gas stations,” said Jones. “Why doesn’t Crozet or Fluvanna have that? Their board of supervisors mandate and have ordinances as to what can be built and how it can look.”