Two of the three Republican candidates for their party’s nomination for Matoaca District supervisor participated in a forum last week.
Kevin Carroll and Rob Thompson were joined by recently announced Democrat candidate Shajaun Mason at the May 16 forum at the Foxfire Club House, which was hosted by Chesterfield Citizens United.
Craig Stariha, the current Matoaca District member on the Chesterfield Planning Commission, canceled his appearance on May 13 due to a “scheduling conflict.”
In the June 11 primary election, voters will choose which one of the Republicans will face Mason in November.
In response to a question about the county altering the amount of its cash proffers or other ways to pay for infrastructure related to development, Thompson – the Matoaca District’s current school board member – said the county lost $3.5 million a year after it reduced the proffers by 50 percent in 2016. Those dollars went into the developers’ pockets, Thompson said, adding that the value of some homes increased by 3 or 4 percent.
The money from proffers comes “too late” after development has already impacted the community, Thompson said, adding that getting the money earlier would help fund infrastructure, schools and law enforcement.
Moderator Jack McHale, a former county supervisor, noted that — according to the county Planning Department — infrastructure costs $23,000 per rooftop, but that proffers can only be used for transportation and not schools, police and fire departments.
The General Assembly passed an update to the proffer law earlier this year. SB 1373 gives localities more flexibility when dealing with developers.
Carroll said he preferred that growth would pay for the infrastructure funding gap, but would consider increasing the property tax rate or the amount of proffers as part of a holistic approach to the budget. “[Proffers] artificially increase the cost of the house, but roads cost money,” he said.
Mason, an attorney, said she would consider what is best for the developers, among other things. When responding to a question later about transparency and accountability, she said feedback from citizens “has to be key over the developers.”
The county reports that revenue from cash proffers – which are voluntary payments submitted by property owners with a rezoning application – declined from nearly $10 million to $4.9 million from Fiscal Year 2017 to Fiscal Year 2018. The supervisors reduced the proffers from $18,966 per home to $9,400 effective Sept. 28, 2016.
In regard to a meals tax, which county voters rejected in 2013 by 12 percent (56-44), Thompson said he supports it, noting Henrico County gets $27 million a year, which they use to build new elementary schools with cash. Advertising the meals tax vote wasn’t good enough last time, he said, and estimated that it would total $20 million a year for the county. He noted that 10 percent of the school district’s budget goes to paying debt on school construction.
Carroll said that Henrico, Richmond and Colonial Heights all have a meals tax. He’s not in favor of it, but noted that the public will decide if it comes up again. He agreed with Thompson about advertising. “The rollout last time was terrible,” he said.
In regard to a question about the Chesterfield Economic Development Authority, Thompson said the EDA has “got to do a better job of communicating with the public.”
Carroll concurred, and said the megasite that was proposed for the southern part of the county “was not a good idea, and the rollout was even worse. You’ve got to remember: the EDA works for the Board of Supervisors, [which] appoints them to four-year terms.”
The megasite proposal ultimately being withdrawn showed “the power of the voice of the citizens,” Mason said.
The candidates were asked about odors emanating from the Shoosmith Bros. Inc. landfill.
Carroll said he would find experts to give the county advice on the best way to mitigate the problem.
Thompson said he looks at the problem in two ways. First, he would make sure the landfill owners are living up to state requirements in regard to air quality. Second, he said if you buy a house, you should be aware of its location.
In closing, Mason said she’s lived in the area all her life. “We need someone who will listen to the residents and act on what we hear,” she said. “I’ve been speaking up for the most vulnerable the last 18 years.”
Carroll, who’s now retired, said he became a police officer “because I don’t like bullies.” He added, “I have a track record of being a voice for the people … I’m not afraid to change my position if it’s not in agreement with the people.”
Carroll also criticized Stariha for not attending the forum. “He should’ve been here,” Carroll said.
“We’ve accomplished a lot of different things by trying new things,” Thompson said of his 3 1/2 years on the school board. “Ettrick Elementary was unaccredited for five years,” he said. After talking to the principal and asking what she needed to improve, the board gave the school an extra $210,000 to implement the principal’s ideas, he said. The result was that the school became accredited in the second year following the cash infusion.
Thompson also noted that school board recently added an elementary school for Magnolia Green in the western part of the district to the district’s construction timeline.
Thompson said he substitute teaches on Fridays to give teachers three-day weekends.