More than a decade ago, work began on carving a newly minted Bridgewater residential subdivision into land off U.S. 250 in Goochland County.
Although roads were built in the new neighborhood, the travel lanes had not yet been built to state standards when the developer went out of business during the 2007 financial crisis. Now the bill for finishing that roadwork could lead to hefty tax hikes for residents.
Goochland officials met with residents at a community meeting this month to discuss a county proposal to create a new taxing district to pay for improving the subdivision road system.
Among the things that need to be done, county officials said, is paving over roads that are cracked in spots and installing guardrails and drainage systems, as well as completing turning lane work on Broadstreet Road leading into the subdivision.
The work would bring the roads up to the standards of the Virginia Department of Transportation, but paying for it through new taxes has left some residents with sticker shock as they face potential bills amounting to thousands of dollars to cover the cost of a no-interest loan that would be paid off in seven or 10 years.
Dana Williams, who moved into the subdivision in December 2007, said she stayed in the neighborhood even as her home’s value dropped significantly amid the recession. Now, after already going through that, Williams said she is worried the county is considering imposing a tax that could cause her bills to spike.
“Now you’re going to throw this [tax] on me for another 10 years,” Williams said.
Williams added that she’s particularly frustrated because she said Goochland officials failed to follow through on securing $178,135 from a bond that the developer, Copperstone LLC, had taken out in a letter of credit from a local bank to cover the cost of finishing the roadwork in the event the developer did not.
“Years ago, everything would have been done and completed but now 10 years has gone by. There are broken areas in the road,” said Williams, who owns a paving company. “The cost of asphalt has increased since the recession.”
John Budesky, the Goochland county administrator, acknowledged the county could have more done to access that bond money, which was held in a letter of credit with Essex Bank.
“I think the residents feel, understandably, that the county should have done more to preserve that bond,” Budesky said.
The county has had varying levels of engagement with the bank over the years to try to get the roads finished, Budesky said.
The bank has told the county that the letter of credit expired in 2011, according to a Goochland government synopsis of the roads issue. The county tried to tap the bond money in May this year, but Essex again told the county the letter of credit had expired, county officials said.
The bank owns a 54-acre parcel in the subdivision, but county officials said a potential 2016 purchase of that land fell through after Goochland officials insisted on the developer completing the subdivision’s roads.
Estimates in a county PowerPoint presentation shown to residents this month said finishing the roads could cost between $210,063 and $624,000 — price tags that officials estimated would lead to tax increases for each homeowner ranging from roughly $6,500 on the low end to roughly $23,000 on the high end over the window of the roadwork loan.
The county stressed those are just preliminary, nonbinding estimates and that it wouldn’t know the final cost until the work is bid out. Although they are not honoring the letter of credit, bank officials have agreed to use some of the proceeds from the sale of the 54-acre tract in the subdivision to help pay for the roadwork, Budesky said.
Budesky said Goochland officials have not made any final decision yet on whether to create the tax district. Residents have expressed a range of views from outright opposition to a willingness to having the district, he said.
Dawn Snow, another subdivision homeowner, is among those opposing the tax.
“We’re raising children. Every penny counts,” Snow said.
Snow also worried about the impact the tax would have on residents if they want to move.
“Not everyone, I’m sure, in the neighborhood plans on staying for 10 years,” Snow said. “That’s going to affect their ability to sell the house.”
Snow wondered why the county couldn’t pay for the work out of its own general fund.
“I feel like they [county officials] should pay for it,” Snow said.
Goochland officials have said that general fund tax revenue is not intended for subdivision roadwork, adding that the county does not build or maintain roads.
Budesky said a public hearing would have to be held before county officials decide on whether to create the district. There are other options open to the county and residents on the fate of the roads, the county administrator said.
One possibility would be to do nothing, but the roads would degrade, Budesky said. Perhaps the scope of the work could be scaled back, the county administrator said.
The county provided residents in the subdivision, which has 19 homes occupied or under construction, with forms asking whether they support creating the district. So far, the county has only received a couple of those forms back, Budesky said.
“We are working to come up with a solution,” Budesky said. “At this time, nothing has been decided.”