What do you think are the biggest challenges/changes that are going to confront Chesterfield County in the next 20 years and how would you address them to make Chesterfield a better place to live?
The economy will rebound at some point and along with that will come the issues that we had just a few years ago – only more exaggerated. With population growth comes the usual concerns: school overcrowding, traffic congestion and stressed police and fire departments.
We need to start addressing those anticipated problems now, while development is at historic lows, so we are ready to grow business and advance residential development in a smart way.
The state-required comprehensive plan is one place to start. We need to start over on the document that has had so many edits that it no longer looks like the plan a group of 33 citizens helped build.
We should be helping our children by stopping the school budget drain, properly funding schools so test scores will no longer continue to fall while class sizes soar. We must equip our police and fire departments to keep us safe as the population rebounds.
Capitalizing on our resources such as our rich history, access to two rivers and available commercial property to expand economic development is a must. We definitely need to provide homes for our children entering the workforce who need competitively priced housing. Home builders no longer build a diverse range of homes due to county’s policies.
And, we should develop a transportation plan that will not just add pavement but promotes alternative means of transportation as we strive to bring jobs closer to home.
Twenty years is a long time to plan for but we need to start now.
Chesterfield County will face the same challenges as the rest of the country over the next 20 years. The citizenry’s needs and wants are exceeding the government’s ability to provide them. What doesn’t always seem to be understood is that every dollar a government spends supporting one citizen is taken from another citizen. The more the government expands its role, the less the citizens agree their money is being spent wisely. Chesterfield has always been a community with a strong work ethic in which neighbors rely on neighbors. Unfortunately, over the last few decades, Chesterfield, like other communities, has relied on federal dollars to address provision of services, and the federal government gets to set the criteria. We have little say in these decisions, which affect the fiber of our community. What we have ended up with is a growing number of people depending on the government instead of jobs for food, housing, and other services. Some people really need help, and we need to see they get it, but we should have some control on where we draw that line. A few months ago, I had the privilege of riding along with a police officer on a Friday night. He told me that when he was younger, and his wife was pregnant with their second child and going to college, he worked three jobs to support his family to the level they desired. We need to expect personal responsibility from our citizens like that policeman has and adopt policies that reflect that view wherever we can. That will make Chesterfield a better place to live.
JAMES "JIM" HOLLAND
The biggest challenges Chesterfield may face are adapting to and effectively planning for a rapidly changing future and growing our commercial base while ensuring we have the appropriate infrastructure, public facilities and a quality public school system. We have learned that managing Chesterfield’s growth is critical to maintaining adequate facilities and an excellent public school system.
As Dale District Supervisor, I have already started to address the challenges by working on a new Comprehensive Plan that will establish a countywide vision for the future, guide the wise use of land and resources, and promote economic development and create jobs. The Planning Commission is currently receiving input from citizens throughout the county on the new plan. I am optimistic that the new plan, with citizen input, will assist in guiding and saving the county millions within the next 20 years.
Although we may face challenges, we have proven that we can face them and continue to make Chesterfield a county that works and be a “First Choice Community.” As a CPA, I will continue to manage our resources and keep our fiscal house in order, providing leadership that listens to the people.
I believe the aging infrastructure, whether it be roads, residential neighborhoods, commercial corridors, or schools, will be the single biggest challenge the county faces over the next 20 years. Proactive efforts by the county to encourage revitalization and making economic development a priority will be critical as the county manages this important issue going forward.
We are fortunate that the county has maintained its Tripe-A bond rating, but in order to move forward in these uncertain economic times, it will be essential that the county maintain this rare designation. By allowing us to access lower borrowing rates, it gives us financial flexibility; something we will need to attract and partner with future businesses.
Chesterfield needs to provide an environment that will promote growth for entrepreneurs and small businesses. In so doing, the county will need to increase its incentives, and streamline its approach so that Chesterfield remains a “First Choice” Community. In the past, we have relied heavily on residential tax revenues, but in order to provide for the future needs of our citizens we must achieve a better balance between our residential and commercial tax base.
Having a strong economic development component will lead to job creation, but adding the additional engine of a well-educated work force will provide even more opportunities. In Chesterfield, we enjoy an exceptionally strong school system, but every effort must be made to ensure that it stays highly competitive.
If we continue to grow at a similar rate we will need to concentrate on continuing to meet the citizen’s public service and facility needs. Of the many “quality of life” issues, one of the most important challenges will be making sure that there is an adequate water supply. We must immediately take steps to secure the sources needed for our future water needs for the next 20 years.
The biggest challenge we as a county – and we as a country – face is the condition of our economy. Each and every one of us is directly affected. Where are things headed?
Where is the unemployment rate going? What about the availability and cost of housing? Until we have a better handle on what we are dealing with, we must be excellent stewards of our resources to ensure we are doing the best we can with what we have. The so-called temporary economic blip has now lasted three years, and there is not a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Five years is probably a better time-frame to consider than 20 years. Included in that five-year window is the real prospect that the state government is going to put more on the plate of localities to oversee. School and road funding are two of the biggest items. How will we deal with those challenges?
Again, my approach will be to take a close look at how to maximize the bang for every tax buck. All of us use common sense to do that in our daily personal lives and it should be the same when it comes to the county government.