2012: The year in review

The year 2012 is over, but it left its mark.

Here’s a look back at what the previous 366 days had to offer Hanover County, as reported in the pages of the Herald-Progress:

Homicides

The Mechanicsville community mourned the death of twins Caroline and Madison King in early 2012. Neighbors, family, friends and community leaders gathered at the Wynbrook Lane home to remember, grieve and pray for the 3-year-old twins apparently killed by their despondent father who also took his own life.

The year began with tragedies in January and February.

Brett Wells, 16, an Atlee High School student, was fatally shot in his home. Three teenagers were arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Robert D. King of Mechanicsville killed himself and his twin daughters, Caroline and Madison, age 3.

Sarajane Hakopian, 44, who played the Montpelier Snow Queen and wrote under the pen name “Emma Foster,” was murdered at her Beaverdam home. Brian S. Mallory, a man she had befriended, was arrested and charged with her murder.

Then in June, Sabrina Markham, 30, of Mechanicsville, was murdered. Hanover authorities charged her estranged husband, Ryan P. Markham, with the crime. Both Mallory and Ryan Markham will appear in court in February.

New Board of Supervisors

The majority of the Hanover County Board of Supervisors changed as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Sean Davis, Wayne Hazzard, Angela Kelly-Wiecek, and Canova Peterson joined seasoned veterans Bucky Stanley and Elton Wade and second-term supervisor Ed Via.

So what’s a mostly new Board of Supervisors to do in its first year?

Establish a joint education committee, approve a 160-home development east of Ashland, review recommendations of a high-speed Internet committee, adopt a budget, apply to remove Hanover from U.S. Department of Justice election pre-clearance requirements, lobby against plans to install tollbooths on Interstate 95, appoint five new planning commissioners, kick off a Comprehensive Plan update process, form a cash proffers and capital funding committee, and eliminate cash proffers on new development altogether, just as a few little examples.

Some of those examples are so little, we might need to zoom in for a closer look…

Cash proffers

Remember when Hanover County had a cash proffers policy?

The board set up a cash proffers and capital funding committee in June. Following a series of meetings, the committee issued its recommendations in November. Two weeks later, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-2 to eliminate the proffers.

The supervisors then established a reserve fund for school capital needs and planned to hold a public hearing to consider charging a $10 automobile decal fee, which would have gone to roads improvements. They’ve since cancelled that public hearing and decided to explore other options for roads funding.

The cash proffers elimination did raise several questions regarding approved-but-undeveloped residential lots, including that 160-home development the supervisors approved in April.

Rezonings

HHHunt Corporation plans to build 160 homes on 63 acres just east of Ashland, near the intersection of Route 54, Woodside Lane, and Providence Church Road.

Concerns were raised about roads safety, as officials tried to figure out how to make improvements happen. Planning staff determined that the cash proffer payments could be used to build some turn lanes.

Good thing they worked that out.

HHHunt had another significant rezoning case this past year—an amendment to the undeveloped portions of Rutland.

The amendment basically reorganizes the project layout and removes the age restriction on the previously approved condominium units. The current Rutland residents objected to the changes, but the developer didn’t believe the original configuration would sell.

The supervisors struck a compromise, approving the changes but prohibiting certain kinds of high-traffic business uses on a portion of the development.

I-95 tolls

The Board of Supervisors is against tolls on Interstate 95. The Ashland Town Council is against tolls on I-95. Many Hanoverians are against tolls on I-95.

VDOT, however, is taking the contrarian’s view. VDOT favors spending about $50 million to install tollbooths along I-95 in Sussex County, figuring that’s a fine way to raise transportation revenue.

Coincidentally, VDOT also gets to make the final decision on the matter.

Budgets

Governments had budget troubles, which has become typical in years ending with either an even or odd number.

The School Board scheduled multiple work sessions to wrestle with their ever-diminishing budget, and Hanover County initiated an early retirement/voluntary separation program to help trim its workforce.

Hanover’s real estate tax base continues to contract. It’s expected to decline an estimated 1.5 percent in 2013, and Hanover County Public Schools is anticipating a cumulative budget deficit of at least $6 million as the system plans for its 2013-14 budget.

So, good news for math lovers. Expect lots of budget fun in 2013.

Election

You may have heard about the presidential election. Yes, we had one of those, and Virginia was deemed a swing state, making it the envy of political junkies everywhere.

Challenger Mitt Romney campaigned in Ashland in August, the same day he announced his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan. They drew a huge crowd, including some protesters.

President Barack Obama campaigned in the Richmond area, but not Hanover specifically, though he did make an unannounced stop at Berry’s Produce in Mechanicsville on his way to a Henrico rally.

Romney also staged a campaign event in Doswell just north of the Hanover line the Thursday before the election. That’s how much of a swing state Virginia was.

Former Va. governors George Allen and Tim Kaine competed for a U.S. Senate seat. They were regular visitors to Hanover and surrounding areas throughout much the year, as were their wives, Susan Allen and Anne Holton.

Rep. Eric Cantor faced a challenger, Wayne Powell, for the 7th District House of Representatives seat. Cantor agreed to a debate for the first time in a decade.

Storms

Hanoverians learned the meaning of the term “super derecho” in 2012, though some may have forgotten it while preparing for Hurricane Sandy.

A “widespread and long-lived windstorm that accompanies rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms” (thanks, AccuWeather) cut through Hanover at the end of June, leaving thousands without power for days.

No one was seriously hurt. Farmers suffered an estimated $1.5 to $2 million in damages, collectively, due to the combination of hail and strong winds followed by scorching temperatures.

Hurricane Sandy struck toward the end of October, and parts of the Northeast are still recovering from the devastation.

The storm merely grazed the greater Richmond area. Hanover received some strong wind gusts and approximately a few inches of rain.

Inchworms attack

The spring of 2012 brought us the inchworm apocalypse, in which swarms of voracious beasts descended upon the land to feast.

But they were very small beasts, so we got through it.

Technical evolution

Not even inchworms could halt the progress of technology.

The Dominion Resources GreenTech Incubator evolved into the Dominion Innovation Center, and it held its first Tech Challenge Hanover competition for technology-based entrepreneurs.

Pamunkey Regional Library bid farewell to the Bookmobile following six decades of service, but it welcomed e-books to its collection.

Watson retires

The Ashland District has a new School Board representative for the first time in 36 years.

ue Forbes Watson, who had represented the Ashland District on the County School Board since 1976, decided not to seek reappointment to another four-year term.

Sue Forbes Watson, who joined the board in 1976, decided not to seek reappointment to another four-year term.

To succeed her, three Ashland residents offered their services to the School Board: Lorie Foley, Hank Lowry, and Michael Shannon.

The process drew significant public comment. A sizable and vocal contingent of Ashland residents backed Foley, but Ashland Supervisor Ed Via selected Lowry as the new School Board member.

Watson’s service was honored at a reception held at Randolph-Macon College, and the Hanover Education Foundation established a new scholarship in her name.

So, Watson can longer be found at School Board meetings the second Tuesday of each month. If you miss her, just sign up for the Ashland Musical Variety Show, set for March 21, 22, and 23, 2013. There’s a chance you might find her there.

Cross Bros. Centennial

A view of Cross Bros. Grocery after its 1978 facelift, encompassing the old A&P store in Ashland. The business celebrated its centennial in May.

Cross Bros. Grocery opened May 5, 1912. Several wars and economic roller coasters later, it’s still up and running in Ashland.

You can forgive them for celebrating the accomplishment.

Weeks of festivities culminated in a May 5 anniversary party. Actors dressed in period attire, and a Model T Ford was on-hand to add to the ambience.

Rain attempted to diminish the enthusiasm, but it hadn’t reckoned with a business that once endured the Great Depression.

Ashland events

Cross Bros.’ anniversary may have been the headline attraction, but Ashland had quite a bit else going on. Here are just a handful of examples:

Lindsey Coggins won the Hanover Idols competition in February, and Faith Gitchell was named Junior Idol.

Town Council established an arts and cultural district in April.

Five candidates ran for three Council seats in May, resulting in Steve Trivett replacing Terri Winston-Abri.

CSX railroad repairs inconvenienced motorists by closing the England Street and Ashcake Road crossings for about a week apiece.

In the summer, the Vitamin Shoppe announced its plans to open a distribution center at the north end of town and employ 174 people.

Randolph-Macon College dedicated the John B. Werner Pavilion and Day Field as the school year began.

The Ashland Museum held its grand opening in November.

In December, railroad dignitaries visited town as part of a “whistle-stop” train tour to launch Amtrak’s new connection to Norfolk.

Rock band

Rock music legends REO Speedwagon hop out of their bus and stroll into Hanover High School.

In 2011, Hanover County Public Schools made a “lip-dub” video featuring roughly 1,000 children and adults from across the division. The video used an REO Speedwagon song, “Roll With the Changes.”

In 2012, REO Speedwagon discovered the video on YouTube. They liked it so much, they dropped in on Hanover High School for a Q&A, brief acoustic performance, and to sign autographs.

Thanks to the lip-dub video, the students actually knew who REO Speedwagon was.

Green Top moves

Green Top Sporting Goods has expanded.

The longtime local company has moved into a larger facility, taking the former Gander Mountain building after the competitor closed its doors in the summer.

This means that familiar “Green Top Guns” sign no longer graces Route 1, thereby signifying the end of the world. Oh, wait…

World still here

The ancient Mayans allegedly predicted the world would end Dec. 21, 2012.

You may have noticed the H-P put out a Dec. 27 edition, so it seems the Mayans made an error.

So, onward into 2013.

Posted on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 at 3:31 pm