December 29, 2004 News & Features » Cover Story


Bridges and Boundaries 

In 2004, it appears those caught in sprawl's mitts were weighing the costs of spreading development. The counties asserted themselves, preferring provincialism to regionalism. They played for their home teams, largely protecting their turf and promoting their identities as, however homogeneous, unique. Meanwhile, players for regionalism seemed to sit on the sidelines, weighing the merits of city-county coalitions.

Chesterfield and Henrico counties passed referendums to help subsidize everything from roads to schools to much-needed infrastructure.

In Chesterfield, officials formed alliances to vote down a lodging and meals tax to pay for a downtown performing arts center. A Chesterfield supervisor questioned a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom. What's more, the county declared its own land prime for such outfits, so why have them settle in the city?

Bumper-to-bumper traffic and Target stores in western Chesterfield and Henrico confirmed what developers and planners predicted long ago: Powhatan and Goochland counties will become bedroom communities as much for Midlothian and Short Pump as for Richmond.

And yikes, did this have bucolic Goochland bracing! Officials and residents there vowed to keep residential construction close to nil. After all, in the shady swath of acres between Mechanicsville and Hanover, there's still some countryside left, proof that hamlets remain. But will they? One of the last remaining historic churches in Henrico, Springfield Baptist, suddenly looked out of place, nestled between a Best Buy and Kohl's and other anywhere-ville retailers. Its congregation begins holding services at J.R. Tucker High School. In Chesterfield, a church tried — and failed — to buy and rehab Cloverleaf Mall, with plans that included, amid its worship space, athletic facilities, concert halls and shops. In a mild brouhaha, the county won rights to the place.

In November, the final stretch of state Route 288 opened. The effort to build it spanned four decades and cost a half-billion dollars. While the sleek road didn't touch down in Henrico, it enabled Chesterfield residents to end up there — and conveniently at places like Short Pump Town Center or West Creek — in 20 minutes instead of 40. As some city officials feared, the great connector was also the great circumventer. Route 288 created an attractive bypass of Richmond. No need to go there, no need to even pass through. The Virginia Department of Transportation said it expected that by 2020, more than 80,000 cars a day would travel the stretch of 288 from Powhite Parkway to U.S. Route 60. The question raised this year by 288 ultimately will be whether the counties can handle the flood and the city can manage the drought.

The Score continued ...


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