Just Off the Highway

Eleanor Pekary, Op-Ed Editor

  My small town no longer feels small. As a life-long resident of Louisa, I have watched the county I grew up in transform from a small town “between Charlottesville and Richmond” (as I like to describe it), to a bustling scene where it takes twenty minutes to get from one end to the other: exactly 1.0 mile. 

  Within recent years, the explosion of businesses and population in Louisa has been accredited to an array of incentives which includes the strategic location of the county. The location is close to I-64, Richmond, and Charlottesville, CSX train tracks running through the county, etc., according to the Louisa County Department of Economic Development. 

  When my family moved to Louisa 17 years ago, it was not only because of family connections, but also for the exact reasons above. From my first home, we were typically always about 45 minutes away from the nearest cities: Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, and Short Pump. 

  One of the most important attraction points has to be the tax structure of Louisa as compared to other surrounding counties such as Goochland and Fluvanna. Per $100 of assessed value, the Individual Personal Property Tax for Louisa is $2.43, $3.75 for Goochland, and $3.70 for Fluvanna, according to each county’s official website. 

  Because of low property tax rates, the Lousia side of the Lake Anna community is booming. This has created a lasting impact not onlyfor  the residents but also the county itself.

  Although these characteristics add charm, it is also the same reason why Louisa may be beginning to lose that same appeal. 

  Now, this could be the fact that I am able to recognize these types of changes as I grow older, but to my best recollection, there were not as many Teslas and Corvettes driving through Louisa ten years ago as they are today. 

   Even though I was young when the transformation started, it does not take much to understand that the glorification of small-town Lousia was occurring. I remember the first drastic change that occurred right in the heart of town: the construction of Sheetz.

  In an article in the July 9th, 2019 edition of The Central Virginian, the Express Lane Convenience Store, built in 1981 and owned by G.B. “Budgie” Duke, was demolished in 2015 for the new arrival of Sheetz. 

  The construction follows the success of the Sheetz built in 2012 at Zions Crossroads, according to an article by James Friend Dickerson in his blog. The approval was made in light of commercial business opportunities for the county, in seeing how well the Zions Crossroads location sparked business flow.

  Secondly, as I enter my senior year, I realized that there are more people in school than before. Since my freshman year in fall 2019, the total school population has increased from 1,495 students to 1,642 students in the ‘21- ‘22 school year, according to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). 

  In total, this adds up to about 150 students over the course of three years; which may not appear to have such a large impact on what was already almost 1,500 students, but these numbers have certainly shown themselves in the hallways. 

  As I elbow my way through the crowds, I catch glimpses at the unfamiliar faces in the halls everyday. Even then, most of my classes are confined to the second floor, so this completely disregards all of the kids on the first floor that I do not encounter. 

  All of this and more has more of an effect on me than I realized, and not as bad as I might have thought. Some might argue that the business has been good for Louisa, in order to put the town “on the map”. 

  In the town of Louisa alone, there has been a multitude of businesses opening, and even more in the lake community; for example, Asian Cafe making their debut on the lake and consistently being a go-to restaurant. And, quite frankly, I am not really sure where I would hang out after football games if it weren’t for Sheetz. 

   Even with all the upsides of business explosion here, I still long for the days of quiet little Louisa just being another exit off the highway.