Monday, October 27, 2008

Henrico County- willfully neglecting residents planning input ?

County spends 106k on 'Henrico Zip', and next to 'ZIP'
on publicizing the 2026 Comp-Plan
-the plan that will decide the fate of our county into the future-
As reported by Melodie Martin in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch, the financial figures are close to correct. Henrico's Zip-Code campaign costs total over 106,000 dollars, and advertisement for the Comprehensive Plan was at a little over 2,300 dollars as of last week.

Henrico has spent 46 times more on their 'zip-code campaign' than on advertising the Comp-Plan. 46 times more (in what, under a year -vs- what has been spent making the Comp Plan 'public' in three years? or is it five now?)

Couldn't some of that 5 million dollars 'saved' by the zip code changes be spent on publicizing the need for resident's involvement in their own futures?

Read about it in Virginia's number one newspaper:

"More public input urged on land-use plan
Henrico group wants residents more involved in shaping of proposal

if you want part of the story..

It's not just the 'land-use plan, Ms. Martin. And not just "some residents", or "Henrico group" as keeps being written. The number of interested parties continue to grow as residents find out about what they have quietly been excluded from. What about an RT-D Poll?

The press only falls a little short of covering the whole story. If this was really accurate it would be good reporting.

What's wrong with the RT-D coverage? Well- Martin got some numbers together, but the 2300 dollars mentioned wasn't just money spent on promoting Henrico's Open-House meetings held in May to teach residents about the current "land-use plan".

Ms. Martin: the Comp-Plan in Henrico covers much more than just 'land-use'. It also includes transportation and rec&parks/open-space planning. It will be used as the pattern for planning our county for the next 18 years. So it's not just about "some meetings last spring", as you wrote. It's about Henrico not educating residents about planning for the future of our entire county.

The 'Zip vs. ZIP' numbers came right from Henrico County itself, too. Looks like all that took was a resident writing in to ask. (We shoulda thought of that ourselves.) Hat-tip to that moxiefied lady- and those who took the time to spread that news around, and- OK, thanks to Ms. Martin- for putting it right up front.

Here's the deal: over the weekend HV got email stating the 2300 bucks is the total amount Henrico has spent publicly promoting the Comp Plan to date. Alotta phone calls ensued. We were writing a group post when the RT-D story broke today. (golly- scooped by the RT-D- we must be slipping.)

Hard to believe HC only spent 2300, because the "2005 Citizen Survey" must have set the county back some dough, but then- that's money wasted anyway, because it's obvious Henrico Planners haven't used those survey results in writing the plan either.

And, um, that survey said that
"71% of Henrico residents who responded to the survey on which future planning in Henrico is based said they were not familiar with the "Land Use Plan"."

If Henrico spends only 2300 dollars to "get the word out", do you think that number will change?

How can you tell that residents are not interested in being part of planning for their own future if they don't even know that planning has been going on?

What about covering the Comp-Plan on Henrico's TV channel? Wouldn't that be cheap?

Instead of entertaining us with regurgitated national news feeds, or covering pet-adoption and small-town 20th century history... what about educating residents about our county's future, and THEIR PLACE IN IT?

Henrico's Comprehensive Plan is the equivalent of Richmond's "Master Plan". The Master Plan received front page coverage time and again from the RT-D and involved input from thousands of city residents. Involved meaning "planners based the plan on what residents asked for."

This also isn't just about Lynn Wilson, and her concerns (which she has right to, by the way). There are plenty of other Henrico residents who have an opinion about this. But coverage is making it look like she's the only one who cares. Would you like a list of people to write about?

The sign in sheet from any of the county meetings usually has some Henrico residents names on it.

If you listen to what residents say in public meetings, and write down their names.. you can contact them and ask what they think too! That's sorta the definition of reporting, huh?

At this point in the 'draft' process- as Henrico resident Lynn Wilson aptly pointed out in Martin's short work, there aren't any residents at the table with Henrico Officials and county planners. Those extra chairs have been filled by developers.

Those extra chairs our tax dollars pay for. The "Comp Plan draft" (that doesn't reflect Henrico residents concerns) that our tax dollars pay for is being created for and by people who may not even reside in Henrico.

To create profit for developers with the assistance of our "pro-development" elected officials.

What about creating a committee of residents? It could be weighted for the areas in which most change is proposed. Like the 'scientifically administered 2005 Citizen Survey', which didn't reflect residents from such areas- so um, the results aren't really scientific are they?

We hear residents can still take that survey on the Planning Website, so go for it!
CLICK HERE to be involved in your own future.

So why don't RT-D's editors reckon Henrico Planning warrants coverage? Hard to say- but for weeks at a time the only coverage the Varina District gets is either from sports scores or violent crime.

There's a big story here- if the paper would just listen.

Psssst! RT-D: Henrico comprises a large portion of the 'Richmond Region'.. your own excellent writer Will Jones used to cover that. Ask him, he understands environmental impacts, sprawl, pollution, and all of the other issues our local government should be addressing during the current lull.

Hopefully, during the time between now and the Supervisors/Planning Commission 'review' of residents input, people across Henrico will take the time to contact their supervisor and let them know: Comprehensive Planning should not be done behind closed doors.

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Contact your Henrico Supervisor today, tell them you want to know more about Comp-Planning, and ask that your input be made public record while you're at it.. ask that your letter or email be read in the upcoming November "review of residents input."

You should cc: Virgil Hazelett (our county Manager) and the
Melodie N. Martin too.

Maybe then you could be involved in your favorite past-times
without feeling so danged guilty

Friday, October 17, 2008

SHAME, SHAME!! Henrico Ignores Request for Further Public Comp Planning Meetings

Care about the future of Henrico County?

After the 250+ turn-out at Varina Town Meeting on September 15th, instead of responding to Varina (and Henrico) resident's requests for further public inclusion in the Comprehensive Planning process, Henrico officials remain silent.

...just in case you didn't know, Henrico County is in the midst of re-writing our county's "Comprehensive Plan", the land-use, transportation and recreation plan that will guide Henrico's growth for the next 18 years.

During the past year, residents from across the county have attended meetings, written letters, made phone calls, passed out flyers, and tried to educate their friends and neighbors about the importance of the 2026 Comprehensive Plan.

It is actually Henrico's "job" to encourage citizen-involvement and public process, but as Henrico officials have repeatedly been quoted as being "pro-development", county planning disclosure and public education have been slim at best.

The HV team has received emails from residents who cannot access the comprehensive plan online (due to large file sizes,) and many have also complained that the few public meetings that have been held were under-advertised, or that residents received notices by mail days after meetings took place. Yet thousands of tax dollars were spent on the "Zip Code War".

The Bottom Line:
Henrico County is only meeting the minimum requirements for "public inclusion" in this all-important planning process. Land-use, Transportation and Open-Space planning should reflect the desires of local residents, not just developers and elected officials. Residents have been polled, written letters, sent in petitions and requests, and participated with suggestions, without any noticeable impact.

So, it's our residents' job to "keep the ball rolling"


...In light of Richmond City Council's unanimous passage of the city's "Master Plan" last Monday night, Henrico County is left looking like the underdog for sure.

Richmond's Master Plan was broadly advertised and most public meetings were "standing room only". Planners seemed amazed that residents begged continued inclusion, which by the way, they were given. Residents suggestions and desires were openly discussed and written right into each draft of the Plan.

Richmonders got what they wanted for the future of our capitol by remaining included, but in the city, planners and council persons welcomed, invited, and adopted this valuable input.

The key points requested by Cap-Dwellers are not at all different from what Henrico residents have asked for- and been ignored. The large crowd that gathered Monday at City Hall repeated their support and praise of Richmond City Planners inclusion of strong planning supporting:

Focus on the James River; for public access and conservation of the ecological gem that residents love

Further revitalization of neighborhoods, as past planning has been so successful Continued preservation of Richmond's valued architectural and historic assets

A Tree Planting Program to keep the city cool and green and over, and over:

Support for protection of the Libby Hill Park 'view-shed' (the view of the James River that caused William Byrd to name what is now our Capitol after England's Richmond on the Thames)

Yet in Henrico, we have......... MORE DEVELOPMENT
Are you surprised?

In September, to address this 'oversight?', a committee of Varina property owners met with Supervisor James B. Donati, Jr., and asked that current county design of the 2026 Comprehensive Plan (draft) actually "involve" the public. What a novel idea! Including local residents in the future of their own county? The last Varina Town Meeting was used for this purpose. To find out what happened, read our

September 16th post:
Henrico Hears Varina, But Will The County Listen?

Long story short, about 250 residents packed the Henrico Theatre on a weeknight, with little forewarning, and over 80 stayed until after 10pm to have their comments heard. A groundswell of support for the issues important to our District's future were given (again) by residents, who concurred during a work-group exercise:

Preservation Planning and Follow-Through is needed for:

Our District's ecological assets: fields, forests, and watersheds through open-space planning, and the creation of PRD, TDR, and Easement Programs. Don't remove our land rights!

Varina's rural and agricultural character, through proper land-use and transportation planning

Strong ordinances needed to protect Historic Sites and Structures, Archeological Sites, Cemeteries and Battlefields

That Henrico follow through on prior promises to create buffered scenic corridors: 'The James River Corridor', 'The Osborne Turnpike Corridor' among others.

Repeatedly requested Cycling and Pedestrian Path Network, to keep residents and tourists safely off the shoulder of our roads

Planning for and the creation of:

Infrastructure (schools, roads, sewers, fire-support, libraries, and parks) which need to be addressed PRIOR to further development

Evaluation of, and additions to Varina's long neglected school systems

Mass Transit systems, to stave off the traffic disaster now occurring in the West End

Addressing existing problems which have been repeatedly promised and yet not acted upon, including existing drainage, school, and roadway problems.

But how will these requests be met in the 2026 Comprehensive Plan Draft?
Or will they be addressed at all?

In early October, a committee of Varina residents and landowners contacted our supervisor and asked again for more public meetings to address the 2026 Comp-Plan Draft.

The result? We've all called around, asked questions and have heard- that weeks have passed and there has been no response.

What will become of Varina in the future? Why do you choose to live here? Remember, when you hear the words "Land Rights", that developers should be held to sustainable requirements. "Land Rights" should apply to the current residential base too. Sprawl is not inevitable, as county studies show. Responsible action can be taken to address our environment and the protections our historic and agricultural resources warrant. Residents of all Henrico districts would benefit from the planning necessary to preserve out valued assets.

Tell Henrico Officials:




Please pass the word now.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Recession, Secession, Regression: Henrico will recede further from forward-thinking neighbors, if left unchecked

So much news- so fast. How will Henrico officials keep up with how far behind they're causing the county to fall?

As hard as it may be to believe, residents care more about quality of life than Fitch rates when they choose their homes.

First off, last Wednesday "Virginia's own" Governor Timothy Kaine paid a visit to "a Henrico Farm" (which our moles report to belong to a Mr. Nelson. Hat tip to you, Sir,).

Standing in Henrico soil, Kaine announced the findings of a farm-fresh Va. agri/forestry study. The work on paper was issued by a fair fellow, Terrance Repphan of UVA's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, and showed that agri/forestry industries in Virginia had an output of $79 billion in 2006 and supported more than a half-million jobs in the Commonwealth.

Some pretty accurate maps were released recently by the RRPC, graphically detailing among other things, the current state of land-use in the within the Richmond region.

Feeling a little (eh-hem) GRAY? Further evidence of the need to support open-space, preserve farms and forests, create tree canopy retention ordinances, preserve what's left.

Gray shown denotes 'urban' areas which have grown far too much to keep ignoring... far too much for the results of the 2005 Henrico Citizen Survey to be swept under the rug..

Residents of Henrico have been asking our elected officials, their consultants, their planners, for some 20 odd years now to look ahead in terms of land-use. See the yield and stop signs being waved. Well gas prices are up, there 'aint no mass transit to speak of here, and if you look around. you'll see you can't stifle residents concerns for much longer, without some serious questions being asked.

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Whiplash! Send your neck braces to Henrico County!
...or have their heads even turned? Perhaps they just don't "get" the news?

As mentioned in today's RT-D article on the "secession", "Mail sent to county government offices should use this address:Henrico County, P.O. Box 90775, Henrico, VA23273-0775."

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If you're having a hard time keeping up, these links are guaranteed to help:

"Henrico secedes from Richmond mailing address today"
Wednesday, Oct 01, 2008
Richmond Times-Dispatch (no byline, so blanket thanks for that verb)

"Henrico County mailing addresses that use Richmond, VA, will switch today to Henrico, VA. The county will implement a new address for residents, businesses and other entities."
read more here

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"Public hears about land-use plan
Among new proposals... is suspending growth in western area"

Monday, Sept 22, 2008
Richmond Times-Dispatch
From the dust-free keys of Wesley P. Hester (whom we thank sincerely)
(Chesterfield County)

"Among the new proposals discussed last night is establishment of a "growth management boundary" in the western portion of the plan area. Within that boundary -- generally north of Beach Road and west of state Route 288 -- residential development would be suspended until schools, transportation and public safety can better accommodate growth.

Some residents said the county staff seemed reluctant to incorporate levels-of-service standards in the plan for roads, schools and public safety as requested by the Board of Supervisors.

The standards would require that developers address the impact of new homes before building.

While planning staff, school administrators and fire-rescue officials have voiced support for the concept, they have suggested it should be implemented on a countywide basis and not in isolation.

Planning Director Kirk Turner conceded that the standards likely will be part of the finished Swift Creek product.

"There's no doubt in my mind that levels of service will be included in this plan," he said."
read more here

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*It's also interesting to note here, that as of August 13th, 2008, suit has been filed against the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors.

"Eleven property owners on Mt. Hermon and Lacy Farms roads have sued the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors over the newly enacted Upper Swift Creek Plan (USCP) adopted six weeks ago to control growth and phosphorous runoff into the Swift Creek Reservoir."

"...The suit called the published notices prior to the plan's adoption "defective and failed to meet statutory requirements [for] applicable notices and give reasonable, fair and required notice under Virginia law." The suit alleges the notices did not identify the affected plan area and notify property owners of whether their properties might be impacted."
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"Where the Grass is Greener
In the region’s big land grab, property owners are discovering that when it comes to protecting their land, there are other forces at play. ."
Style Weekly Cover Story
July 16, 2008
From our own fair Nicole Anderson-Ellis (too bad she's "taken" already.. Mmmph!)

"Between 1990 and 2006 Henrico County lost 16 percent of its residual farms and forests — what the county calls “vacant land.” ...

...“People want this,” he continues. “They want to preserve our rural heritage.” At public hearings on the new plan, the only opposition to the conservation district was “that it should go further,” Hodges says, “that we haven’t set aside enough.”

Henrico County residents seem to feel the same. “I’ve never had anybody come up to me and say I’m happy they put that new subdivision up,” says Ray Jernigan, chairman of the Henrico County Planning Commission.

In 2005 the county conducted a survey in which 82 percent of respondents said they “support further restricting or managing new development in rural areas.” This value is reflected in county planning documents’ frequent references to “preserving rural character,” but concrete steps to preserve green space are hard to find, and county officials speak of suburban sprawl as a natural and unavoidable process.

And when asked about the limits Henrico’s proposed plan would put on property owners’ right to get conservation easements, (Ray) Jernigan, (chairman of the Henrico County Planning Commission) voices surprise. “So if it shows SR1 [suburban residential 1], you can’t put it in conservation?” he asks.

“I’ve never heard that. I’d like to find out about that.”

read more here


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"Developing the Dead
As counties face rapid suburban development, there’s one hurdle that can come back to haunt — backyard cemeteries."
September 24, 2008
Style Weekly
by Amy Biegelsen (note our appreciation)

"Rachel Lipowicz, who specializes in locating unmarked cemeteries, says developers often must build around them.

As suburban counties swell with new roads, new houses, new strip malls and schools, farms and fields are becoming subdivisions. Of the many hurdles such growth presents, perhaps the most sensitive — and trickiest — is how to deal with long-forgotten, and often unmarked, cemeteries.

That word, “preservation,” is telling. Like historic building preservationists that challenge new development in the city, the historical society has become integrated into the county’s zoning process. The Chesterfield Planning Department keeps the society in the loop on new projects by sending it plans for land that may harbor burial sites."
read more here

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Associated Press
"Study: Va.'s farms, forests generate big dollars"
By Steve Szkotak (with our many thanks)

"A University of Virginia study of farming and forestry found the two had a total economic impact of $79 billion in 2006 and supported more than a half-million jobs in the commonwealth.

The study identified agriculture's share of the $79 billion as $55 billion, up from a 1998 estimate of $36 billion.

The $79 billion figure does not include agritourism and horse events, which have the potential to add several billion dollars, the study said. It does not include recreational hunting and fishing or commercial fishing, a growing segment of the Virginia economy."
read more here

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"500,000 in Virginia Work in Agriculture, Study Says"
Thursday, September 25th, 2008
(with our thanks to)
Julian Walker of
The Virginian-Pilot

"Their report estimated that the two industries provide 500,000 jobs in the state, more than 10 percent of the available labor force.

While the numbers sound impressive, other figures raise alarms about the future vitality of the state's farm and forestry businesses. Virginia had more than 8.5 million acres of farmland as of 2007 but 200,000 fewer acres than in 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Total wooded acres are declining after decades of reforestation efforts in Virginia.

Kaine, who announced the U.Va. study's findings Wednesday, set a goal to conserve 400,000 acres of undeveloped land, including forests, during his four years as governor. The state should meet that goal and "make some headway back against development pressures that are taking land out of operation," Kaine said."
read more here

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"Virginia Farms and Forests have Huge Impact on Economy"
September 24, 2008
Props to 19News wcav-tv (where charlottesville news comes first)

"These numbers were good news that the Governor was talking about. But, he also pointed out that land continues to be consumed by suburban sprawl. Taking away tens of thousands of acres away, which was previously used for this natural resource production," said Terry Rephann, the lead researcher in this study conducted by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

Governor Kaine also said that there are challenges that lie ahead for the industries, but they can be dealt with by installing proper land preservation policy and research."
read more here

So stop for a minute and take a look around: at Governor Kaine's recent announcement, at how other areas deal with sprawl, at the list of requests you might usually ignore, and you'll notice:

It's time to listen.