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.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

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


Jonah said...

Thanks for writing this. you have a beautiful blog. I love Varina, and hope it still has all of that rural charm by the time I get out there.

kenya said...

your blog is an interesting read!
keep posting pictures of the beautiful area!!