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.

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