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.


Anonymous said...

"..keep residents and tourists safely off our shoulders" needs to be rethought and reworded. Our transportation infrastructure needs to incorporate "complete streets" practices. Sharing the road isn't a problem when planned appropriately and all users behave and are respectul of eachother. In fact, vehicular cycling (i.e. bicycling on the road, as allowed under the law), is no more dangerous than driving your car on said roads.

Providing transportation options is what is needed. A hodgepodge of sidepaths is not an adequate solution. It is the mindset of "separate but equal" and a one-size fits all approach to non-motorized transportation.

It is also expensive since a complete network of separate "paths" requires a lot of additional construction and right of way. Such paths should augment a safe roadway network to provide direct access between development.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your input! The wording in the bulleted point you refer to is based on the collective input of the 15 groups who made suggestions via the "5 point lists" given at the Varina Town Hall meeting Sept 15th, describing where those who attended would like to see the county focus in Varina during further work on the 2026 Comp Plan (draft).

HV text in the 'Shame! Shame! post' reads:
• Repeatedly requested Cycling and Pedestrian Path Network, to keep residents and tourists safely off the shoulder of our roads

The "off the shoulder of our roads" in the line above is also based in the design to date of the "Capitol Trail", which we understand is a separate path where now in place.

Do you know this to be different? Please let us know!

Obviously, not all cycling/pedestrian paths can be built that way, and many more are needed in Varina (and all Henrico districts), aside from the CT itself.

We can thankfully all agree that the provision for a broad variety of transportations options is a focal point yet to be explained to Henrico residents still seeking answers.

What about "Park and Ride" lots? or Programs encouraging carpooling? We haven't heard much about the planned bus routes alluded to either.

HV's posts including questions and requests for information aim to reflect public input on the Comp Plan to date, as well as emails we receive.

Many who have emailed us agree that the plan itself needs much more work as well as to reflect residents input before the draft can be considered for adoption.

Please feel free to submit any ideas or articles you have concerning transportation planning to HV, as well as to the Henrico Planning Department. Without residents input how can the county be planned to reflect residents actual needs?

HV's goal is to encourage public input- not just on the blog, but in what should be the public process due residents during planning for our county's future.

Thanks Again for yours
H. Cornhill and the HV Team