Friday, February 29, 2008

Dirt Nap for SB768- well, until 2009

Varina residents can breath a sigh of relief, for now. Senate bill 768 is taking a year long nap. We never thought we'd wish anything would die in its sleep.

Of all the residents in Henrico who would have suffered due to the "Watkins bill", those of us east of Richmond have the most green to lose. The bill which was carried over to next year's General Assembly session, would have replaced the current system of proffers from developers to create local infrastructure, with a capped "impact fee" system.

Thankfully on Thursday, the Virginia House of Delegates Rules Committee voted to carry over a what the Piedmont Environmental Council, and many others described as a "terrible developer-driven bill" to next year's General Assembly session.

This bill would have shifted the tax burden associated with past and future growth from builders- onto existing Virginia residents. That it is gone for now, is a great victory. Developer interests are strong in Virginia, and it is not an understatement to say that without residents diligent efforts this victory would not have occurred.

Capped by the state, impact fees would be far less than the current value of cash and in-kind proffers, and would be reduced by so many credits, that they would shrink to virtually nothing. While developers claim the bill would lead to lower-priced new homes, local officials statewide said it would mean homeowners see higher property tax bills, and an increase in home sellers "grantor's taxes".

Ever foresee needing to move, as a result of encroaching "sprawl"? This bill would have assured that you would pay for the "progress" which was pushing you out, and then pay again to leave.

The worst result? Developers would also evade even the new "impact fees" by developing in rural areas where impact fees cannot be imposed under this law. That's here. That is Varina.

Many local governments helped bring this issue the attention it deserved. In particular these county board supervisors deserve recognition: Fairfax Board Chairman Gerry Connolly, Chesterfield Supervisor Marleen Durfee, Loudoun Chairman Scott York, and Culpeper Chairman Steve Walker.
A press release published Friday by the Piedmont Environmental Council stated, "We should not underestimate the role of each citizen's participation in this battle. Thank you to everyone who took the time to write, call, email, and visit elected officials locally and in Richmond."

Special thanks were also extended to the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, and the many other local citizen groups that worked to oppose this bill.

The Council's President, Chris Miller also recognized "the tireless work of the many elected officials and their staff on this issue. While too numerous to mention individually, the courageous work of House Speaker William Howell, (shown left, with Her Majesty, the Queen of England) Delegate James Scott, Senator Mark Herring and Senator George Barker, and all of the 19 senators who voted against 768, particularly deserve mention- as does the work of the members of the House Committee on Rules.

Any time you read about Henrico, and particularly Varina, you find proud reference to our agricultural heritage. We value our fields, we appreciate our forests, but statistics show that rural land in Virginia is being developed at a pace outreaching population growth by nearly three to one, and to continue to "build out" without proper infrastructure in place to support further growth burdens us all.

Further development without sensitive planning wrecks havoc on the environment, strains local services, and puts a pounding on the wallets of the current residents via rising taxes. If passed, SB768 would have further taxed us all.

Next year when the General Assembly meets, it will be on the "odd year" 30 day session schedule, with the option to extend for another thirty days. As there are a handful of officials, whose positions pertain to Henrico, whose names were not recorded among those who fought to keep this bill from becoming law, it is up to us, to make those in office aware of the damage the "Watkins bill" still has the potential to wreak upon our wallets and the land around us.

Look at the assessment that just came in the mail, and ask yourself, do I want higher taxes? Shouldn't it be the developers who should pay for infrastructure needed to support further building, and not another burden put on current residents?

Want to read more?

Yays and Nays?
Visit Richmond Sunlight to gauge the divide the "Watkins bill" created in the Senate

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sandbox Saga Continues- Zip to Zip

'A memo to Richmond's next mayor'
Wednesday, Feb 27, 2008 - 12:08 AM


"From: Concerned region residents

To: Richmond mayoral candidates

As you take the enormous step of running for mayor of Richmond, repeat after us: "Yes We Can!" "

...text excerpted to feature the following content.....

"At a retreat last weekend, Richmond City Council members heard what they should already know: The region is a house divided.

The city withheld its dues to the Greater Richmond Partnership, with Mayor L. Douglas Wilder grousing that Richmond wasn't getting a return on its investment.

Henrico County officials, citing a loss of tax revenue, have set in motion the potential change-of-address of about 80,000 county residents from "Richmond, VA" to "Henrico, VA."

And the General Assembly, at the behest of a Chesterfield County delegate, ignored the $50 million debt the Richmond Metropolitan Authority owes the city and is weighing a proposal to place Henrico and Chesterfield on equal footing with Richmond on the board of the RMA, which built and operates the Downtown Expressway and the Powhite Parkway.

The city's declining population mirrors its eroding stature. Like the bully of the beach in an old Charles Atlas ad, the counties are kicking sand in the city's face."

...text excerpted to feature the following content.....

"Don't waste our time unless you're intent on dismantling the state political structure that is dooming Richmond to failure and the region to underachieving mediocrity. Either work to lift the annexation ban so the city can expand or change Virginia's archaic "independent cities" structure so Richmond can become a part of Henrico.

The regional poverty that has been largely funneled into the urban core must be dispersed. This will require affordable housing in the suburbs, a truly regional mass-transit system and the regionalization of public education."

Read more of this article and what is bound to be very interesting Reader Reaction from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Who's got the tab? or will you need another drink?

You may need one, as word has it that Thursday may be when Senate bill 768, aka "The Watkins bill" has its day on the hill in Richmond.

The Newport News Daily Press ran an article about 768 on the 16th, Senate passes a bill to change who pays for the impact of developments on localities "A bill that would overhaul how housing projects are paid for passed the state Senate Tuesday — much to the chagrin of the state's fastest-growing cities and counties. While builders say the bill will lead to lower-priced new homes, local officials statewide say it could mean homeowners see higher property tax bills." read more at

It's no coincidence that John Watkins (R) of Chesterfield, sponsors the legislation which would put an end to the majority of the "proffer system", as Watkins is a developer, as well as being a Senator of District 10 [map]. Proffers currently allow developers to haggle with Virginia counties over how much cash or "in-kind donations" they'll need to contribute to offset the impacts created by each re-zoning that they request; many developers say they pay too much.

The complicated system that would result from the bill becoming law, would be a state directed, capped "Impact Fee" system, and an increase in each home seller's "grantor's tax". Developmental impact fees, also known as DIFs, would pay into the kitty from which new service needs would be funded. So instead of developers $ covering the local infrastructure created by their having built more "units", the needs created by development would come out of the pockets of current residents and landowners, in more ways than one, some speculate.

Ask yourself some questions. If the potential developer of a vast new project agrees to purchase your land "based on the acceptance of its rezoning", and the county sees that the additional housing could create a burden on the associated schools, or roads, or necessitate the creation of other new infrastructure which would not be covered by the associated impact fees, then might the county deny the re-zoning? Would residents stand up and holler in zoning meetings? Or as a result of these new hoops, would current land values need to drop to accommodate such purchases?

In a press release entitled "Developer/Builder Bill proposes Tax Increase on Virginians", Stewart Schwartz, the Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth says, "We see this bill as a tax increase on existing Virginia homeowners and taxpayers. It pushes even more of the costs of new development onto existing residents. The bill requires increases in the Grantor's Tax outside of Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads - paid by every home seller - by an additional 20 cents per $100 in value. That's $600 on the sale of a $300,000 home."

"This bill is a slap in the face of voters and taxpayers," said Schwartz. "The November 2007 county elections were dominated by voter anger over growth with smart growth candidates winning many races. And Loudoun County underwent a revolution, sweeping "growth-at-any-cost" incumbents out of office.The 2005 Governor's election also turned on the issue of growth, particularly in the outer suburbs. Developers then blocked two attempts to strengthen local power to say no to development that would clog roads, but succeeded with burdening Virginians with new taxes for transportation."

"These impact fees are a bad deal for local governments," said Chris Miller, President of the Piedmont Environmental Council. "Capped by the state, the fees would be far less than the current value of cash and in-kind proffers, and would be reduced by so many credits, that they would shrink to virtually nothing. Developers would also evade even these fees by developing in rural areas where impact fees cannot be imposed under this law."

Developer/builders in Northern Virginia would pay on average only $8,000 per new single-family house, $6000 per townhouse, and $4000 per multifamily unit. In other parts of the state the payments would be $5000, $3750, and $2500. While some local governments might be tempted because these fees would apply to existing "by-right" zoning, a huge loophole is the exclusion of already filed subdivision plats and site plans.

"We believe that the fees will not come close to covering the huge infrastructure costs of major re-zonings," said Schwartz. "Moreover, we think this bill is will result in routine rejection of major smart growth, mixed-used developments. Without cash proffers, off-site proffers, and the flexibility of the proffer process, higher density redevelopment...will be rejected by residents and elected officials.""

Others assert that the proffer system has gotten out of hand, and that developers suffer as a result. On Bacon's Rebellion has covered the "Watkins bill" too, and Anonymous commented:

"Economists tell us, (and this seems to be pretty well established with actual data) that about half the cost of proffer goes into the price of the new house, and and about 
half the price comes from lower prices offered for the land.

If the developer can't get the land at that price, he doesn't build (there) and that is what causes values to go up. Proffers therefore contribute to an insufficient supply.
 This is why economists also tell us that a $1 increase in proffers causes the cost of new AND EXISTING homes to increase in price by $1.60."

Either way you choose to believe, it looks like the same "conundrum" posted as a comment on Historic Varina by Anonymous on 2-23-08 at 11:47 AM, (in that more roof-tops would be necessary for the Postal Service to recognize our District as viable enough to stamp Varina on each envelope.) Anonymous sure does get around.

It's easy for Historic Varina to agree that allowing these potential roof-tops to be built just to collect fees to create the infrastructure necessary to support them, constitutes DISASTER. Besides being based on us, the people who live here now, those costs would also be placed on residents who have yet to arrive. So we'd just have to keep growing and growing to be able to attract those who'll help pay the fees for the changes it takes to bring them here.

If SB768 passes, we'd be paying for the right to share the road, the right not to see the stars, the right to send children to new schools, oops- schools with more trailers. (Don't want to get too optimistic.)

Varina residents will continue to pay for development one way or the other. Which is better, the current Proffers system or the Impact Fees which would come with the passage of Senate Bill 768? But it isn't up to us to decide. The outcome is in the hands of all of those men, most in from out of town, staying in local hotels- oh, and of course the Governor.

Want to learn more?

At Richmond Sunlight you can track SB768 and any other House or Senate bill on the books this session.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Henrico Eminent Domain, Eminent ?

Henrico Citizen: "County Weighs Land Report"
by Tom Lappas, Henrico County Citizen Editor 21.FEB.08

article outtakes include:
"Henrico's Board of Supervisors should implement some of the land-purchasing strategies recommended by an independent commission earlier this month, but other suggestions might not make sense, County Manager Virgil Hazelett told the board and School Board during a work session Feb. 12.

The five-member commission, established last July, issued a 543-page report earlier this month and cited a number of occasions on which the county paid more than twice the appraised value for land parcels during a five-year period.

Hazelett concurred with the commission's recommendation that the county make more prominent to landowners its ability to use eminent domain to acquire property if necessary. He also agreed that entering into land option or right of first refusal agreements – as the committee suggested – could prove beneficial as a way to prevent speculative buyers from purchasing the land first, then reselling it to the county for a huge profit.

"These are two tools that we could add to our toolbox," Hazelett said.

The board agreed to proceed with the creation of a resolution that would empower Hazelett and Henrico Public Schools Superintendent Fred Morton to enter into land option agreements without first receiving approval from the Board of Supervisors or School Board. Such authority, Hazelett said, would allow for quicker action on land viewed as desirable by the county. Currently, the Board of Supervisors must approve land option agreements on a case by case basis."

.....text excerpted to feature the following content.....

"Hazelett told the two boards that eminent domain "should only be used judiciously" and as "a tool of last resort." But, he said that he expected more cases of eminent domain in the coming years, "simply because of the lack of [available] land."

Hazelett disagreed with the commission's recommendation that the county hire its own certified appraiser to examine future appraisals acquired by the county and those submitted by landowners. He said he would prefer to hire an outside appraiser to fill such a duty, in order to eliminate any perceived conflict of interest."

The full article (available by clicking here)
offers the ability to post comments with the
Henrico Citizen Online

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Henrico, VA: 'There is no such place'

Feb 20, 2008

Henrico Tool & Die Co. embodies the duality that has long defined Henrico County.

The business is on Dabbs House Road, on the eastern end of its namesake county. But its mailing address, like many in the county, is "Richmond, VA."

Its president, Jim Hepper, will be among the folks the county plans to survey to see if they'd prefer having their addresses changed to "Henrico, VA"

He isn't wild about the idea.

Hepper's company, founded by his father in 1965, manufactures machine components that punch out aluminum cans. He survived the demise of Reynolds Metals Co., and is loath to put his business at risk.

"I'm a little concerned about that with my customers," he said. "They'll get confused and things may not work out."

"Richmond, Va., is a landmark, easy to identify," he said. "When we talk to someone in Denver or overseas, they say, 'Hen-REEK-o?'"

About 80,000 surveys will go out to properties in 11 ZIP codes. Unaffected will be folks with Glen Allen and Sandston addresses and those in ZIP codes that include properties in the city. The postal service says it will make a change if a majority of respondents agree.

Henrico officials say the address change could redirect tax revenues -- say, a share of sales taxes from national retailers with "Richmond, VA" addresses -- that end up with the city but should be going to the county.

I hope this isn't part of a suburban drive to purge itself of all things Richmond. But revenue aside, there are factors to consider here, like the inconvenience and potential complication residents and businesses face with a change of address.

.....text excerpted to feature the following content....

Several people asked about the impending survey wore a bemused expression.

"I'd rather just stay Richmond," said Ken Thomas, a Short Pump resident. "There is no such place as Henrico, VA. It's a county. I identify with the Richmond community."

He's mystified at the county's argument that it's losing tax revenue. "The address should drive that, not the name of the city."

He sees no benefit in changing his address to Henrico, VA. "If you change anything, change it to Short Pump," he said.

LaTeka Otey, a resident of the Varina area, said she didn't understand the purpose of the proposal.

Does she wish to keep her current address? "Oh definitely. I wouldn't have it any other way. . . . . That's the only address I've ever known."

.....text excerpted to feature the following content.....

Instead of the silly exercise of inventing an amorphous post office, why not ask our legislators to examine an independent cities setup that makes sense only to Virginia? Our system leaves cities with no annexation leverage and strips jurisdictions of any incentive to cooperate.

Let's address city-suburban disparities, instead of manufacturing an identity crisis.

Contact Michael Paul Williams
at (804) 649-6815 or

(a few of the)Richmond Times-Dispatch "Reader Reaction":

the following "Reader Reactions" are shown here to illustrate responses to proposed Henrico 'policy' and responses mentioning Varina.

Posted February 20, 2008 @ 07:05 PM by Anonymous
I think it's an excellent idea to not necessarily incorporate neighborhoods, but allow a specific allegience to where you're from, esp. close-knit places like Varina, Laurel and Lakeside. I'd suggest not just Henrico, but some of these communities to become your official address. As the other respondants said, when I lived in Henrico, it was hard to explain by saying it was officially Richmond and not the city. But no matter what it's called, when will the TD actually cover the counties!

Posted February 20, 2008 @ 05:45 PM by Anonymous
I have not heard Richmond County taxes being misdirected to Richmond City or vice-versa. Mechanicsville doesn't pay taxes to Mechanicsville, it pays to Hanover County. Highland Springs doesn't pay its taxes to Richmond or Highland Springs, it pays Henrico. Why are they being asked to change? How could anyone send their taxes to where they don't live? I hope Henrico residents aren't fooled by Hazelett's continuing quest to continue stab Richmond in the back and destroy chances of regional unity.

Posted February 20, 2008 @ 04:24 PM by Anonymous
I agree with most of the comments posted. My first reaction when reading about the proposed surveys being sent was "it will be the decal fiasco yet again. Mr. Hazelett and the board "please spend our money wisely!"

Posted February 20, 2008 @ 01:47 PM by PA
Speaking as a long time Henrico Co resident, sure, I'd like to see a "Henrico Co, VA" address but the costs associated with such a change would be far too much. I don't see this as a politcal thing or even as Henrico loosing money (Virgil's lost his mind I think) but a way to be a bit different and yes not associated so much with the city. And as for this :"Richmond should annex the entire county and call it all 'Richmond'..." How about HENRICO annexing Richmond and calling it all Henrico? Hmm.

Posted February 20, 2008 @ 01:20 PM by Anonymous
You mentioned the solution to the technical problem in the article - we can't change any areas that share a zip code with the city; why not just re-draw the zip codes so that they are unique to jurisdictions? Then analyze all data by zip codes. Zip codes change frequently. Can it be any simpler than that?

Posted February 20, 2008 @ 01:12 PM by P Martin
I can't imagine the incompetence that lead to this idea even becoming public. At most businesses, an idea this stupid would be shut-down at the water-cooler. But in County-government, we need to waste TENS-OF-THOUSANDS-OF-DOLLARS to get the taxpayers opinion on the validity of this idea. If Henrico can't figure out if everyone is paying their tax payments, that's an administrative and finance issue to be RESOLVED BY PROFESSIONALS (an accountant and a database guru).. Simply ludicrous

Posted February 20, 2008 @ 12:57 PM by none
This article is correct -- there is no such place as Henrico, Virginia. The suggestion to change county residents' addresses is absolutely outrageous!! Surely our elected county officials are competent enough to come up with a solution to properly direct tax revenues to the county without inconveniencing all county businesses and residents!

Posted February 20, 2008 @ 11:09 AM by anon
If county residents decide Henrico, Virginia is the address they prefer, just wait 'til they tally up all the costs of new business cards, stationery, signage and ancilliary changes they'll encounter. It's a rubbish idea!

Posted February 20, 2008 @ 10:37 AM by Glendale
Who trusts Henrico, the govt. that lied about not raising taxes for years; sneakily transformed an internationally known botanical gem (Elko Tract) into an industrial site with no public hearings; spent our taxes for a car decal they then trashed; is excited about eminent domain to eliminate the little rural land that is left, with no land to grow food?

Posted February 20, 2008 @ 10:11 AM by Anonymous
I live in Henrico and I think this is the worst idea the county has come up with since that huge vehicle sticker. What's next? Petition to change Richmond International Raceway "Henrico International Raceway"? Change the airport's name to "Henrico-Richmond International Airport"?

Posted February 20, 2008 @ 09:33 AM by Anonymous
Virgil Hazlett thinks we are stupid. He wants us to beleive that either Henrico Co does not know where its taxable parcels are - and he can't send mail to them, or he wants us to beleive that Henrico taxpayers are paying their tax payments to the city! In order for the later to be true, Hazlett would then have to be idly standing by, and ignoring deliquent tax payments. Either assumption is absurd and obviously false. What we have here is unvarnished anti-regionalism - Henrico style.

Posted February 20, 2008 @ 09:27 AM by Varina resident
Ever since I moved to Varina over 20 years ago I wanted a Varina address. There are many instances when a street, RE: Mechanicsville Tpk, has the same street number in Richmond and in Mechanicsville. If put the wrong city in Mapquest, you get sent almost to Tappahannock. The boundries need to be clear, and it has nothing to do with cutting out Richmond. It's a shame EVERYTHING has to be made political.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Future Density and Varina: How much growth can we afford?

Many thanks to all who've written in, both by email and comments.

Even if you don't read the Times Dispatch, the online version will do. An keyword search on almost any topic will bring up past articles concerning development in Henrico, and Varina in particular. One good thing about InRich, is that it allows readers to post their comments on any article's subject, and Varina residents have been putting in a word here and there. Let's hope they continue to do so.

Among past comments, some familiar phrases re-occur with frequency: "East gets Least", "quality of life", and "GreenSpace" are among them. If you've kept up with current events as they happen, or go back and read them now, watching change can be like an accident in slow motion. Look back for example, at what some readers emails have called the "ShortPumping" of the Henrico's West End.

In the wake of Innsbrook, as demand for housing increased, so did the modern conveniences some residents expect. Broad Street developed further and further west towards Goochland, and shopping venues increased as exponentially as the traffic they created. Apparently a coffee shop can never be close enough for comfort.

Think about the "East gets Least" phrase now. Some residents of Varina have complained again and again about the lack of these very same amenities, that there is no "Cineplex", we have no bookstore, and of course the call for convenient local restaurants, "Red Lobster" seems to be in high demand for some reason.

The creation of housing for tens of thousands of new residents will surely bring with it the new school facilities so direly needed, but then those will fill up too. Have a look at the satellite image below, courtesy of Google Maps.

Remember the farms you once saw in the West End, out Route 250 on a Sunday afternoon drive? You don't have to be George Orwell to see future possibilities for Varina. Rread the Henrico County 2026 "Draft Capacity Analysis" for population projections

According to the projection in "Table 9 : Demand and Capacity Comparison (New Units)" at the bottom of page 20 (p.22 of .pdf) one scenario shows 2026 total:

for Residential Units 51,563
Made up of
Single Family Units 31,979
Single Family Attached Units 4,015
Multi-Family Units 15,569

Remember, the (draft) scenario is referring to possible Residential Units, not residents. With an average family in Henrico weighing in at about 2.5 members per household on the low end of the scale, that 51,563 units could house 128,907.5 new residents. Each of those families could possess 2 cars, for a possible increase in vehicles of 103,126.

In the above scenario, the "The demand figures presented are taken from the Demand Analysis and represent new units from 2003." This number has probably changed in the last five years, and we would not guess it has diminished. The above scenario is also based on the zoning in place under the 2010 Plan, not the higher densities suggested in the 2026 Plan (draft).

Granted, we all benefit from the convenience of shopping close to home, and living in a beautiful place, but can any one of us begin to imagine an addition 120,000 residents in Henrico? The largest portion of land available to house these potential units, residents, and vehicles is located within Varina.

In terms of the 2026 Land Use Plan (draft) have you read any provisions for saving land? Tell us if you see any conservation or green-space plans in effect.

Have you asked yourself, how much growth can Varina afford?

Participate in our new "Poll" in the column on right, and keep sending in those nominations.

Remember, we're looking for extraordinary residents or groups, who have been witnessed in the action of "Preserving Varina"! Working to save either something green with life, or green from age, keep those emails coming, and thanks again to all of those who've written in.

Monday, February 4, 2008

How you can participate

As some readers have already written in, questioning the blog "sign in" protocol, following is a a gentle aid to "new" bloggers. This blog has been designed to be "open access", so there is no need to "join" (unless, of course you want to!) If you have a Blogger/Google, AOL/Aim, TypeKey, or WordPad i.d., then you've done this before, so just log in! If not, then "open access" means that ANYONE can blog.

So click on "comments" at the foot of the post you'd like to get in on. First type your comments in the provided space, and when you are done, go to "Sign In" below the comments box, and find "Choose an Identity". Choose "Open i.d." from the pull down menu.

Next, type your name (if you're proud of it), or your desired screen-name, or even choose "anonymous". Under "Nickname", a box will appear labeled "url:", here, you can add the web address of your homepage, if you have a web-site, or even the address of an affiliation.

After that, you can just hit "publish your comment", and you're "in"! It might take a little time for your comments to hit the page, (when they do, they'll appear in the footing under each post we enter- as "O COMMENTS" (like right now), or "57 COMMENTS" (wishful thinking), so when you see that smaller text, giving the number of comments for each separate post, you can click on that and a new window with the comments in order received will appear for you to read.

You know, you all can write back and forth among each other, too. "Subscribing" to a blog, so that you receive email notification of new posts or comments is as easy as following the directions found here:

This does call for a Google/Blogger acct, though that is as free and anonymous as a gmail account is!

And, of course, if you have any problems or questions, or want to email us anything concerning Varina: culture, history, community events you'd like posted, photographs... a link to an article you read and would like brought up for discussion, we welcome it all! This is also an open call to nominate any Varina residents or groups who have been witnessed in the action of 'Preserving Varina'. Encouraging community participation is the whole idea.

Happy Blogging, and thanks again for joining in!

Olly Olly Outs in Free!

Remember playing "hide-and-go-seek" as a kid? That was what you were supposed to holler to get everyone else back to start all over again. 'Olly-olly-outs-in-freeeee!' In the dusk, crickets chirping, maybe a lightning bug or two hovering nearby...It was interesting to see that call again recently, while poking around on-line. Matt Fuller, of Ohio, had written in to ask where the phrase came from originally. Within his question was a description of the phrase as one used in children’s games to signal that the game is over or that the player has "given up hope of winning. Help would be appreciated.”

Up until a couple of days ago, it sorta felt like everyone was in hiding, as it can this time of year. But then, by chance a couple of locals bumped into each other. As some would say, one was 'ranting' about the very same thing that had been gnawing at the other. Which is Varina...and "what's going on?" This short session spurred'em on, to see who else is out there.

It's been obvious for a while now that the change is going to come. Heck, by the time there's evidence of change, it's pretty much already happened. And there'll be a variety of opinions, just as there is a great variety of people. That, as they say, is what "makes the world go around". But it was nice to be happy to hear someone rant .

So while scanning down the two hundred and thirty-some odd RVaBlogs listed, and the CommunityBlogs among them, it became apparent there wasn't a community blog for Varina, the spark ignited. Here's one, for a start.

A search of the pages of the Henrico County Planning site affords anyone the opportunity to get an idea of what the county has on tap for the future. This spring, public meetings will be held to give residents the chance to become aware of the contents of the "2026 Comprehensive Plan", which is in the 'draft' stages now.

The Comprehensive Plan is made up of three parts:
The Future Land Use Plan, The Major Thoroughfare Plan, and the Parks and Open Space Plan.

The Comp-Plan is updated on a fairly regular basis, bit by bit, by amendments made in public meetings. The current plan, in use now, (as of January 2008) is called the '2010 Plan'. But the time has come for the entire Comp-Plan to be overhauled, and the meetings to occur "this spring" are a way for anyone to get involved, and see what's on the slate.

Here's hoping that this blog can be a place where residents can post ideas, find some answers, and openly voice their opinions. Maybe even without the "hide-and-go-seek" mentality. A bulletin board would be helpful, so you can post community happenings, and what about some local free classified ads?

In the next week or so, Historic Varina will start to post links that will make the public information concerning the current '2010 Plan' and the '2026 Plan (draft)' documents available in one more place. Here. Starting with a series of links in the column to the right, which will each take you directly to Henrico County Planning documents available online through their website.

The County has provided a handy list of frequently asked questions, which explain just what the Comprehensive Plan is. Under that there is a link to save, and check out regularly, to see when the Spring meetings regarding the Comp-Plan are. Following that are a series of links to the current 2010 Plan Land Use Map and Major Thoroughfare Plan Map, which can be compared to the 2026 "draft" versions available below each. Looking at the differences between these plans will give some idea the changes Henrico County has in mind for Varina.

Then, maybe, some open discussions will take place here, prior to the Comp-Plan meetings, and hopefully more and more residents will get an idea of how it works, and what kind of input you can have.

So whether "Olly-Olly" found its start in the English: oyez-oyez, or the Norman: allez-allez, isn't really the question anymore, is it? What it all comes down to now is:

"Come out, come out, where-ever you are ! ! !"

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Good Day, Varina!

Today, February 2nd, 2008, a new blog was born. Hatched of concern by a small but rugged band of Varina residents, hosted by H. Cornhill, we hope you'll all join in lend your opinions, and an ear.

May we rely on you to take the the baton, and pass it on? Pass it on frequently, and with enthusiasm, because you're all we have to rely on, this the first day of our existence. We worried, we looked up a couple of links we thought pertinent, and here we are!

We're also looking for stories from the trenches, tales of those whom any of you may seen in action, "Preserving Varina'. Got a neighbor who loves history, forests or farmland? Is your babysitter an eco-activist? Let us know.

We're proud to be Varina's very first Community Blog, and if someone has beaten us to the punch, and we couldn't find them, then we're just as proud to be number two. So, come on down! (While there is still a "down" to come to), and tell us how you feel, good or bad, or even ugly. We're braced and ready for the onslaught.

Oh yeah, and Happy Birthday to Us!

Friday, February 1, 2008


updated January 12, 2009
ome fair readers may have heard of "The Southern Literary Messenger", the waggish seat of literary magistry printing pressed in Richmond, that graced Virginia and the United States with its flowery prose and canted attitudes. But would you believe this text calling for historic preservation in Virginia was written in 1857?

Strangely prescient, the preface to an unsigned submission on Henrico and her history touches on an issue unchanged by the passage of over 150 years. Linking the need for historic preservation to Henrico is a longstanding past-time, undertaken by historians and authors through the ages. Douglas Southall Freeman did his part to ensure many a battlefield was marked, and we at HV include history among the many concerns passed over by Henrico County's current Comprehensive Planning process.

Sent in by a reader still concerned about what we have to lose in Henrico, the above work shows while Yorktown and Jamestown have become internationally known
destinations for tourists and scholars alike, our historic and beautiful county has gone mostly unpreserved- our historic sites and agricultural heritage remain unprotected.

"The Southern Literary Messenger was the most important periodical published in the South and, in spite of occasional troubles, one of the most successful. It was for this magazine that Poe first launched what was to be a lifelong career as an editor and magazinist." (learn more)

The issue of the Southern Literary Messenger that included the Henrico piece above also published Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Raven'...We need not add to Shakespeare's allusion aptly emplyed by the Messenger to depict the ravages man and nature continue to wreak on


" Ingratitude is monstrous; and for the multitude to be ungrateful, were to make a monster of the multitude."—SHAKESPEARE.

"Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's Ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude."



Join the Celebration of Poe's 200th Birthday this week in libraries, darkened garrets, dingy shothouses and cold gutters all over the world by checking out the
"The Edgar Allan Poe Bicentennial" blog- celebrating 200 Years of Poe's Life & Work, and featuring specific events in Richmond and Petersburg, and including
(The stamp should be available in your local Poe-st Office by January 16th.) awful poe-st

Historic + Rural Character is under construction, check back soon...


As some readers have already written in, questioning the blog "sign in" protocol, here's a gentle aid to "new" bloggers. This blog has been designed to be "Open Access", so there is no need to "join", unless of course you want to! If you have a Blogger/Google, AOL/Aim, TypeKey, or WordPad i.d., then you've done this before, just log in!

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It might take a little time for your comments to hit the page, but when they do they'll appear in the footing under each published post- as "O COMMENTS" (like right now), or "57 COMMENTS". So when you see that smaller text, giving the number of comments for each separate post, click on that and a new window with the comments in order received will appear for you to read or to post your own.

If you have any problems, please remember that it is important to follow the instructions above in the order given. Clicking to sign a comment before you have completed writing it
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Readers can use 'COMMENTS' at the end of each post to write back and forth among each other too. "Subscribing" to a blog, so that you receive email notification of new posts or comments is as easy as following the directions found here:

This does call for a Google/Blogger acct, which is as free and anonymous as a gmail account is! You will never be asked for your name or home address, and the email address you give as backup will not be made public.

And, of course, if you have any problems or questions, send an email to the address listed in 'host profile' at top left of page.

If you want to email us anything concerning Varina: culture, history, community events you'd like posted, photographs... a link to an article you read and would like brought up for discussion, we welcome it all! This is also an open call to nominate any Varina residents or groups who have been witnessed in the action of 'Preserving Varina'.

Encouraging community participation is the whole idea

Happy Blogging, and thanks again for joining in!


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. . . . . ________________________ . . . . .

scroll down for map and meeting dates and times
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Henrico County is hosting public meetings this month, (May) to answer residents questions about Henrico County's 2026 Comprehensive Plan 'draft'. Once the final draft is approved by the Board of Supervisors, it will be the guide for decisions concerning development for the next eighteen years.


Do not leave without doing this, because
this is your chance to let Henrico officals know what you think.
You should tell them that strict conservation guidelines are needed to protect
our Open-Space, Watershed, Agricultural Land Use,
Wildlife Habitats, and Historic Sites and Structures..
(for starters..)

and that GreenSpace Planning, and additional Public Parks are among the
subjects overlooked in the current 2026 Plan 'draft'.

These meetings are apparently "open-house" format, so if you cannot arrive by 4:30 p.m., PLEASE STILL ATTEND. If you can;t go on the 22nd, visit another meeting instead.

The 2026 Plan 'draft' has been given little media coverage, and yet holds at its core, plans which if put to use in their current form, will leave Varina looking much like Short Pump, which also used to be rural-residential in nature. Now besieged by grid-lock, and vastly commercialized, Short Pump is obviously not the ideal pattern for the future development of Varina.

Yet, the 2026 Plan 'draft' sets guidelines for just that- THE URBANIZATION OF VARINA. All Henrico residents are encouraged to voice their concern about these plans, and to give input for more appropriate guidelines for our future.

The 2026 Plan "Land Use Plan" draft now available suggests URBAN DEVELOPMENT of UNDEFINED DENSITY in many parts of Varina. The result of these plans would be that many current residential areas in Varina would transition directly from rural residential to HIGH-DENSITY URBAN.

Everyone likes convenience, but did you buy your home to have a "big box store" like Target, or Lowes, a major grocery store, or multi-story office building ON YOUR BLOCK? New "Land Use Designations" in the 2026 Land Use Plan suggest that many current neighborhoods be ELIGIBLE for re-zoning to include commercial uses, thus your neighborhood could BECOME the "infrastructure" for future subdivisions.

Do you think that multi-million dollar 'conservation subdivisions' will will be centered around the latest convenience store or 'big box' store? That might be a little hard to market... no, instead Henrico County will instead include commercial uses within areas which are currently solely residential. This could impact your neighborhood. Just think, residents of future subdivisions could stop on the way home at the 7-11 now conveniently located on your residential street!

Several proposed land-use designation changes in the 2026 draft suggest just that. Look at the color on the 2026 Land Use Map and key, and find your neighborhood. See if your area falls under one of these new designations:

"SMX" (Suburban Mixed Use): "...a minimum of 10% of the area should be dedicated to non- residential uses and must contain both open space/recreation and office or service/commercial uses."

"TND" (Traditional Neighborhood Development): "...A minimum of 30% of the land area should be dedicated to non-residential uses and must include both recreational spaces, and office or service/commercial uses. Multi-story buildings with a vertical mix of uses would be encouraged in TNDs."

"UMU" (Urban Mixed-Use):"...Urban Mixed-Use Areas are characterized by mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented, activity centers which may contain a variety of uses, including business, office, multi-family residential, cultural, educational, open space, and other public and private uses, with a planned balance among the various uses."

The above descriptions are not complete, but only excerpts from a just a few of the new land use designations. The Comprehensive Plan FAQ does point out that the plan cannot change the zoning of your property. But in many areas it can and does SUGGEST rezoning your property. Sure, walkable, pedestrian friendly neighborhoods sound convenient- but imagine the incoming traffic... and where will those sidewalks come from? Off of your street frontage and out of your tax dollars, which are bound to rise as a result of the current draft of this plan.

We, as a group of concerned residents, are not against "smart growth". And sure, we could all be called "nimby" (not-in-my-back-yard)- because who in their right mind buys a home in Varina to have the latest grocery or convenience store, office park or medical center built on their block? Shouldn't 'smart growth' allow the new infrastructure needed to support future development to be planned within the newly developing areas?

Infrastructure certainly is necessary all the new residents Henrico expects to be built in Varina, but ugliness, intense traffic, and higher crime can be avoided by keeping public and commercial uses out of neighborhoods. New commercial ventures should be kept to new developments, instead of infiltrating current residential areas, which are already dense as it is.

Because interest and vigor for historic, cultural, environmental and agricultural pursuits exist, and because tth Varina lands in which these pursuits find their basis are under increasing developmental pressure- citizens, the Planning Commission, and Board of Supervisors need to devise strategies to protect and enhance Henrico County's remaining resources in Varina:

Implement Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) and Transfer of Developmental Rights programs, which will offer Varina landowners a way to protect their farmed and forested lands. (It has been more than five years since our Board of Supervisors met with local Sierra Club members who turned in petitions including more than 600 signatures asking for such programs to be implemented. These were signed by Henrico residents gravely concerned about the pressure on and loss of farmland IN VARINA. Why have residents not seen the results of these requests and meetings since?)

Pursue all avenues of local, state, federal funding to purchase conservation easements or design incentives to preserve the agricultural potential on farms.

Encouraging residents to
grow, eat and buy locally grown foods supports community farmers, creates jobs and preserves farmland. It also cuts down on fuel consumption and pollution that are a result of interstate trucking of produce. There has been a national "eat local" movement for some time, emphasizing the benefits of consuming food grown close by. Henrico needs to catch up by promoting the development of a sustainable community food system.

Varina's local nursery owners need to be supported via planning as the valuable asset they are to our local economy.

Varina has the largest amount of open space and undisturbed natural areas, many of which harbor plant and animal species that do not exist elsewhere. Immediate planning is needed to preserve remaining forests, and currently existing natural wildlife habitats.

The comprehensive plan should preserve and support Varina as the nationally known birdwatching destination that it is. Without proper buffering, our bird population will decline annually.

The 2026 "Major Thoroughfare Plan" draft includes many additional proposed roads, some of which lead 'nowhere', separating currently farmed tracts, which would make it difficult for farmers to negotiate heavy machinery across farmed land.

The draft chapters contain no planning for green infrastructure, or additional park lands. As a result, Varina could very quickly lose what is left of its rural character. Varina's population is going to grow, and the increasing density is going to put pressure on park space. Creating new park lands could be a "win win" for the environment if economically developed to incorporate ideas that support agricultural and history based tourism.

Distinct historic preservation ordinances need to be created to protect Henrico County's severely dwindling historic sites and structures.

Serious preservation planning attention needs to be given what can still be saved of Varina's 'Elko Tract'- an internationally known botanical resource.

Henrico needs to join the national 'Cool Cities,'Cool Counties' initiative, and sign the Cool Counties Climate Stabilization Declaration, a major new initiative to combat global warming.

As the magisterial district with the greatest James River frontage, it is imperative that plans be put into place to protect our already severely damaged watershed.

Ordinances requiring the use of pervious concrete instead of asphalt are necessary to aid in preventing further run-off from polluting the creeks, streams, river and bay. (It has been scientifically shown that bald-eagles will not nest within a certain distance of impervious surfaces. Let's not 'build them out' of our district!)

Strong tree canopy ordinances need to be written so that our grandchildren and those who come after them will still have clean air to breath. A public tree planting program needs to be created to aid in this result.

Residents in Varina can still see the stars at night. To make sure this continues, strict lighting ordinances need to be created, requiring down-turned outdoor lighting only.

And most important of all, SERIOUS planning and ACTIVE WORK are OBVIOUSLY needed in our Varina School System. How can the future residents predicted in the 2026 demand and capacity analysis studies of the 2026 Plan (draft) even consider moving here with schools the way they are? Managing existing schools needs to be a prime focus.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
It is important that residents attend the Comprehensive Planning meeting in May. Tell your neighbors and other Varina residents, so they can get involved too.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Look in the column to the right, under the heading entitled 'PLEASE REVIEW THE HENRICO COMPREHENSIVE PLANNING LINKS BELOW, THE FUTURE OF VARINA DEPENDS ON IT'. There are links to the Land-Use and Major-Thoroughfare plans. The plan currently in use (called the 2010 Plan), as well as links to to the 2026 Plan (draft). Compare the two and look at your neighborhood, and see how you will be affected.

Ask yourself, do you want to live in a high-density district, in a pro-development county? Because this is what the 2026 Plan suggests and endorses. No matter how "general" or "loose" a set of guidelines Henrico repeatedly describes the Comprehensive Plan as, once passed, the plan in its current form would provide an open door for the URBANIZATION of Varina.

Take a drive through Short Pump and ask yourself, is this what you want Varina to look like? Do you feel that the decisions the county is making represent your hopes for Varina's future?

And finally, ask yourself: 'do you want Varina
to become an URBAN ENVIRONMENT?'

Henrico County Varina District 2026 Plan Comprehensive Planning Comp Plan Rural Farm Farming Forest Watershed History Brookland Fairfield Three Chopt Tuckahoe Supervisors Board Meetings Land-Use Major Thoroughfare 23075 23150 23231 23223