Thursday, June 11, 2009

Henrico 2026 Vision Plan needs Revision- say residents representing all districts

The current Comp Plan draft will endanger your health, raise your taxes, and destroy the environment...

In considering whether to adopt this draft, the Henrico County Supervisors hold your future health, morals, safety, and welfare in their hands, and you do too.

See what local residents are doing, and find out how you can help. The Board of Supervisors will hold a "work session" on July 14th, and then vote on adopting the plan in August, when most people are on vacation.

Frank Thornton, Richard Glover, David Kaechele, Patricia O'Bannon, and Jim Donati could easily be called "career politicians". The word "entrenched" has been used plenty about them. They've been Henrico County, Virginia's Supervisors for longer, it is said, than any other BOS in the United States. Few doubt Henrico is fiscally managed by pros, the AAA Fitch ratings reflect that. But not everything is about economic development, and the county won't "die" if it desn't keep growing, as one Homebuilder's Association rep said in the TD last week. The common sense view concerning just what sound growth policy amounts to has been questioned for some time now. That they've run amok and need to be checked is the word on the street among conservatives and liberals alike.

Considering the current draft of the county Comprehensive Plan, many say the Supervisors, Planning Commission, and Planning Department are "stuck in the past." Official Statistics show that rampant growth in Central Virginia has now passed Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads in land consumption. Folks around here watch in horror as a 1980's style high-growth Comprehensive Plan, throwing open the gate for more sprawl and pollution moves closer and closer to being adopted.

This ain't the 80's anymore, last time we checked. Things have changed, the economy has gone way south, hundreds of homes sit vacant, motgages are harder to get and people care more about the planet, thank the Lord- you're welcome Mother Nature. But Henrico's government still seems seized with the need for more- like "there aint no stoppin' us now".

The most important things we can say about the Comp Plan are:

None of us here are against change- at all.

All of us expect it. Well, some change. But as taxpayers we insist on the balanced and educated governance necessary to foster and ensure a safe and healthy amount of growth.

None of us want to "stop all development".
Development will happen. But those who spoke drove home the fact that the county's own statistic, that there has already been enough development approved to meet projected population changes up to and through the year 2026, is enough to show that. Enough housing already sits either unfinished, unsold, or foreclosed on already. Enough. Let's manage that. One obvious way to do that would be to set it up so Henrico remains a desirable place to live.

And best for last: None of us here want any farmer not to be able to sell their land, or "cash in their 401k" as some are calling their acreage.

That is their right. Zoning is in place in currently farmed areas to allow for residential development, and if you own farmland or any land and want to sell it, whoever buys it can apply to raise the residential capacity from there.

This is why the Zoning Process is in place. To allow the residents their own voice in our democratic process. Anyone who owns or buys land can apply to re-zone it. Again, that is why that process is in place, so that developers can apply- and it seems to work pretty well that way in their favor here, but this is supposed to give residents a chance to weigh in- instead of the Supervisors or Planning Commission deciding for them what will happen in their community (like this draft is doing.)

But there's no reason to pimp that land out to be raped of its resources. Henrico sits on both the James and Chickahominy Rivers, and their watersheds and forests should be each of our responsibilities to preserve for future generations.

Henrico farmland defended
Henrico farmer Steve Gallmeyer eloquently defended the need for both green-space and retaining Prime Agriculture as a Land-Use designation in the 2026 Plan. He also spoke of the need for Supervisors to support PDR/TDR Programs (Purchase or Transfer of Developmental Rights) now in place as nearby as Goochland and New Kent. Although Supervisors have received countywide requests for these programs for over ten years, they have never been adopted. Gallmeyer's family farms produce- sold at their stands locally, and also raises grain.

Our elected officials and the county staff whose salaries our tax dollars go to pay are supposed to serve the public. Foremost among their concerns should be our and health and safety. Guarding the health and safety of those of us who already live here. This plan does not support that. Period. It's obviously slanted to the tipping point to favor developers- instead of representing the current taxpaying residents who live here.

Serious traffic congestion, crime, wildlife habitat loss, dwindling farms, and a polluted watershed are becoming hallmarks of Henrico County- an area that still has a chance to make a turn-around and opt for a cleaner, greener future. Students attend school in trailers, are encouraged not to walk to school, and are shot and killed in their neighborhoods. Law enforcement is working harder and harder to keep up with more and more violent crime.

Any more of this and it will be very difficult to keep marketing all of those empty and fore-closed McMansions and un-sold tract homes as being located in "safe and beautiful communities " with "great schools".

Each Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission Meeting usually includes some award giving and back patting for all of the different reasons Henrico is "excellent", but look at the issues above and tell us that they have not been ongoing issues for years now.

Locals from across the entire county had their last chance on Tuesday night to speak publicly about the plan now under consideration by Henrico's BOS, who have certainly not stopped our county from receiving the recent dismal marks given for our local air quality. Something needs to be done to better these leaders records.

Water-rationing has become a regular occurrence here, strangely still not considered as a lacking resource in the projected population growth. Many aging communities are found without proper support services in Henrico. Transportation is more and more focused on multiple vehicle trips, and multi-car families- without our serious lack of mass transit opportunities being addressed in this plan. All of that aside, the general focus of county leaders still remains on growth. More, bigger, newer, better- build build build.

Looking at this meeting online, is it any surprise that out of the thirty-some folks from across Henrico who spoke about the Plan Draft, by far- most were against it and requested changes?

Logical, well researched presentations were heard from college student and senior citizens alike. Three doctors spoke Tuesday night about the low air quality and lack of safe outdoor activity available to local children. Lawyers and land-use professionals focusing on the ramifications of the plan spoke about their grave concerns for the future of Henrico if this draft is adopted.

Sure there were a handful of people who probably got put up to saying how great the plan was- or how residents are responsible for preserving the character of their own communities themselves- even Henrico County Employees got up and touted the merits of the plan!

A supervisor even told one gentlemean who spoke for the need of "safe-zones around schools" that the County does not encourage children walking to school! Liability anyone?

This is probably why they recently came out with "Henrico does not support crossing Broad Street on foot. Or that flak about not wanting to spend money cleaning up park trails because Henrico doesn't encourage people to ride their bikes (liability again)...

Also attending to speak were residents of Short Pump (who spoke of their sadness at what it has become), historians and preservationists (some were citizens appointed to county boards and committees), a UofR student who won our hearts pointed out (among many other well thought out points) that sprawl is destructive to our rivers...

Residents who said they have been working on this for decades to keep Henrico safe and beautiful; farmers, residents, and cyclists who want--- Well Hell- see for your own selves- a link to the new-fangled streaming video is here for you to see these people in action.


Click here and pull the video slider to the 38 minute mark to see an update from the Planning Department on where the 2026 Plan Draft now stands.

That runs until the 1 hour and 1 minute mark. 1:01 is where the public comments begin. The meeting which began at 7, got to the public comments on the plan at about 8, and ran long- until after 11.

All of the public comments were and are worth watching, and a modern convenience to see from the homestead. We urge you to look at all the whole thing, but


One of our county's most highly praised and award winning journalists, who is a professor in critical thinking and critical writing, Nicole Anderson-Ellis, who has studied and reviewed the Plan in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Style Magazine throughout its draft changes, reviewed the Plan as she would an assignment, and gave her best suggestions for the health, morals, safety, and welfare of our county's residents. Her review would be difficult to refute in any way.

So why would these people from all walks of life, from all parts of the county come out in foul weather, to stay late on a weeknight to give their grave concerns over Henrico Governement's "vision" for our future? Because for their various reasons, most of them well founded, they all care deeply about where they live.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

What can you do?

Please take the time to communicate with Henrico's Board of Supervisors that changes need to be made before this plan is adopted. Ask them to pause and re-draft this plan. None of us want to live our lives waiting in traffic, pay to foot the bill for further sprawl, or be endangered by ecological imbalances that can be avoided.

1. Protect your home:
Is the county planning to run a road through your property? Read the draft 2026 Comprehensive Plan. Especially check your property on the Land Use and Major Thoroughfare Maps.
This information is on file at county libraries and on-line:

2. Tell at least two neighbors

3. Contact the Board of Supervisors:

Board of Supervisors
Henrico County, VA
P. O. Box 90775
Henrico, VA 23273-0775

Phone: (804) 501-4206
Fax: (804) 501-5361

with suggestions including:

* More resources for established neighborhoods, fewer new tax-draining subdivisions

* Keep "Prime Agricultural" on the map ("Rural Residential" is not the same)

* Put new construction on in-fill land to protect our rivers, streams, and wetlands

* More bike and pedestrian transportation choices

* Encourage tourism; preserve valuable historic/scenic/agricultural resources

* Listen to the citizens' overwhelming mandate to protect rural landscapes

* Find more information
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Further Reading

Style Magazine:
Neighbors in Waiting
by Peter Galuszka


Henrico board to hold public hearing for vision plan
by Laura Geller Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Varina residents urge that growth be wise

by Katherine Calos

Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Land Use: To Pave or Save Henrico's Farmland?
by Nicole Anderson-Ellis
Draft Plan 2026- Henrico County
by Sam Perry

Bacon's Rebellion:
Land Use Planning from the Bottom Up

by Charley Finley

All excellent journalism- great job everyone,
thank you all so much.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Monday, June 8, 2009

Henrico Comp Plan coverage- Turn on WWBT12 News at 6 Tonight- Last Public Hearing on the 2026 Plan tomorrow at 7pm

Finally, the LAST "Public Hearing" on Henrico's 2026 Comprehensive Plan will be held tomorrow night at 7pm at the Western Henrico Government Complex Board Room. If you care about Henrico's future, pollution, the watershed, or local green-space, you should attend.

The only time your voice doesn't count is when you don't use it.

In a brief teaser for their related story on tonight's news at 6pm, local television Channel 12 called the Comp Plan a "work in progress". So that means there's still room for change, right?

12 also let slip that Henrico County Planning Department Director Ralph Emerson "doesn't own a crystal ball- or his job would be a lot easier." Instead of this, the news is Emerson and his department use "current densities", "land use patterns" and "look at infrastructure." These factors show planners that "more people in one area" will drive the need for retail and service support there. If H.C. Planning also included Henrico residents suggestions they wouldn't need a gypsy fortune-teller. Try taking the public temperature- or listening to the taxpayers you represent- anyone? Hello?

We see where "more people" live and say: concentrate the building there, please. Some building will occur county-wide, but it's been noted that there are enough projects on the books now to more than accommodate any projected residential growth in Henrico until 2026.

Want to learn more about what hangs in the balance if you don't get involved? The Virginia Conservation Network has provided a neat bulleted list to get you up to speed.

Channel 12's story at 6pm tonight is said to include coverage of both sides of the story. And why would there be more than one side? Because developers and those who support that industry remaining unchecked like to portray anyone concerned about Henrico's environmental future as "Anti-Development". It just aint so. None of us at HV have ever heard anyone in any of the county meetings we've attended say "all development must stop", only that it needs to be done with a sensitive vision for the sake our future.

Coincidentally, the current Comprehensive Plan in Henrico has been titled "Vision 2026". We're still asking readers to encourage our elected leaders to open their eyes and include the vision of the people who live here.

H.C. Planning may not have a crystal ball, but it shouldn't take hearing aids to include the the repeated requests of residents who have worked hard during the entire Comprehensive Planning process in their attempts to educate county planners and leaders about the need for green planning- still conspicuously lacking in the plan as it now stands. Discounted as ignorant farmers or crazy tree huggers, those who share our green vision for Henrico couldn't be further just that. e're just a bunch of tax-payers who care about nature, and want to be ensured it'll last a lot longer than the next latte in a styrofoam cup.

Reader responses to pro-green journalism and editorial coverage of the 20206 Vision has continued to become more rabid of late. Snarling readers have attacked the last couple of environmentally concerned media bits, calling Envision Henrico members and others concerned about the future of Henrico's last remaining green-spaces and watersheds a handful of pretty creative names.

Angered tree-haters providing write-in commentary have called locals concerned about Henrico's environmental future "idiot", "anti-growth crazies", "living-in-the-19th-Century cronies", "anti-growth-zealots", "hicks" and "eco-nit-wits" among other hilarious names.

Similarly extreme comments that make poor rebuttals have also been posted locally, like: "Henrico officials realize that progress has to happen or the county will die." Die? My my... are we in that much trouble? Funny- we keep reading about Henrico's AAA Fitch ratings. So we have to sell out our remaining green-space to bail the county out of the hole? News to us.

As for the name calling, when the residents who show up at meetings on the Comp Plan include concerned and educated professionals in the fields of forestry, conservation, education, and the like, it becomes apparent that anyone responding so negatively in the local media is either a developer or has invested in the plan to tarmac the remainder of the county.

So how come no-one who hates the environment or local history ever shows up in person to holler this stuff at any of the public meetings provided for this purpose? Maybe it's the same reason that the yellow game piece is usually the last color to be chosen.

Now watch the news at 6 tonight on Channel 12.. and think about what which green matters to you in Henrico- it is the green that lines the pockets of developmental concerns, or the green that will provide clean air and water for future generations?

Encourage your friends and neighbors to attend this one last meeting tomorrow, Tuesday June 9th at 7pm at the Western Government Center Board Room on Parham Road, and make your voice count.

Get involved and read more here:

Richmond Times Dispatch: LAND USE: To Pave or Save Henrico’s Farmland?
by Nicole Anderson-Ellis

Bacon's Rebellion: Land Use Planning from the Bottom Up
by Charley Finley

and the latest effort of a locally based Green-Building professional we can all get behind

Green Modern Kits : Why We Not Only Need To Have Prime Agricultural Zoning,
But Need To Viligantly Protect It

by Copeland Casati