Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Land Use Meeting Chaos

Presiding at his first meeting, as chair of the Land Use, Housing, and Transportation committee [formerly chaired by now-Council President Kathy Graziano (4th)], Mr. Doug Conner [9th] called the meeting to order at 4:13 PM. Also present were fellow committee members Mr. Charles Samuels [2nd] and Mrs. Ellen Robertson [6th]. Mr. Bruce Tyler [1st] came in at 4:20 PM and Mr. Chris Hilbert [3rd] joined the meeting at 4:47 PM. Meeting end time, 5:11 PM.

Public Comment

I offered the only public comment at the beginning of the meeting. I suggested that Mr. Conner follow the agenda which has the public comment period before the approval of minutes. Just before my comment the committee had adopted the minutes from the previous meeting.  The purpose being that would give the public an opportunity to offer changes or corrections to minutes before they are approved. Secondly, I requested that the agenda be made available several days in advance in order that the public have the opportunity to know what business would be before the Committee.  For Tuesday's meeting the agenda was not prepared until 2 hours before the meeting.

The meeting lasted just less than an hour and was marred by disorganization, confusion, and procedural wrangling. No other reporters were present at the meeting. Starting with an agenda of 17 items, two were withdrawn by the Jones administration, Ord. 2008-258 and Ord. 2008-259, which had been sponsored by Mayor Wilder. These ordinances sought to create a new Department of Permits & Inspections and to reclassify the Commissioner of Buildings [currently Mr. Arthur "Art" Dahlberg] as an agency head. Ten other items on the agenda were continued until next month's committee meeting.

The remaining agenda consisted of:

Ord. 2008-265 directs the Planning Commission to consider amendments to the Downtown Master Plan. During this discussion, Mrs. Robertson asked about former Tarmac property along the river front and wanted to ensure it had been designated as a development area. Mr. Brooke Hardin, Deputy Director of Community Development, confirmed that had been clarified on page 4.48 of the Master Plan. Mr. Hardin said the development standards would be similar to the standards developed for the New Market site. New Market is the parent company of Afton Chemical, formerly the Ethyl Corporation (which specialized in fuel additives). New Market owns the large white mansion style building, located at 3rd and E. Byrd Streets, just above Tredegar Iron Works on the site of Gimbles Hill Park, a former city park. Mr. Tyler asked about page 4.63 pertaining to the preservation of the Main Street Station site, and in particular the Lumpkins Jail site. He requested that a drawing that accompanies the section be changed to indicate that the area is not a development site. This property is owned by the city. A motion was made my Mrs. Robertson to declare the Lumpkins Jail site a historic site where development would not be allowed.

Ord. 2008-312
requires the mayor's administration to submit within 2 weeks of the ordinance's passage detailed criteria used by the city to determine when trees on city property or the public right of way shall be cut down and provides an exemption from the moratorium on tree cutting, and directs the Director of Public Works to "remove City-owned trees located within the four medians on Kingcrest Parkway, bordered by Antrim Avenue on the east and Willetta Drive on the west."

Ord. 2009-1 transfers the granting of permission to cut down city trees from the Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities to the Director of Public Works;

Ord. 2009-2 enters the City of Richmond into a Maintenance Agreement with the Woodlawn/Kingcrest Association which authorizes the Association to maintain, prune, trim, remove, and plant new trees on the four medians along Kingcrest Parkway. All costs of maintance shall be born by the Association, with the notable exception of Ord. 2008-312 above where the initial removal of trees shall be performed by and paid for by the City.

Ord. 2009-3
accepts $167,298 from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to "further establish the multi-modal transportation center at the Main Street Station facility."

Although Ord. 2008-235 was continued until next month's meeting, several citizens (4 or 5) were present and wished to comment but were denied from doing so because the paper had been continued until the next meeting. This ordinance would grant a special use permit for 107 South Colonial Avenue which would allow a new multi-family dwelling of no more than four units. The applicants for the special use permit are Mr. Paul Spears of Richmond Enterprises, LLC and local architect, Mr. Michael Pellis.

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