Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Oakwood Heights discussed at Richmond City Council February 23, 2009

Richmond, Virginia City Council meeting of Feb. 23, 2009. The topic of debate in this video was whether or not Council should override the Commission of Architectural Review's [CAR] denial of a "Certificate of Appropriateness" because of concerns with "massing" of a 33 unit condominium, known as Oakwood Heights, located at the end of East Broad Street in the Chimborazo Old and Historic District.

Here is a full record of the Council's discussion. At this meeting, Council President Graziano made the unusual request to suspend Council's Rules of Procedure, which normally allow 30 minutes for each side and allow citizens to be heard. There were many people to speak in support of upholding CAR's decision that were denied an opportunity to speak because President Graziano proposed setting a 15 minute time limit for each side.

Jim Hill, Richmond Department of Community Development and Secretary of the Commission of Architectural Review, began the discussion by reporting the conclusions of the Commission and the recommendations from city staff. Mr. Hill was peppered by questions from Council members throughout his presentation.

At [14:00] minutes, Mary Hunton, member of the Commission of Architectural Review [CAR], spoke and responded to questions from Council members. At [28:30] minutes Vice-Chair of CAR, Mimi Saddler, offered additional comments.

Comments in Support of Condominium Development

At [32:00] minutes, attorney Andy Condlin from Williams Mullen spoke on behalf of the developer, Margaret Freund of Fulton Hill Properties. Margaret Freund spoke on her own behalf beginning at [39:00] minutes, and followed by Rebecca Aarons-Sydnor, a green building consultant at [45:00] minutes.

Comments in Opposition to Condominium Development as proposed

James Thorsen representing Neighbors for Compatible Development began at 48:30 minutes, followed by Mastine Braswell, a 51 year resident of the neighborhood [52:42].
Bo Fairlamb, a former resident of the neighborhood and licensed architect, presented scale models of his house and of the Oakwood Heights Condominiums. David Herring, Director of the Alliance to Conserve Old Richmond Neighborhoods [ACORN] spoke [56:15], followed by Evelyn McCargo [58:40]. Comments from Deanna Lewis [59:30], John Johnson, President of Church Association [1:00:50], Kristen Hughes [1:02:18], and Mary Jane Massett Hogge finished the off the shortened 15 minute period afforded for citizen comments.

City Council "discussion" wrapped up with a question from Bruce Tyler [1:03:40] to President Graziano, Doug Conner in support [1:04:30], Reva Trammell [1:05:45] said she wanted a two week continuance and more discussion between the developer and the neighbors, Marty Jewell [1:07:45] said, "This is a tough one" then seemed to argue in support by said that the property was at the extreme end of the Historic District,

Council overrode CAR's recommendation on this matter by a vote of 8 with 1 abstention; Reva Trammell.

The same time limitation was applied to another matter considered that night, the installation of a salvaged cast iron fence and period style brackets above the front door at the home of Walter and Jennie Dotts, which CAR disapproved of because of concerns with "false historicism." Council also overrode CAR's recommendation on this matter by a vote of 8 to 1, Hilbert dissenting.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Charter Review Commission Seeking Public Input

The Charter Review Commission is making an effort to get public input. Early on the commission decided that it's duty was merely to clean up the Charter's language and clear up ambiguities in the roles of Council and the Mayor. It's function was not to change the form of government.

View the Charter Review Commission's website

The Commission is chaired by John Douglass, non-resident of Richmond and Dean of the Law School at the University of Richmond who was selected by Commissions eight other members. Mayor Wilder appointed former state Senator Benjamin J. Lambert, Ms. Jeannie Baliles (wife of former Virginia Governor Gerald Baliles and mother of Wilder press office staffer, Jonathan Baliles), Ms. Jacqueline G. Epps (Lawyer at Morris & Morris, appointed by Gov. Wilder to head the Virginia Retirement System 1990-1994, former board member of Richmond Renaissance), and Dr. Robert Holsworth (former Dean of VCU School of the Humanities, who resigned during the investigation in to Police Chief Rodney Monroe's degree, and my Political Science 101 professor at VCU in 1991. )

City Council appointed Mr. Orran L. Brown, a lawyer, Mr. Frederick Marsh, a lawyer who represented City of Richmond School Board in suits involving Mayor Wilder, Dr. John Moeser, a professor, and Mr. John Thompson, another lawyer and former member of Richmond City Council.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Information about Betty L. Squire, Council's selection for 7th District

Below are reprinted my reply's on Church Hill People's News post entitled "Council goes for Squire?"

February 4, 2009 8:02 pm

Here are the materials submitted by Mrs. Squire to the City Council.

If anyone one is interested in seeing the same materials submitted by another candidate please let me know which candidate and I’ll upload it as soon as I can. This material was publicly available at this past Monday’s Organizational Development meeting (02/02/2009) before they went into closed session.

The best thing about Mrs. Squire is her forthrightness in her application about not wanting to run for election. She wrote, “I have no intention to run. I believe that the ‘appointee’ should serve for a specified period of time only. After that time, I feel that the citizens should be able to elect a person of their choice to fill the remainder of the unexpired term.”

February 4, 2009 8:12 pm

What this whole exercise demonstrates is the Council’s comfort with conducting business behind closed doors because they feel they are acting in the citizens’ best interests. Talking to Council members before the meeting it became apparent that a few of the members don’t seem understand the important concept of “Open and Transparent Government.”

Watch the video here.

This should serve as a warning to citizens and motivate us to criticize how Richmond City Council conducts its business.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Upcoming Meetings

On Wednesday, Feb. 4, from 6 - 8 p.m. RRHA will hold its final public master planning meeting for the revitalization of Dove Street (formerly Dove Court). Mayor Jones, Councilwoman Robertson, Councilman Samuels, and Executive Director of RRHA Anthony Scott will be in attendance. The meeting will be held at Overby-Sheppard Elementary School located at 2300 First Avenue.

The Charter Review Commission will hold its fifth meeting since its inception, Thursday, February 5, 2009 from 9:30-11:00 a.m. in the Large Conference Room on the 2nd Floor of City Hall.

On Monday Feb. 9, City Council will hold its Informal Session at 3 p.m. and its Formal Session starting at 6 p.m. Both meetings will be held in Council Chambers on the 2nd Floor of City Hall. The agenda is available here.

On Wednesday Feb. 11, the Public Safety Committee chaired by Councilwoman Reva Trammell will be held at the Richmond Police Academy near Virginia Union University located at 1202 W. Graham Road starting at 6 p.m.

All meetings are free and open to the public.

Monday, February 2, 2009

7th District Selection behind Closed Doors

I attended the Organizational Development committee meeting held on Feb. 2, 2009 at 4 pm. I was the only citizen and member of the media in attendance. Despite the fact that the meeting was being advertised as a closed session, Council members met openly to discuss the format to be used during the interview process.

Here's a little video I filmed before the meeting began. And yeah, I know, I said "OK" too many times. I'm new to this, so hopefully my style and content will improve with practice. I'll try to do another post tomorrow with additional information about this process and the candidates involved.