Friday, September 28, 2007

Planning Not Politics in Chesterfield?

Independent candidate for the Board of Supervisors and current Planning Commisioner for Midlothian, Dan Gecker, should send the current Board a thank you note for making his campaign point of "Planning not Politics" ring as loud as the church bells on Sunday.

The current Board this week approved the Branner Station residential community in a clear case of politics and not comprehensive planning. What screams of pure politics in this instance is the fact that the approval by the Board of Supervisors to add another five thousand homes to an ever increasing housing inventory in the midst of a slowing housing environment begs the question as to exactly what the hurry is.

In evaluating much of the project it is apparent that the project may very well be acceptable from a political perspective because it will provide the county with land for two new schools as well as provide the necessary roads and infrastructure which the county would not be able to afford to provide on its own within projected revenue budgets going forward. That said, however, I am not sure that the Bermuda District is currently an area where their needs for new schools are higher than that of other districts already experiencing overcrowding in the classrooms. Of course if the Board was to approve the 5,000 home community it would require the schools in the future, but without the community does Bermuda's current demands require the need for two more schools in the next two or three years?

The Board voted 2-1 in favor of the community with two Supervisors abstaining. The two Supervisors supporting developer HH Hunt and the project were Republicans R.M. "Dickie" King and Renny Humphrey both of which are not seeking re-election in November. Current Chairman of the Board Kelly Miller voted against the approval while Republicans Art Warren and Don Sowder abstained.

Sowder representing the Midothian District stated that he "does not knowingly vote for politcal gain or loss..I try to do what I think is the right thing for people" and yet by abstaining from this vote he did play politics and did not act in the best interests of Chesterfield. By allowing the measure to gain approval with a mere two votes, Sowder in an attempt to appease criticisms regarding the record number of development approvals by this Board going into the election. Support for other developments like Roseland and Magnolia were not to different from the Branner Station plan and those were indeed supported by virtually the entire Board.

I fail to see how this was not political. Are we to believe that HH Hunt would have wanted to wait until early next year when they would have to go before a new Board? They simply wanted to get this done with this Board before the election. It would have been in the best interests of Chesterfield had the approval been delayed for further review and not given the green light by two Supervisors who will not even be in office when the project begins.

Mr. Sowder and Mr. Warren it should be about planning and not politics and voters will be reminded that you have both put party politics above the people of Chesterfield by supporting this approval through abstaining.

Dan Gecker has it exactly right and our future needs to be about "Planning and Not Politics".

This approval also begs the question as to whether we as residents want descisions as important as these to win approval with a mere two votes. Isn't it about time we consider raising the number of Supervisors to seven from five?


Anonymous said...

so, are you also going to attack Mr. Gecker for voting in favor of the proposal when it was before the Planning Commission?

Anonymous said...

Votes to abstain after more than 3 hours of testimony are cowardly and gave no representation to the people of that particular district. I hope people wake up before Nov. 6 and elect a new board.

Anonymous said...

The fact remains that as Planning Commisioner and Chairman Gecker went on record, those that abstained did not. The Board has not always seen its way to clear consensus with the Commission, ie Roseland, Magnolia, and others. Branner Station is not the question, the question is the integrity of the leadership on the Board when addressing these issues that impact our quality of life and the education of our children. How many more of these bargain basement/no proffer deals can we withstand before services begin to be impacted?

Anonymous said...

Bargain basement??? I think the zoning challenged person that wrote the first statement should look at what has been proffered. Roesland, Branner Station, and now Magnoila ( with 30 million in roads) offer far more than the same property divided into 10 cases that offer nothing.
Dan voted for that case because he understands planning. The problem we have is too many people don't.
I hope the public gets an education between now and November.

Anonymous said...

It is obvious that the previous comment proves that the Republican supporters of the Board simply want the staus quo and keep allowing developers to control the desitny of Chesterfield. The increasing inventories as pointed out in the piece are reason enough to slow done these developments. The more homes , new ones at that, that are sitting ownerless will simply drive down property values in the longer term, examples of this is suburban Charlotte, Raleigh and to a lessor extent Atlanta. These devlopments have been pushed through government as the bequest of the developers upon an overworked and understaffed county government with regard to these zonings.
These same Republicans never seem to want to have business pay their fair share of anything. What good is it if the county is overwhelmingly pro-business at the expense of its citizens. Developers like Ryan, Centex and others come to Chesterfield because of the market but also because of the value given to them through zonings completed with no proffers or little proffers per lot they build upon. As anyone ever seen where Chesterfield ranks in terms of proffers compared to other major areas of its size? Chesterfield's just under 16K per lot is paltry compared to other areas and yet the home constrcution is about the same cost. These developments can get through without any real solution regarding the Swift Creek plan as well and the impact all of these will have on the future. Though Branner Station is further away towards courthouse, magnolia and Roseland will certainly impact the plan of Swift Creek and of course potentially the water quality.

Anonymous said...

This deviates a bit from the question at hand, but since we are talking about potential Board members, how come the Democratic Party of Chesterfield County endorses Dan Decker on its website despite the fact he left them to run as an Independent this time. Also, how come Ree Hart claiming to be a Democratic candidate, is endorsed on the Chesterfield County Dem website, but refuses to make any reference to her party affiliation on her campaign literature, signs, or her own website? Are the Dems running stealth candidates? Are the candidates running from the Dems? Is Steve Martin's lawsuit to close party primaries going to weaken the two party system and strengthen the rise of Independents?

J. Scott said...

Your comment regarding"stealth" candidates is an interesting one. Dan Gecker had run once before back in NOvember 06 as a Democrat and was appointed to the PC by Ed Barber then Midlothian Supervisor who was a Democrat as well. I am not sure if Gecker is breaking from the Democrats of Chesterfield, fact is he will need them to vote for him if he has any chance at winning in the district over Sowder, but I think it is a political tool where he can distance himslef from some of the potential blowback from national and state Democrats at least some that may have been perceived back in May. As an Independent his Planning not Politics position makes better sense coming from an Independent campaign that one from the establishment.
The first comment about gecker approval is a valid one. gecker has supported the Branner Station and in fact the development may indeed be the perfect model for the future in terms of what the county gets out of projects. I think this one pays out about 10 million more than would be garnered had it been a straight proffer scenario, I think the total money being spent is around 88 million (thats schools, parks, roads, and proffers). My point was about the vote and how if ever there was a zoning case that one should take a stand on it was this one and some abstained.

Anonymous said...

So, if the only way to fund future county infrastructure(roads, schools, parks,etc) is large scale developments with the capacity to absorb these costs, how does the county deal with all the little projects that cant absorb these costs? The currrent proffer system is a drop in the bucket and the proposed impact fees for grandfathered lots is still another drop in the bucket.

I have to ask, at what point can a conservative stand up and say, without being jeered at, that despite the "inherent evil" of taxation, aren't some things worth supporting with increased taxes?

J. Scott said...

The first area that the Board needs to address is the overly pro-business stand in terms of fees paid by business. Now I know that whenever we talk about business taxes and fees we get a good dose of the jobs scenario, but the time has come with employment stable in Chesterfield that we should be addressing passing on some burdens to business and a means of sharing the load. Business should be brought up in terms of contribution before we hit citizens. We are certainly business friendly but we should also be looking out ten years to keep up with demands of the future on services.
Is anyone questioning what will be coming with all these new larger developments?
Try and find a pre-school without a wait list? Try and find a church thats parking lot is not full and has to keep adding services, now three and four because of the numbers, what about future fire stations, libraries, and police requirements as we add twenty thousand new homes over the next ten to fifteen years? Is anyone thinking long term here with regard to impacts? Where will these people work? In Chesterfield? Or will they use the major roads which already are stressed to go into City or Henrico? How will we pay for those upgrades and upkeeps on a road system when we will not be getting funds of any significance from the State over the next five to ten years?
We will find ourselves ten years from now right back where we are now with full schools, stressed roadways and now way to get out from under being behind the curve all over again.
If we build it folks people will come!!! Then what????

J Sparks said...

Congradulations, all you will have succeeded to accomplish with this project is to turn community which is already somewhat over streched into another run down over populated area . Dickie King probably chose not to run for re-election because he would not have been re-elected any way ,shame on you all.When will you be happy ?When all of Chesterfield resembles Jeff Davis highway or Midlothian turnpike the last thing we need in Chester is another 95 access last I checked there is access at woods edge road ,very accessable. It seems Chesterfield Co leadership is more interested in what they can get than what they need,and the real questions that should be raised is whose pockets are being lined by this, or who is this really going to benefit ? I live in the Burmuda district and I will probably move to Prince George because it is obvious Chesterfilds learership does not care about its citizens