Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another Chance for Action Lost: Roseland Deffered, Again

There are many issues that face residents of Chesterfield. Some are certainly out of our control. The costs of commodities are rising and it seems everything is more expensive, save the housing market, and in the face of such times residents look for leadership if for anyhting else than a bit of confidence that on the toher side of the storm there will once again be some sunlight.

The problem is I am gradually becoming convinced that Chesterfiled is void of the leadership that is required to make hard, long-term decisions that will promtoe or advance our quality of life. I have a great deal of respect for those that seek and ultimately hold office, but there comes a time when those in office sit in disconnect form the greater society it seems and remain content in serving a segment of the community seeking the greater influence. Lets face it, during these economic times the families of Chesterfield are concerned about gas prices, jobs, transportation gridlock, and simply getting their children to and from activities, but also recognize that taxes are rising and a threat of a Democratic controlled Congress and White House looms on the horizon. There continues an apathy toward the political connect, in large part due to the failures of the past. The current Board was to represent a break or change from that past, however with countless defferments and inactions the Board is proving that the changes may prove to escape them.

There still remains an "influence" in Chesterfield that apparently is circumventing the greater good for the County. This influence has the ability and time to access officials seeking to influence policy in a way that may benefit interest. Its called lobbying in Washington, but on the local level its more of a network of loose association between industry and local government. Its the same speakers at public hearings representing interests of the business community virtually anytime there are growth, proffer or impact issues before the Board. Its in their best interest to attempt to influence or shape policy and they make it a point to schedule time to be heard before the Board. The average resident has little time for such endeavors. We all have opinions to be sure, but many of us suffering from apathetic indigestion find out time better spent with out families than spending five or six hours sitting before a Board that seem on the one hand to project the ideology of change but then on the other continaully votes the opposite ot repeatedly seeks addtional time to make determinations on issues.

I get the feeling that the passion many of these members had as candidates for office is wearing thin. There seems to be a frustration exhibited through body language and deemer during sessions the last few months as the Board has been confronted with proffer policy, the Upper Swift Creek Plan and of course the Roseland case.

The Roseland case has been examined many times and on the surface the only thing that has changed is the will of the Board to go on record and clear the development. The case was delayed more or less late last year so this Board could undertake the case given it was an election cycle year, but then the current Board deferred Roseland in April for ninety days and then this week deffered it again for another thirty. I have rarely witnessned a developer here in Chesterfield voluntarily go the the length of consideration nor work as diligently to making a case that seeks to reflect current concerns of the community and current trends of grwoth and yet the Board remains unable to take an official stand on the issue after seven months on the job.

It is my opinion this has little to do with the case and alot to do with politics. Most appear convinced the case will pass and should pass given all its considerations within the project and yet you have this little ripple of "levels of service" on the minds of many that has become 2008's hot button word like "smart growth" was in 2007. Both appear intermingled in the water quality debate standard for the Swift Creek.

You can count on this Board taking as long on the water quality issue as it has on other issues as it appears there is some lag in the interpretation of data and reality of the levels of phosphorus to creating a standard that can be supported by a majority of the Board and community. Of course you know the business community and developer community will not support a stricter standard that could impact cases they would bring before the Board for zoning. Runoff in the watershed seems to be a low priority on the radar of such interests.

It seems that the Roseland case which would be impacted by any determination made regarding the watershed is being given greater scrutiny given it is the largest planned development case ever considered in Chesterfield. My question has always been why are not all cases given the same level of scrutiny. In all fairness, how much of our tax revenues is being spent to examine and examine and re-examine this case in order to reach an outcome that has already been predicted? How much money will be spent by the County to resolve the water quality standard before it is all said and done? How many times must these measures be deffered before our local government will act?

Chances for action are being lost. We teach our children that they must make the best of chances in life and yet we have a body that continually has sought more time and the cost of County resources.

Is this the kind of "change" we all were counting on? Remember the example of the Congress after the election of 2006 and now this Board when you consider the cost of voting for "change" simply for change sake. Lets not make the same mistake gain this Fall.


Jody L. Wilcox said...

Yet again, another great post on the Alter…..
When some of the candidates ran in 2007 on the “smart growth” platform, I believe it was interpreted as “no growth” or “stop growth” by their constituents and so when developments, like those developing Roseland, come again and again before certain members of the current board, these members push to defer the approval and avoid making their “peeps” angry since approval is really the only way to go for Roseland at this point. These member(s) cannot vote for approval regardless of the constant accommodations business makes to the Board (and planning commission) so instead they defer, decide to not decide and create new and arbitrary rules to impeded development instead of looking to build a cohesive approach between business, development, citizens and the effects on the county…looking at all angles of the impact of the continued expansion of Chesterfield is really the definition of “smart growth” not one group attacking the other as the “bad” guy and then turning around an doing the opposite. The phosphorous levels seems to me just an arbitrary mandate that has no real significant effect and at the very least needs more study to come up with a real solution. For all the stumping about changing the Board of Supervisors to affect the will of the Chesterfield resident, it seems those members are still voting with special interests except those special interest are against the growth of Chesterfield now instead of growing the county and increases the tax base so we won’t have to may more taxes and higher assessments fees……..rant over,

John (Bon Air) said...

I have seen very little to convince me that these members are not acting in consort with the same influence as their predecessors. Look at the ease of such things as the Cloverleaf project and then look at the hurdles they put up by stonewalling the Roseland project.

Midlothian Supervisor Daniel Gecker has done little to change the direction that he pledged to last year. Eight years associated with local government, both on the Planning Commission and now the BOard, calls into question just how much "change" he is really seeking and what interest is being served by delaying a proper case from being voted upon. I do not recall such trepidation while Gecker served on a Planning Commission that oversaw some of the largest developments to date.

I am further annoyed by Supervisor Durfee who acts like the Roseland case is something "new". It was submitted in 2006 and she while addressing the former Board and Commission seem to always know the fine points of both Roseland and Magnolia Green and now acts as if she needs more time to review the impacts. I thought the impacts were exactly what she was speaking to as a community activist for smarter growth.

Durfee and Gecker may see this has an opportunity to address "smart" growth principles and maybe that is accurate but "smart" government this is not.

Anonymous said...

I do not believe the defferal was to look at the impacts of the case. That has been done in the last 90 days. The deferral appears to be an attempt to get the developer to come to the negotiation table and work out some of the transportation, school and environmental concerns Mr. Gecker and Ms Durfee expressed. Unfortunately, with everyone running around saying its a great case and we should pass it now, the supervisors will have little if any leverage to get the best development for the community. Yes, it's great to see a case like Roseland come along, but it doesn't mean you throw caution to the wind and bow down without giving serious considerations for the roads, schools and the reservoir. The last election was not just about change. It was about giving stronger representation to citizens instead of blank checks to developers no matter how great their case.

Jody L. Wilcox said...

Anonymous…There is scrutiny and then there is burdensome bureaucracy and over regulation…The hoops they are making the Roseland developers go through are approaching unreasonable and seem to be more political than a genuine concern for the people of Chesterfield. Don’t confuse delaying something with taking your time to make sure everything is in order…they are not always the same thing. We need to make sure that “smart growth” is both smart and in tune with making Chesterfield the best community for both business and citizens so that we maintain an 80/20 business to homeowner tax revenue while keeping the quality of life high and the cost of living in Chesterfield low. The B.O.S. should always make sure that there is a balance struck between preventing the over taxing of our residents and over building of our land since these are problems no one wants in our great county and only lead to angry citizens.

James said...

With no action taken regarding the water quality standard other than keeping it at the current rate of .22 and not increasing the thresold to .16 it stikes me as backward thinking and not forward thinking.

The concern seems to be for the developers to make reasonable accomodation in meeting whatever the thresold level is, scientific data or not. The standard is and was never meant to be an artificial means of curbing growth but a measure that would make developers, especially commercial, rethink proposals and plan accrodingly in the future to meet the level. There appears to be a greater concern being placed on Matoaca and Midlothian and the watershed as the Supervisors are posied to move forward on levels of service in those areas but not extend them to the County at large.

That is backward thinking and not forward thinking. If you want to make sure that down the road Bermuda and Dale are not developed in the same manner that local government allowed Midlothian and Matoaca than the service standards should be put in place now, otherwise every action undertaken is a reactive one and not proactive.

The water quality smokescreen by certain members of the Board appears rather ridiculous. It in fact drew the same critics as always to any change, the commercial and business interests, and in light of "no scientific" support calling for the change the standard remains the same with no action taken. Scapegoat; science.

Now of course the County will pay more consultant to look at the issue further....another waste of your tax dollars. Our local government always seems to get a pass when it comes to spending because our quality of life always trumps the concern but one day someone is gonna come along and take on the old school and suckerpunch them with the ineffeciencies of spending undertaken by the County.

Anonymous said...

The citizens need to take this government back from the bureaucrats...

Why do people hate development? The reason is that the places they make are not memorable and not places at all...

The experts have taken over with their narrow goals. No one has the community's vision in mind. Who can you point to in Chesterfield's governance that is in charge of placemaking or creating community.

Anonymous said...

Its not the "experts" that have taken over. Its the "insiders" of influence, those connected via the powerful lobbying efforts. Its no coincidence that every time there is a major growth issue or potential increased cost to the business community that the when these interests show up at the public hearings its as if the Board already knows them and is very familiar with these people. I wonder why that is?
Another aspect that was aluded here is "consultants". How much is the COunty paying and who are they paying? Are we using the same firms over and over to build our new schools? Has their become a cozy relationship between government and these concerns where "costs" are not the major issue. It is of course easier when your spending other peoples money. How can a school go from an estimated 50 million to almost 80 million. Where is the oversight? Where is the responsibility in due diligence with regard to actaully getting qualified bids for major projects. Why is it other localities are building schools and government buildings requiring less capital requirements?
Is it really more costly to build here than in Atlanta, Charlotte, Raliegh, etc to build a high school given there schools are being built to accomodate more students than ours?
Why do we need to be spending more money on building new courthouse buildings and social service administrative buildings as proposed in the Capital Improvement plan? At the same time we are losing teachers, police, fire/ems because of pay and benefit structures and a lack of a real bonafide retention program, instead we use our resources not for the beterment of our County employees but for brick and mortar. Our higher ranking offcials seem content on securing increasing pay for them at the top over those who are actually educating our children and securing the safety of our communities. Its sad and hopefully we all will begin to call them on out on it in the future.

Jody L. Wilcox said...

You need to be careful when sating that you need to get rid of "insiders" and people with influence since if used correctly, they are also the very people that can supercede the bureaucracy to accomplish goals for the betterment of the county....the issue is that these persons should not have a narrow outlook and use that "influenece" for all Chesterfieldians.

Jonathan said...

I do not disagree with Jody often but on this point I do here. The narrow outlook of the insiders has been the almighty dollar. The commercial development and constrcution community has been able to secure access to a great market, the fourth largest and second fastest growing in the Commonwealth with little barrier of entry either in the form of strcit zoning requirements or cash proffer policy.
I know a few who have worked for the larger, public, residential construction firms that entered the Virginia market just in the last ten years and Virginia(and Chesterfield in particular) has been a very profitable market for them when compared to other localities.
You have to remember that proffer fees in areas like NOVA are close to 50K. Does it really cost more for services just two hours north in I95. The same developers where able to enter Chesterfield, build the same model and were able to secure greater profit margins given the cost of land here and the lower proffer fees which over the last ten years have averaged less than 15K. These firms have positioned themselves in positions of influence over local politics in most part due to their continued involvement in the politcial aspects of their business. The County planners must work with these firms continually over the course of developments through the process and certainly relationships and familiarity results over time. Planners approve or worked with the developer community through the process to gain approval so that planners can submit recommendations to the Commission and Board regarding projects. The members usually rely on the county planning department with regard to zoning applications. Of course this may be overly simplified but I think we all get the process.
We cannot expect a developer to consider or care about other communities miles away with reagrd to impacts if our local offcials do not require them to do so in the planning of the development. Such impacts are causing virtaully all of our "Villages" to no longer represent the same quality of life as they once have. Its not about progress, that is inevitable, but rather linking the greater Chesterfield community with every single case that comes before the Board for approval. I submit that this may be what "levels of service" will attempt to address but the fact that we would approve cases with schools that will be impacted sitting at 125% capacity is ridiculous. The balance also we must seek is also at the range of affordable housing as well. It is hardly acceptable that while 2/3 of the new homes are priced well above the median price point for the County that even our County employees like teachers and police cannot even consider them for purchase. Its funny, virtually every young police officer and teacher I have spoken with live in Townhouses and cannot afford to to live in any of the new developments being constrcuted today where you are talking about 450K-650K home prices. Trouble is the townhouses are what our Board considers "affordable housing".

Anonymous said...

While I fail to see why level of service standards should be implemented in one area and not another, but then the Board as seen fit over the years to allow for concentrated growth and development without any real strategy. They have created commercial sprawl on both Rt 60 and Rt 360 as a direct result. We have enterprise zones throughout that attempt to benefit business, but where is the benefit to the community when the comprehensive plan is riddled with holes.
The Courthouse Road area will be the next issue before this new Board before long. Thsi area sits just east of the major growth corridor with pending and approved zonings that will bring some twenty thousand residents to the Midlothian area over the next decade or so given the planning for the number of homes. This number is higher than the projections, but I think the County grossly underestimates the numbers per household just like they do the number of vehicles when they approve these developments and the impacts of such vehicles. I think the next census will clear alot of these things up but I think it will also show an inabalnce to the County plannign with regard to population density.
The Dale District appears to be the next area where developers will concentrate. Beware the land banking that has been done in this area as well as west toward Ettrick and given the numbers that will be coming with the expansion of Ft. Lee I would expect growth ratios to be currently the lowest number today they will be over the next twenty years.

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