Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Observations on Chesterfield Comprehensive Plan: A Concerned Citizen

Today, Donna Holt from Midlothian, Virginia and from the Campaign for Liberty posted this on Facebook:


1. The language in the plan is very vague and subject to the interpretation of the reader.
2. The plan turns the entire county into a planned community with governing boards to establish the rules with no oversight much like “Home Owners Associations” do in planned communities.
3. The plans state there are lifestyle choices but is not specific about what the choices are and implies a vast amount of restrictions we will be forced to live by.
4. The plan restricts the majority of future growth to within the new urban boundaries.
5. The plan puts a lot of emphasis on aesthetics and implies that some properties that do not conform with the “aesthetics” of the community may be required to reconstruct the front of buildings to fit in with the design plan for the community as determined by unidentified decision makers.
6. The plans are designed to lower density further in the less populated areas while increasing the density in more populated areas which seems to have the goal of population control.
7. The plan calls for very expensive revitalization and development that is unaffordable in this economic downturn.
8. The Comprehensive Plan Reference Handbook with supplemental material is said not to be adopted but does not state the significance of the material to the plan. It implies that it is to be used as the handbook for implementing the goals set forth in the plan with no further action by the BOS.
9. The plan calls for public/private partnerships to redistribute the wealth as seen in socialist societies for economic development and affordable housing.
10. The plan includes strategies, plans, policies, and processes to control every aspect of life.

1. Proponents of "sustainable development" like the Renaissance Planning Group are taking advantage of the UDA mandate to facilitate the implementation of very strict land use regulations to achieve a political agenda that goes far beyond what the legislature intended.
2. In 1993, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order #12852 which created the President's Council for Sustainable Development. Their purpose was to translate the recommendations set forth in the 1992 United Nations' Agenda 21 into public policy administered by the federal government. Among the objectives of the President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) were:
To implement new policies for America as described in "Sustainable America -A New Consensus".
To use land use planning to control populations.
To establish "sustainable communities", also called smart growth, calling for high-density mixed use feudalistic transit villages to handle future growth in localities across the nation.
To forever preserve rural areas and establish "wildlands" for more than 50% of the nations landscape with roadless areas that would be off limits to humans.
To create buffer zones for another 35% or more of the land between areas of high density and the wildlands.
To establish government funding to seek and acquire private land. They have stated in their documents that public ownership of land should be used to exercise urban and rural land reform.
To use incentives and disincentives to achieve the goals as set forth in Agenda 21. It was determined by members of the council that 67% of the recommendations could be implemented administratively using rule making authority at the local level.
3. The process used to develop the plans to meet the UDA mandate is of great concern. The decisions for the community were made by unelected facilitators of the "steering committee". The Renaissance Planning Group was paid nearly $900,000 for the visioning and planning project at taxpayer expense. The plans they present are merely a template for social engineering that is presented as the goal just as it is done in every locality across the Commonwealth, the nation, and around the world.

The Renaissance Planning Group, the facilitators of the "steering committee", in fact, did the steering. The plans are never voted on by the members resulting in an outcome that was obviously pre-determined. Though their meetings were open to the public, they were void of any public input thus the questions and concerns of the true stakeholders in the community were never even heard during the planning process. Any questions or expressed concerns by other members of the committee
were marginalized and left unanswered.

The end result was the "vision" for the community in a "new comprehensive plan" that was presented to the county BOS as the "consensus of the community".

4. Low-income areas are targeted for the establishment of the UDAs. High density development increases housing costs, thus taxes, which will displace many of the elderly and low-income families. Though subsidies are offered for low income housing in the UDAs, the cost to make homes more affordable for some are transferred to the cost of homes for others.
5. All the funding, subsidies, and tax incentives for the implementation of the plans adds to the national debt at the expense of taxpayers.
6. There is a correlation between restrictive land use regulations and foreclosure rates. According to the leading housing data firm, Realty Trac, Virginia ranked 16th worst among all states in terms of its foreclosure rate in 2009.

Ronald Utt, Senior Research Fellow for The Heritage Foundation, recently did a study of foreclosure patterns and concluded that "the state's foreclosure problems stem from the state's exceptionally high home prices in comparison to the incomes of its residents, and these high home prices are due to land shortages caused by abusive zoning. "Housing is considered "affordable" if median home prices in an
area are no more than three times the median household income in that area. This ratio is called the "median multiple"." What is considered affordable is a median multiple of 3.

California was one of the first states to adopt "sustainable community" polices more than two decades ago, commonly referred to as smart growth, imposing strict land use regulations to discourage building and growth. As a consequence, in 2006 and 2007, the median multiple in California soared to more than 10.

Such regulations spread rapidly to many other states and communities during the 1990s and 2000s. Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Richmond warmly embraced them with similar consequences. In Northern Virginia the median multiple hit 5.6, Hampton Roads went to 4.7, and Richmond hit 4.1. As we
continue to implement "smart growth" policies, this number is expected to rise.

7. Many high density urban development areas already established across the state have been empty for a year or more.
8. Land use decisions should be largely driven by a free market. If UDAs have to be mandated, one can only conclude that:
There is no market for UDAs.
The community doesn't want it and doesn't feel it's appropriate for their locality.
9. In 2009, Realty Trac reported there were 16,687 homes in foreclosure in Virginia. In 2010, 1 in every 948 homes received a foreclosure filing with a sharp increase in December of 2010 when every 1 in 501 homes received foreclosure filing. At this rate of foreclosure and with so many homes already on the market, mandating UDAs will only add to the inventory of unoccupied homes at a great risk to the economy. While it may be putting builders to work, we must also consider the burden to the taxpayer for the money that is funding this development through grants, subsidies, and tax incentives. Then there's the loans to finance construction to build more homes that there is no market for. Who will pay the construction loans if the homes don't sell and what will that mean to the economy in the long
10.The plan fits perfectly with the goals in the biodiversity plan called for in the United Nations plan, Agenda 21, called for in the Biodiversity Treaty that was rejected by the Senate in 1994. The plan calls for strategies, policies, and processes to control every aspect of life. The developers of the UN plan stated:
"Land...cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also the principle instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth, and therefore, contributes to social injustice..."
11.The new comprehensive plan provides for the type of social engineering that is the perfect definition of a soviet.
12.Most would agree that we need to be good stewards of the environment and most people are. Sensible planning is generally accepted by the community but the abusive land use planning in the new comprehensive plans determines every aspect of how and where we live and is seen to be a violation of private property rights.
The official District meetings concluded last night at Cosby High School. The debate however is far from over and there will be many opportunities for the public to come together in local town halls that will be organized in the coming weeks, not by politicians or the County but by CITIZENS. Its time we heard the other side of the story. In order to form a better judgement on the direction of the County those that oppose both this Plan and "Sustainable" Communities must be able to be heard.
Citizens must be informed as to both the pros and cons of embarking on such a massive undertaking. As of yet, the County has not be able to provide citizens with an adequate cost/benefit analysis except to say the Plan has the "potential" to save the County millions.
The meaning of "potential" is politico-speak for we haven't really a clue but we hope it will!
if you would like to be informed of upcoming gatherings in the community regarding these matters please feel free to provide your email address or join the Alter of Freedom Group page on Facebook the next time you are own that site.


Anonymous said...

I am still very concerned with the whole notion that the County decided to opt for a mere 33 person steering committee to basically hash out the issues for 320,000.

I have at a loss for why Daniel Gecker and marlene Durfee dismissed the idea presented by Mr. Scott that each District should have its own committee intially and examine what the community in the area required and then have all the committes comes together in the end. In this manner you may still have had the "consensus" model in effect but it would really be from a particular district. Five of them would result in over 150 voices in the same manner contributing.

I think we all know after talking to a few people on the steering committee that this Plan was drafted by the consultants with their own agenda. These are the people who lobbied the State for the Urban Planning requirement in the first place and now reap the benefit of that law here in Chesterfield to the tune of 1 million thus far.

Jonathan Scott said...

Thank you, but I was certainly not the only citizen seeking a wider, more diverse body to represent the public in those areas.

Our County is a very diverse County. I myself learned last night that we have 50,000 of "agricultural" land and that Matoaca District alone is the size of Henrico County. When you consider things in that context the task seems daunting.

I was told after the meeting that the "developer community" love this Plan. Well folks, I wonder why that is exactly except to say that it will put them on some really sound ground once the housing market rebounds to once again build again. The group set to benefit the most are those firms that build dense developments like townhouse and apartments. Mr. Gecker (Midlothian) and Mrs. Durfee(Matoaca) believe that this is the "affordable" housing component that they want to thrust upon the County by in essence providing the "guide" for these zonings exclusively in some areas.

This component is classic "Sustainable" ideology where you force people into urban areas (the Plan calls them Urban or Regional Centers) through zoning not through need or competition. If they demand for such housing was in the market, these units would be developed but to mandate that they must be developed is something entirely different.

The major component that goes unaddress in this Plan is transportation on the ground. There is modeling that guides where they think that roads will be required (extension of Powhite to Rt360 for example) but how do we as a County fund it. The blame game regarding State funding is getting rather tiresome. We should be charting our own course and evidently there seems to be a great big chip on the shoulders of our leaders to admit that Henrico has been doing this much better and without State funding for roads.

Thats right. No VDOT funding goes to Henrico County or Arlington County. I do not believe that they attempt to make developers pay for infrastructure like roads like Chesterfield has been known to. This could be why Henrico seems to be the preferred destination for major corporate buildouts. It is true that Henrico has I64 and I295, but at what point will be leveraging Rt288 and I95. Obviously we are missing something in our Economic Development and most of us fail to see how the Plan contributes to Economic Development.

If the County were serious about Economic Development at any time other than an election year you would think that we would fund it at appropriate levels. I wonder what the ratio is in funding by the County between the Planning Department and funding for Economic Development?

Andrea Epps said...

No offense intended, BUT...This woman is totally ignorant of this process, and it seems, mostly ignorant of everything else as well.
Some of her "concerns" are nothing more than HER own predetermined thoughts. Am I the only person who can see that no one would be able to write this much alarmist bologna less than 24 hours after the last meeting?
I'm really surprised Alter would buy into this crap.
This is what gives the Tea Party a really bad image.
How is it possible that anyone can be so selfish as to take issue with sustainability? I suppose some might try to demonize sustainability with property rights arguments, but those arguments don't work in that context. The developers I know don't like this plan, and the county HATES the UDA mandate.
And, if they ever do this again, 33 people is WAY TOO MANY for a steering committee.
All that said, the current draft is nothing more than policy theory's.

James David said...

Andrea- I respect your opinion very much but truth be told the steering committee was a farce. No disrespect to those who served but it was/is a creation of those who want to act in manner to appear to be transparent but in reality simply want to use it as cover for the agenda that is proposed here.

We have heard this at every meeting. Politcians thanking the committee, when in fact there was NEVER ever a vote by the committee at large on whether this Plan met with approval. I have spoken and been emailed by countless members who think this Plan is bunk. Where are theri voices now Andrea?

I guess we should lump you in with Dave Johnson, a developer of Roseland also on the committee with support for this because lets face it it benefits developers. They saw to that with the consultants.

As for buying into Mrs. Holt's views, I believe in providing the community with the alternative perspective so that citizens can make a choice for their future.

Instead, just as Jonathan Scott has pointed out to citizens the Board and Consultants have offered up no examples of where the "sustainable" agenda is working. The results have been declining real property values, higher taxes and transportation gridlock.

Mr. Scott advised the public to consider this startling fact. The five "most Sustainable" communties in the country are:
1. Portland, OR
2. Seattle, WA
3. San Francisco, CA
4. Chicago, IL
5. Philadelphia, PA

Are those the examples you want for Chesterfield? What do ALL of these cities have in common Andrea? Citizens care about what the true impacts WILL be not based on "modeling" but based on proven real time data from areas of the country that have tried the same approach. Frankly, citizens deserves that.

Instead, no examples were provided in six District meetings. NONE. Not the Renaissance Group project in Florida where the Plan has negatively impacted property values by locking up new conservation areas. In fact, retirees have been ordered to be removed from areas where there were established trailer park communities because the Plan called for high density developments. But it was just the Plan was just a "guide" mind you very similar to the way this one is being presented.

Furthermore, another issue from Jonathan was the high rate of court case challenges that are rising against "sustainable" implementation plans by those cities mentioned. Is the County prepared for those legal battles regarding property rights?

Andrea Epps said...

And I respect your opinion as well James, and those of Mr. Scott. You made a few points I wanted to mention.

"truth be told the steering committee was a farce"

There are many people who will totally agree with you. I had my moments as well, but I still believe it will be easier for me to ACTUALLY impact the outcome of the final plan because I participated on the committee.

"there was NEVER ever a vote by the committee at large on whether this Plan met with approval."
You're right. Instead, they asked each of us to complete a survey so they could gauge the level of consensus among the group. They said the purpose was to get comments prior to our last meeting, but I knew better. Sure enough, we get to the meeting and they pull the "general support" crap. When they gave the last joint BOS/PC/SB presentation, after our meeting, the consultants didn't change the numbers to represent those who didn't do the survey and don't support the plan. They also modified the survey categories for the presentation.

"I guess we should lump you in with Dave Johnson, a developer of Roseland also on the committee with support for this because lets face it it benefits developers. They saw to that with the consultants."
Dave Anderson was the most vocal OPPONENT of this plan. He suggested the consultants should not be paid until they wrote an actual plan.There is NOT ONE developer that will support this plan. As it is now, Land Use professionals can't even use it to advise clients as to what will be supported uses on any given property.

"As for buying into Mrs. Holt's views, I believe in providing the community with the alternative perspective so that citizens can make a choice for their future"
I stand corrected, and I apologize for making the assumption the post was support.

"Are those the examples you want for Chesterfield? What do ALL of these cities have in common Andrea? Citizens care about what the true impacts WILL be not based on "modeling" but based on proven real time data from areas of the country that have tried the same approach. Frankly, citizens deserves that."
Of course they deserve that. There are many other examples of sustainability, all over the world.
Charleston, SC is beautiful!
But, any locality has to use modeling. Now, I tend to have issues with some of the assumptions that are made with any given model, but I do understand they must be used. My point would be to try and assure the best data is used within a model.

"Instead, no examples were provided in six District meetings. NONE."
No examples were used during the two years of committee work either. That was another one of Mr. Anderson's requests.

"Is the County prepared for those legal battles regarding property rights?"
I think in this case, The Code of Virginia would have to be significantly amended for a case to get very far. Yes, there are exceptions, but the code is written by the GA mandating the plan, the ordinances, the UDA's etc...

I don't think "sustainable" automatically means loosing property rights. I think it depends totally on the manner in which it is implemented, but that's just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

We are researching across the nation. In fact, just today we put in motion a website that will become a central gathering place for research such as you are asking. In the mean time, I know that Portland, Oregon was the postger child for SD and Smart Growth. They stopped development outside the city limits and worked to create housing along a light rail transportation system. The result was that property costs soared and no one wanted to buy the property along the rail. Oakland, CA passed regulations that would force all homes to become energy efficient according to set standards by the City Council. The extimated average cost is $35,000 per home to comply. The entire state of California is the most advanced SD area.The economy is in the tank, energy costs are soaring (and short), and there is a growing battle brewing over the enforcement of smart meters. Across CA they are setting up water boards to control water use. And much more. I hope that helps lead you in the right direction.

Joan said...

Its the "process" that is broken. At least in our County anyway. I have tried to listen for any admission from those who are involved in the process that there is any real accountability placed upon those that have been formulating the various Plans over the years that today tell us are antiquated.

How is our Planning Department structured and what is its relationship with these consultants. They seem to be very cozy at the meetings and very defensive over a Plan that is "supposed" to still be up for debate.

I certainly am not opposed to sustainability per say but this approach of a complete countywide plan is misguided and misplaced.

There are very different areas with the County who may seek to influence the quality of life they seek by going a different direction. If the residents of Matoaca want to develop a majority of the district should they not have that right? How can you force a mandated Countryside Rural designation on an area without the consent of even those who live there.

33 or 34 people and a four companies of consultants who do not even live here (not County companies) get to determine this future?

chesterfieldtaxpayer said...

From a concerned citizen...

My overall thoughts on the CP are:
1. It continues the shift of power from our elected officials to unelected bureaucrats. Our BOS needs to take great offense at this proposition. I cannot believe the size and scope of the power grab. The Reference Handbook is something that one should be very afraid of. It is not formally adopted nor technically a part of the comprehensive plan; yet anything can be included in the Reference Handbook without any BOS action. Nice trick.
2. There need to be more representatives on the Board to reduce the size and scope of this bureaucratic power grab.
3. I'm not sure we can afford all of the studies, mandates, and regulations
4. It appears this plan was written for Chesterfield County circa 2007, not in the no growth era of 2011. With the housing bubble gone, what size local government can we afford? Chesterfield County cannot afford to be the number one employer in the county.
5. What they should have focused on was Public Facilities, a government function.But it received only 10 pages of 210 pages. Instead we got reamed with loads of focus on controlling that pesky private sector with utopian dreams of a perfect world. The world is not black and white. It is all shades of grey. Instead we get SOPs and bureaucrats in black and white in place of representation in customized shades of grey.
6. Corporate cronyism is alive and well in this plan. With all kinds of incentives and disincentives to segregate the population down to particular groups, it is difficult to follow the bouncing ball. If the plan is this big and unwieldy to begin with; how will big will it be when it is fully implemented?
7. Preservation and conservation easements remove land from production. What percentage of the county can we afford to lock away forever in these uncertain times?
8. If 45%of our budget comes from federal and state sources, what should be the size of county government that we can depend on in the future when these sources disappear or are repurposed to pay our debt?
9. What if there is no or negative growth over the next decade, would we be looking at the opportunity this plan affords differently? Would we be over regulating every aspect of our residents' lives? How does the combination of federal, state, and local actions collectively impact our freedom and liberty?
10. Words mean different things to different people. There are many places to ask questions. Within the English language, it is best to ask what someone means, to be specific, and to provide examples, as our language is apt to allow deceptive actions. We should continue to ask questions and be suspicious citizens of our government.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Jonathan Scott said...

I have to admit to all of you that it is amazing how there has been more information regarding this planning proposal for the County provided by bloggers and citizens than at any of the "planning meetings" or provided by the County.

It is my intent to bring all of these forces together in a Citizen Forum regarding this matter in the coming months. I am working out a date that would allow me to provide adequate notice to all concerned citizens as well has have speakers scheduled to provide information regarding both the pros/cons of this proposal.

I do not believe that this process has been as fully engaged as it should given its potential impact on the County and know that there will be tremondous blowback should it be passed. That said it is my intent to provide citizens with both perspectives in order to form a reasonable determination.

Afterall, this is an election year in the County and we must be dilgent in holding officials accountable for their statements, positions and the direction they would seek to take the County.

We can only do this if we have all the facts and have an open dialogue amongst each other as citizens regarding the impacts of said proposal.

I look forward to working with anyone who wishes to impact this debate from either side and welcome any suggestions on how to conduct this forum.

Anonymous said...

Alter of Freedom should be Altar of Freedom. It is spelled wrong.

Anonymous said...


order generic ziagen tablets said...

I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing.