Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Proffer bribes on Vinegar Hill to fund urban renewal

“One evil to pay for another evil” – Jane Foy on WINA referring to the controversial abusive driver fees.

click for larger image
Mooney Oldsmobile left (still standing) and Vinegar Hill 1960

Charlottesville, Va. – City Council will hear from the public Sep. 4 on how much a developer must to pay Council to exempt the plan from zoning laws regarding heights and densities in the West Main Corridor.

The notice in the Aug. 21 Daily Progress gives 301 and 315 West Main Street as the address of the 1.09-acre lot with 228 feet of frontage along West Main at the corner of McIntire. The city’s online real estate webpage returns “No records found for your selection criteria.” But the page is working for other streets.

Proffers include streetscape improvements, “providing funds to the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA) for redevelopment of CRHA owned property(s),” and a study of pedestrian access to the Downtown Mall, according to Missy Creasy, planning manager for the city.

CRHA was established 1954. On March 11, 1960, the city council received an application by the CRHA under amendment 14A: Title 36 VA Code 1950.1. Thus began the city’s first of many urban renewal projects. There are 13 public housing complexes scattered around the city. That’s 13 urban renewal projects. That number doesn’t include other redevelopments such as Vinegar Hill itself.

The location of the latest redevelopment is further identified on City Real Property Tax Map #32 as parcels 197, 198, and 199. The notice doesn't specify CRHA properties to be redeveloped.

The site is across the street from the Trailways/Greyhound bus station. At the southeast corner of this intersection was Midway School, the city's high school 1893-1940, torn down in the '70s and the original site of City Market. The Lewis and Clark statue and condo tower are also at this intersection along with the Omni Hotel.

The public hearing will be Tuesday Septemer 4, 2007, at 7:00 pm in City Hall Council Chambers.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Quest for Holy Grail of Growth

"Quest for the Holy Grail", Cville Weekly, Jun. 26, 2007

Struggling to be charitable in my opinion of “Beware the Cyclops” by Richard Collins [Opinionated, June 12, 2007] and, in the same issue, the letters by Al Weed [“Can’t get a tee time,” Mailbag] and Jack Marshall [“Size matters,” Mailbag], I accept the challenge to describe an alternative vision for growth, the new status quo.

I agree we should have policies that promote an optimal, sustainable population. But nobody knows what that number is or will be. The writers frame the argument so opponents of population quotas appear uninformed. The writers themselves offer no figures and call for others to research the Holy Grail of growth.

In my opinion, a population is optimal when people freely come and stay, while others move away willingly. By this definition, the city appears to have an optimal population, nearly steady for four decades, and the county has population growth. The optimum population varies as free markets and free choices determine.

Collins points out there’s no mechanism in the county’s comprehensive plan to force the community to comply with the optimal population. “…what one won’t find is any operational basis for realizing a vision of the community’s future size and character…The optimum population range creates a legal, rational tool for managing growth.”

How has population control worked in the past? Are there any mistakes or dead-ends we could avoid in the future if only we knew the history? Is Collins an expert in urban planning and development? Yet, he dismisses the value of history several times. He describes the “growth machine” as an individual Cyclops with its eye in the back of the head, able only to see into the irrelevant past, where counter-arguments and cautionary tales are numerous.

Collins refers to his own history “as a professional planner for many years.” But he doesn’t mention any project he has planned where readers might be able to learn more. Is it because his experience is in urban renewal, having served as chairman of the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority? On April 4, Governor Tim Kaine signed the eminent domain reforms passed by the General Assembly. The new laws make illegal what Collins has advocated and implemented during his career.

My vision of growth is based on individual liberty, private control and accountability, not on some arbitrary number created by experts for experts.

Blair Hawkins


Does free speech, like everything else, trump property rights? Oct. 28, 2006
(On the arrest of Collins for trespass while campaigning for '05 House of Delegates.)

"Blair Hawkins Comments on Rich Collins' Community Land Trust Idea", May 11, 2005

"Land theft proponent invokes free speech defense for trespass conviction", Jul. 20, 2006
(Includes Collins' statement supporting the Kelo decision by Supreme Court of June 23, 2005.)