Monday, February 03, 2014

SIA redevelopment plan passes 4 to 1

Charlottesville, Va. - Newest Councilor Bob Fenwick was the only no vote. Councilor Kathy Galvin gave the most passionate arguments for the nonbinding list of suggestions and goals to redevelop a 47-year-old urban renewal project. Most informed of the history of this project was Mayor Satyendra Huja planning this project since hired in 1973 BUT Huja has no knowledge of his work experience and seemed to know it's all a charade. Fenwick warned the public to be skeptical because of the history. So Galvin's noble goals were cancelled out by Huja's dastardly deeds. After my speech, people were left doubting Council at the most basic level

My speech was the letter to the newspaper. And it resonated through the meeting. Councilor Kristin Szakos said no public land will be sold as a result of tonight's meeting and property can be developed by-right. This is only the first phase of a 30-year plan to attract $300 million for a 330-acre zone but it's really only about 60 acres in the Garrett Street urban renewal area still vacant and for sale. Sort of like a free speech zone. I thought the entire city was an investment area if everyone has the same opportunities. Neighborhood Development Services Czar Jim Tolbert confirmed the City government will "suggest" you build what the City wants.

Councilor Dede Smith corrected something I said Dec. 27 on the Schilling Show. Apparently someone wants to knock down the 1951 Standard Produce except it's 1910 and the date is on the building. Apparently there was a talk on the business history but nothing about urban renewal.

Blair Hawkins is 6th speaker in Public Comment
Charlottesville City Council video Feb. 3, 2014

Strategic Investment Area letter to Daily Progress

December 31, 2013

Dear Editor:

Why would anyone invest in the Strategic Investment Area? In response to City Councilor Kathy Galvin’s letter (“SIA development plan benefits city,” Dec. 31, 2013, The Daily Progress), I would like to present a different view and constructive solutions.

It’s funny how proponents of a project can claim there’s been no pushback when people have been pushing back for years. On Dec. 27 on the Schilling Show I described the history. First there was Vinegar Hill. Then there was another Vinegar Hill three times bigger than the first. The second Vinegar Hill is called the Strategic Investment area, historically named after Alexander Garrett.

Vinegar Hill kept its name so most people know about it. The Garrett neighborhood lost its name so today most people don’t know it ever existed.

The current plan is to sell the city-owned open space that was occupied land 40 years ago. During those decades there has been redevelopment such as Friendship Court and other public housing, the Glass Building, Dittmar Condos, Luxury Gleason and Norcross Apartments, ACAC. But this urban renewal project was so big there’s still a lot of land un-redeveloped.

Why not sell the surplus land at auction? Some tax revenue would be better than the zero revenue now. But if you buy this land, you have to invest and build what the City wants, not what you want. And it appears the City wants more than was there 40 years ago, not more than the zero now. Potential investors are concerned the City might take back the land before the investment is recouped as it was taken from the previous owners.

In order to move forward, the City must do two things. City Council should affirm true private property rights by passing an ordinance to protect existing property tax revenue from government action that favors speculated future revenue increases. And the City must publish the Housing Authority archives and tell the full history.

Blair Hawkins

I haven't seen the letter printed but I missed a few days. I don't see it on the website. City Council received the letter 3 weeks ago. What fact or opinion do you think is too radical to print?

Blair Hawkins on WINA Dec. 27, 2013 talking about Strategic Investment Area dead zone south of Landmark Hotel

City to weigh SIA for plan, Feb. 3, 2014.