Bacon Bits

bacon_bitsMore, more, we want more! Richmond BizSense profiles Richmond entrepreneur Matt Ellington who has built a business around tearing down small, cheap houses and replacing them with bigger, more capacious houses. Rather than remodel existing houses, he tears them down to the foundations and erects much bigger houses in their place. He’s completing a project near Libbie & Grove replacing a 1950s-style, 1,900-square foot ranch valued at $275,000 and replacing it with a two-story building priced for $799,000. It’s his fourth tear-down so far. All other things being equal, bigger houses house larger households. This practice is a slow-motion form of densification that will expand the tax base (once a gimmicky, ten-year historical tax credit expires) and revitalize the Richmond region’s urban core.

Squirelly and squirellier. Paul Goldman argues in his latest column that Mayor Dwight Jones’ plan to bring the Richmond Squirrels baseball stadium to Shockoe Bottom may violate the Virginia constitution. The City of Richmond owns land where the stadium would be located but the constitution requires the approval of seven of the nine members of City Council to sell that land to the Economic Development Authority. Politically, that won’t happen. An alternative is to lease the land to the EDA. But the city cannot lease public land for longer than five years — the stadium deal probably would run 30 years — without following the public bid process. If the city follows the public bid process, someone else could swoop in and snatch up the land. The city can’t forestall that possibility, Goldman says, without violating the constitution.

The never-ending saga. Philip Shucet, the former Virginia Department of Transportation chief appointed to bring resolution to the Charlottesville Bypass controversy, has presented a plan to scrap the proposed Bypass and fund instead several key pieces of the Places 29 plan for improving the congested leg of U.S 29 north of Charlottesville. The new proposals, arising from the deliberations of a 10-person panel, would widen a section of U.S. 29, extend two parallel roads and build a grade-separated interchange at Rio Road, according to Cville. Charlottesville business interests adversely affected by the interchange and downstate boosters desirous of a bypass are not happy. But the proposal probably would follow the utilitarian principle of doing the most good for the largest number of people.

Is there a doctor in the house? Virginia has more doctors as a ratio to the population than other states but the Old Dominion still faces a physician shortage of more than 1,000 by 2020 and 2,500 by 2030, according to a new report to the General Assembly, “An Update on the Virginia Physician Workforce Shortage.” The crunch will be most acute for primary care physicians and surgeons. The report proposes a number of solutions to increase the supply of physicians in Virginia and promote “team-based care,” which give nurses, pharmacists and nurse practitioners more responsibility.

Balanced budgets aren’t always sustainable budgets. Governing magazine provides a useful reminder that crafting a balanced budget is not the same as crafting a fiscally sustainable budget. Favorite tricks of state and local lawmakers around the country: skimping on public employee pension obligations, deferring infrastructure maintenance and depleting reserves. Each of these tactics is largely invisible to the public and leaves problems for the next guy. Virginia citizens need to watch closely for these sleights-of-hand in the Old Dominion and raise hell when politicians resort to them.

— JAB

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3 responses to “Bacon Bits

  1. Tear-downs are big business in NoVA, Vienna, McLean, Arlington. I think they are a good idea so long as the replacement structure is not overwhelmingly out of character with the rest of the neighborhood. It’s reinvestment and higher tax revenues. Heck, I live in a replacement home myself that was built in 1994, a long time before we purchased it.

  2. FYI, though, tear-downs don’t always mean greater density. You can and do see small older houses replaced with McMansions that have 2-3 people living in them.

    Also, you can wind up losing the character and personality that makes city neighborhoods distinctive.

  3. A lot of the McMansions are being built to operate as illegal boarding houses. Many are constructed with three master bedroom suites. But if you profess to oppose sprawl, I think tear-downs are necessary.

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