Can’t See the River for the Trees

The RTD’s editorial page waxes rhapsodic over Richmond’s master plan and its vision the critical role the James River might play in future development. But the James is more than a role player. It is also a ready metaphor, one the RTD’s editorial writer bathes in with weird glee:

Although the James claims a sacred spot in Richmond’s story, for too long the river has divided the city and its environs. The master plan sees the river as a unifier. Yes, we’ll gather at the river, the beautiful, the beautiful river.

At least the writer avoided the obvious “a river runs through it” treacle. But I’m sure that was a close run thing.

But for all the paper’s great interest in the James, it is odd that its editors haven’t covered discount men’s clothier magnate Stuart Siegel’s clear-cutting of the riparian barrier along the river’s banks. Reporter Rex Springston, who has been briefed on the matter and viewed the site, apparently “still needs to convince his editors that this is ‘news,’” according to an email I recently received.

Is it news that “…the city will open an investigation, and if they determine that a riparian buffer violation has occurred, the property owner may be required to replant”? Is it news that the Science Museum’s Foundation, who owns the land, would have to pay for replanting if violations are deemed to have occurred?

Obviously not, and particularly so when some of Richmond’s biggest wheels are involved. Just another example of Babbittry at its best.

Update: Rex Springston with the Times-Dispatch finally has the story. — Jim Bacon

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2 responses to “Can’t See the River for the Trees”

  1. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Norm, I’ve got to agree with you, a newspaper in any other city would gin this up into a major scandal — and rightfully so (assuming, of course, that the Siegels are in fact guilty as charged).

    The story has two dimensions: one personal, one revolving around public policy. The personal dimension is the easiest to see: Is one of Richmond’s wealthiest citizens breaking the rules? Is this a case of “laws are for the little people, not me” syndrome?

    Then there’s the policy angle: What rights do people have to cut down trees along the river? Has anyone else been called to account for doing the same thing, or are people just picking on the Siegels because they are rich? What rights to people have to “viewsheds” and how do they conflict with traditional property rights? What does the current law allow, and what *should* it allow? What vision do Richmonders have collectively for the river?

    Given the T-D’s rhapsodic praise of the James, you’d think this incident would be the perfect justification for exploring some serious issues in which the public has a genuine interest.

  2. Ah, Richmond and the joys of living in a town run by grocers and discount haberdashers. It almost makes me miss the old days-when Richmond was ruled by bankers and tobacco magnates. Keep fighting the good fight, Norman.

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