by Kerry Dougherty
I know it’s winter and Virginia is not looking her best. But if you have nothing else to do this weekend, may I suggest you take a drive into the rural corners of the commonwealth and soak up the bucolic scenery.
Check out those cotton fields along Route 58 west toward Danville, even though most of the cotton has been harvested. Check out the farmland of the Middle Peninsula and the Northern Neck. Then head out toward Lexington and north to the orchards of the Shenandoah Valley. Don’t forget to take a drive up the Eastern Shore past the thousands of acres that in summer give us potatoes, tomatoes and corn. Lastly, zip out to Pungo where the fields will be full of strawberries in a few months
While you’re driving, take a gander at the beautiful old growth forests that blanket much of the Old Dominion.
In fact, take a good, long look. Drink it in. Vow to never forget the beauty that was once Virginia.
Because next time you pass through these areas you may see nothing but the glare of solar panels. The wildlife that once inhabited the land? The birds that nested in the trees? The produce that flourished in the fields? Gone.
If Democrats in Richmond have their way, that is. Continue reading
by Jon Baliles
The debate about making Richmond’s Carytown a car-free zone is edging closer to the forefront in recent months with strong opinions, interesting suggestions, some good ideas, and some bad ones.
The Times-Dispatch Editorial Board weighed in with its opinion, and it was vocal. It’s worth the entire read and filled with stats you probably never heard of, such as that of the 250 or so pedestrian malls created in the U.S. since the 1960’s, only about 10 remain. The piece is filled with great information and two quotes worth noting:
Making Richmond a walkable paradise is certainly a worthy goal. But turning Carytown into a pedestrian mall, and undercutting the businesses that have made it into a regional shopping destination — is not.
The editorial points out that making Carytown car-free could lead many shoppers (who come from near and far) to go elsewhere, and worries that the owners of the unique mix of shops and merchants could be driven out of business, which is also a way of making it a car-free zone. It also points out that many in Carytown are open to new ideas, and certainly to making it safer, but skeptical of closing it to cars. Continue reading
Site map for the first phase and cable connection route for the proposed Kitty Hawk Wind project.
by Steve Haner
The political leaders of the City of Virginia Beach have informed an offshore wind developer that they oppose its plan to bring power cables ashore at Sandbridge Beach. No formal vote was taken on the application, however, according to media reports.
The story appeared in The Virginian-Pilot and on local television station WAVY around Thanksgiving. When Bacon’s Rebellion last visited this matter, Virginia Beach City Council had conducted a May public hearing at which most speakers strongly opposed the power cable location. Continue reading
The Rappahannock River. Photo credit: Va. Dept. of Conservation and Recreation
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
There are some issues that seem to be baked into public policy and, because they affect sensitive and important areas, tend to lead to controversies periodically.
Many years ago, one of the hottest controversies was the “inter-basin transfer of water.” Because Virginia is a “riparian rights” state, folks who live next to rivers can withdraw water from the river, but are not supposed to divert it to use by other people who do not live on the river. To do so would diminish the water available for those other riparian landowners. The Virginia Supreme Court in the 1942 case of Town of Purcellville v. Potts declared a per se prohibition against inter-basin transfer:
While a riparian owner is entitled to a reasonable use of the water, he has no right to divert it for use beyond his riparian land, and any such diversion and use is an infringement on the rights of the lower riparian proprietors who are thereby deprived of the flow. Such a diversion is an extraordinary and not a reasonable use.
The field of water law is a very complex one and that is as far as I am willing to dip my toe into it. Suffice it to say that inter-basin transfer of water is an important concept. For a more in-depth discussion, see here. Continue reading
The central Great Neck Corridor drainage system Virginia Beach
by James C. Sherlock
Sometimes things work. Perhaps they will this time.
There was a time in Virginia Beach when a partnership between a developer and a church to build new houses would have breezed through the Planning Commission and the City Council.
That kind of open season on clearing and building on Virginia Beach’s very low-lying land brought with it lots of problems, including flooding.
The citizens of Virginia Beach, tired of flooding in every heavy rain and even under a clear sky with a full moon, a couple of years ago passed a very large property tax increase on themselves to create a huge pot of money to deal with it.
One of the natural flood control systems already in place is a series of contiguous lakes along Great Neck Road in the eastern part of the city. They handle runoff from that major corridor. That system flows into the Lynnhaven River and the Chesapeake Bay.
To that place comes a developer and a local church with a proposal. Continue reading
Cluster development in western Loudoun Co. Photo credit: Washington Post
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
Today’s Washington Post has an article about efforts to preserve farmland in Loudoun County.
That headline instantly took me back to the late 1970s and early 1980s when there was a flurry of activity regarding the need to preserve farmland and provide landowners incentives to keep their farmland from being developed.
Loudoun County was in the center of that activity. At that time, the population of the county was about 57,000. Development in the area near Dulles Airport and the Rt. 7 corridor was in the early stages. A large part of the county was open land, consisting of large estates, as well as medium and small farms. The tools for preserving that land that were being discussed, sometimes heatedly, were conservation easements and transfer of development rights. A sample report of some of those studies is here. Continue reading
by Kerry Dougherty
Feckless leadership, wasteful spending and escalating taxes have plagued Virginia Beach for decades.
Despite new faces on city council, the game of spending tax dollars on insane projects that “will pay for themselves” continues.
But let’s back up.
Here’s one prescient story from The Virginian-Pilot in 2007. The headline: “Virginia Beach Sportsplex Misses Its Goal” soft pedaled what was going on. It was yet another pricey project, dreamed up by developers and approved by their political puppets.
And it was failing. Continue reading
by Jon Baliles
Historic preservation is important for many reasons, like helping us better understand our past and how to improve it for future generations. One great advocate of preserving Richmond’s history to convey stories forward was Mary Winfield Scott, who passed away in 1983, but whose legacy lives on in neighborhoods across Richmond, and who was the subject of a great piece by Greg McQuade at CBS6.
Scott was a preservationist who helped save the 18th Century structure known as Linden Row on Franklin Street across from the city’s main library.
“[She] quickly recognized that we were losing places that made Richmond unique,” said Will Glasco, with Preservation Virginia, a group that was born from Scott’s efforts.
by Shaun Kenney
As part of the debt ceiling deal, the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), long thought dead, is now suddenly back in the cards.
But don’t expect bulldozers back in Virginia anytime soon, as the 4th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals is not expected to grant permission to cross any streams or wetlands before 15 June. From The Roanoke Times:
Efforts to obtain the permit — the last major approval needed to restart construction that has been stalled since the fall of 2021 — were underway well before the Mountain Valley provision was added to the debt ceiling bill at the urging of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
Most importantly for Mountain Valley, the bill prohibits any legal challenge of the Army Corps permit or any other government approval.
Since work on the pipeline began in 2018, the Fourth Circuit has thrown out about a dozen permits, siding with environmental groups who argued that agencies failed to take adequate steps to limit muddy runoff from the construction sites.
A pending lawsuit over the fate of endangered species in the pipeline’s path, and a potential legal challenge of a permit allowing its passage through the Jefferson National Forest, will be rendered moot as soon as the law takes effect.
by Joe Fitzgerald
When I was a younger man and indulged in that lowdown southern whiskey, I would sometimes sum up the next day by saying, “I don’t remember church bells.”
Astute observers will immediately recognize literary allusions to Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken,” one of the great rock-and-roll story songs.
Now, 41 years sober, I hear the song differently. It’s the story of someone finding out that an experience may have been unique to him, but wasn’t unique.
Which leads me back, to the surprise of no regular reader, to Bluestone Town Center. BTC is an ill-advised development based on empty promises, misguided good intentions, and governmental obtuseness. Those wishing to know the other side of the story are welcome to Google it.
I was struck during the discussions of the project by how often supporters of the project fell back on baseless accusations of racism and privilege or answered objections that hadn’t been raised. I also noticed things in the city’s deeply flawed housing report that had little to do with building or selling housing.
Come to find out, any discussion of housing faces an underlying set of assumptions. And as any student of left-leaning politics knows, many of those assumptions lead to the expectation that anyone opposing any housing issue must prove their motivations and intentions are not racist, classicist, ageist, or ableist. Continue reading
Joe Bourne of Protect Sandbridge Beach opens the May 4 hearing on the Kitty Hawk North request to bring major power lines ashore in Virginia Beach.
by Steve Haner
One four-hour public hearing was not enough. Virginia Beach City Council wants another such debate before it votes on a wind company’s request to bring power cables ashore at Sandbridge Beach.
Last week’s hearing on Kitty Hawk North’s application for an easement to bury cables apparently was not covered by any Hampton Roads news media. Almost half of the time (watch it here) was used by the company’s speakers, both before and after the public spoke. Parent firm Avangrid Renewables LLC personnel were at the podium for so long because of questions from council members. Continue reading
by Joe Fitzgerald
I have previously written much about the Bluestone Town Center from a logistical and political standpoint, much of which can be summed up by saying the people planning and approving the project do not understand logistics or politics. The planners and approvers show an understanding of and ability to manipulate governmental processes, which is a skill on the level of getting a stubborn toddler to give up a favorite toy if you could pick and choose your toddlers through low-turnout elections and rampant cronyism.
Today, however, I am writing about design, marketing, and labeling. First, some background.
The Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority (HRHA), has formed a partnership with EquityPlus (EP) to build Bluestone Town Center. That partnership is an LLC, a limited liability corporation, a legal entity designed to protect the owners of a project from responsibility. The entity is owned 51 percent by HRHA and 49 percent by EP. A wild guess about the split is that having a government entity as the (barely) majority owner adds the shield of sovereign immunity as well as the exemptions to government rules that government entities give to themselves.
by Joe Fitzgerald
Proposed housing construction in the city of Harrisonburg could add about 1,200 students to the Harrisonburg City Public Schools, with housing already under construction in Rockingham County possibly adding 400 more.
A quarter of the 1,600 potential students could be absorbed by the opening of Rocktown High School, leaving the city to build however many new schools it takes to educate 1,200 elementary and middle school students.
This projection is based on my using other people’s multipliers on a compilation by the invaluable Scott Rogers on HarrisonburgHousingToday.com. The housing count is Scott Rogers’; the school estimates are mine.
The multipliers in question come from Harrisonburg City Public Schools (HCPS) and from Econsult Solutions Inc. (ESI). HCPS came up with its numbers based on who lives where in the city, and ESI does it for a living. They vary, somewhat. ESI thinks a townhouse will generate .52 students and the HCPS method forecasts .45 students.
by Jeanine Martin
The deal for Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder to sell the team to Josh Harris hasn’t even been inked and yet speculation begins again that the team may move to eastern Loudoun County.
Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), is opposed to the stadium moving to Loudoun. He said today that he and his constituents do not want a stadium in Loudoun. However, Chairman of the Board Phyllis Randall is entertaining the idea.
From the LoudounTimes.com:
‘We look forward to welcoming the Washington Commanders to the Loudoun County Board Room to share their vision of a new stadium as part of a multi-use development in an urban setting,’ Matt Rogers, Randall’s chief of staff, wrote in a statement to the Times-Mirror April 15.
‘Loudoun and the Commanders have enjoyed a long business relationship that has proven financially beneficial to both parties. An expansion of their football operations in Loudoun County is an idea we’re eager to discuss, provided that Loudoun County taxpayers will not experience a single cent of tax increase to finance a stadium,’ Rogers said.
by Bob Hurley
The next time you see a turtle think of what life on Earth might have been like 220 million years ago.
Turtles have been around for that long. They saw dinosaurs come and go; survived the Ice Age; and with their distinctive shells, have defended themselves against a variety of predators.
And we need them. Turtles are important in balancing ecosystems. They protect water quality by removing harmful bacteria, like dead fish and animals. They control aquatic vegetation; cycle nutrients; and contribute to new plant growth by dispersing seeds. A decline in their population can signal problems for water quality or habitat loss.
Today, their survival is threatened around the world and here in Virginia. The primary causes: unsustainable – and often illegal — capture and loss of habitat.
“Turtles are this incredible legacy to the history of nature on Earth,” said Tom Akre, a Sperryville resident, who is a program scientist at the Conservation Ecology Center at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (NZCBI) in Front Royal. “They haven’t changed in 220 million years and are now the most endangered group of vertebrates on our planet, with 60 percent of species threatened,” he said. “Turtles are the most traded four-legged animal group in the world, and that is a big cause for their decline.” Continue reading