Is This a Dysfunctional Living Pattern

Back in CA on business. Look what I’m missing at home.

From today’s Daily Press by Matt Sabo
POQUOSON — Residents made it clear to city staff and council members Tuesday night that the city’s waterfront should be off-limits to multifamily housing.

A crowd approaching 150 (out of a population of 12,000)- many of them standing along walls -attended an informational meeting on proposed planning districts that would allow mixed-use developments that could include commercial, retail and high-density housing.

The proposed districts are controversial because residents say they would detract from the quality of life in Poquoson, bringing pricey condominiums to a city made up almost entirely of single-family homes on large lots.

City Administrator Charlie Burgess served as moderator, giving a brief overview of the proposed districts at the end of Browns Neck, Messick and Rens roads. The Poquoson City Council will hold a public hearing on the districts at 7 p.m. Monday.

The three proposed districts comprise a total of 50 acres. As many as 16 residential units would be allowed per acre – up from the current range of 1.63 to 2.42 units per acre in the three areas.

Residents were politely persistent in their opposition to the proposed districts.

“Everybody in this room is here, I guarantee it, because they are worried about it,” said Dave Kenneally.

He also asked for a show of hands of people who favored the districts. One man raised his hand.Then he asked for a show of hands of people opposed to the districts. Everyone else raised a hand.

Residents also wanted to know why the city is considering allowing the districts in areas that are zoned for either a commercial or a residential use.

Burgess said it’s not so the city has new sources of tax revenues. It’s also not because a developer has approached the city with a project proposal, although it’s inevitable, he said.

“Whether we like it or not, the requests are going to come at some time,” Burgess said.

“Turn ’em down,” said Lauren Roche. “That’s not why we live here.

“The idea of up to 16 townhouses or condominiums per acre at Messick Point – stretching up to 45 feet high – bothered waterman Sonny Insley.

Especially when crabbing season comes and watermen head out from Messick Point.”It seems to me that at 3 o’clock when you get 20 boys firing up the diesels to go crabbing, you’re going to have a conflict with the townhomes,” he said. “And we know who’s going to lose that battle.”

Other residents said the city should undertake an analysis of what it would cost Poquoson in services – for new roads and more schoolchildren, for example – and how the districts would affect the environment before approving them.

So, where is the dysfunctional living pattern? There are two roads out of town (off the peninsula on The Peninsula). One main shopping road. That’s it.

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11 responses to “Is This a Dysfunctional Living Pattern”

  1. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    There is no way to know if some of all of the proposal is good or bad without much more information.

    It is clear, as noted in my comment at the bottom of the GEOGRAPHIC ILLITERACY RAMPANT post which you had earlier commented on: If there is that much disention, the process is flawed.


  2. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    EMR, I respect your study of this. I don’t understand how dissent and discord show a flawed process. I thought that ws the democratic part of our great republic.

    Thought it’s an interesting example of private wants and public policy – and outputs that become different outcomes.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Stories like this are now fairly routine in the Fredericksburg Area.

    Here’s an exerpt of one in today’s local paper (edited):

    “Sherwood Forest farm will be the place that hundreds, instead of thousands will call home someday soon.

    Originally envisioned a 2,950-home age-restricted community for seniors on 1,200 acres, it will now be a by-right 208 homes on 896 acres.”

    The original proposal was a mixed-use community. What will be built is 208 3-acre single family homes.

    And even that would have been turned down except for the “by-right” legal status of the land.

    The Fredericksburg Area is consistently saying “NO” to multi-use dense rezones.

    And the reason is quite simple. The original proposal would generate 30,000 new daily car trips. The approved proposal will generate little more than 2000 new daily car trips.

    A point of fact. There have been less than 1/2 dozen rezones (for more dense development) approved in the last 3 years in the Fredericksburg Area.

    It’s current growth rate of 5%+ is about 4000 new homes a year and virtually all are “by-right” low-density, large lot development.

    Is this “dysfunctional”?

    Local officials and citizens in the Fredericksburg Area would call de-facto (rezoning) approval of 30,000 new car trips a day on area roads as “dysfunctional”.

    What argument would one use to convince Fredericksburg citizens that more dense development is in THEIR best interests?

    So… what we have here is .. as Cool Hand Luke once said famously – “We have a failure to communicate”
    on the term “dysfunctional”. 🙂

  4. Swamp Rat Avatar
    Swamp Rat

    Sounds like those “Bull Islanders” have got their shorts in a knot again! Some people move to a place then “draw up the ladder”.

    Get a life and start planning like they should have done before this!

  5. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    I will try to be brief and address this issue further in the future column.

    What I believe is that in a democracy with a market economy if all the facts are on the table and there is a rational basis for evaluation then sound decisons on human settlement pattern issues will not be contriversal.

    In some cases some individuals and institutions will not win but the vast majority will benefit.

    In The Shape of the Future we suggest ways to compensate those who are not winners in critical areas such as in shared-vehicle station areas where vast public funds have been expended to create the system and the potential for functional settlement patterns.

    In some cases it may be best to compensate those impacted after the market has proven their property value did in fact decrease. A lot of opposition to change is based on the fear that specific interests will be damaged but it turns out they are not.

    See our Post on this Blog “METRO West — 22 Years Too Late 28 March 2006, now archived. This case demonstrates that in many cases those who lose were set up by bad governance decisions or by believing in settlement pattern impacting Myths such as the Private-Vehicle Mobility Myth.

    Another major culprit is politicians concern for the next election, not what is best for individuals and the community 20 years out.

    These points have been borne out in many of the public planning processes I have managed / co-managed and / or designed.

    The failures come when those who think they will lose an advantage, susidy or benefit convince others to join the “opposition.”

    This is exacerbated by:

    1. Flawed processes

    2. The inablility to quantify the cost and the benefits

    3. Failure to reach a solution where as many as possible benefit

    4. Failure to have a comprehensive, balanced plan with
    lots of options drawn out in detali and the flexiblility to continually change.

    A sound process dealing with human settlement pattern issues ends only when the vast majority believe the right decision has been reached.

    Some posters to this Blog demonstate the basis for misunderstandings, misinformation and myths that confound concensus.


  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I can’t but help to see parallels with the Reality Check exercise.

    The exercise STARTS with the premise that a whole bunch of new jobs will come to the Wash Metro Area AND that those new employees WILL need a place to live and the goal of that exercise is to AGREE to designate locations where those new people will live.

    In both the Washington and Fredericksburg versions of RC, the constituencies represented, ranging from the development community to the environmental communities overwhelmingly CHOSE density and locations adjacent to transportation corridors over far-flung greenfield locations.

    The paradox is that despite this seemingly majority consensus that when a SPECIFIC dense mixed use proposal is made – in one of those designated locations – that it is usually deemed unacceptable because of it’s impacts.

    I find this similiar to asking citizens if they’d like to see a new road built – and the answer is “yes” BUT not where I LIVE.

    So, as successful as some claim that Reality Check is in collaborating a community consensus about HOW to deal with new population demands – it really doesn’t deal with the other shoe drop which is WHERE specifically to implement the apparent consensus agreement.

    It’s this other “shoe” that has yet to play out in ways that communities accept.

  7. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Larry Gross: So you never really achieve a consensus, right?

    EMR: You deal with different humans than I. I know people who are like the creatures in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels who will go to war over which end of the egg to open.

    If you get a simple majority on anything then you have done well. And good enough.

    Congrats on reaching super majorities or consensus wherever. Not in my world.

  8. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    I am just back from the funeral of a friend and participant in the PROPERTY DYNAMICS process. The funeral was held in a mainstream Christian church so I may be a bit hard on organized religion right now but:

    The reason you doubt the potential of consensus on human settlement pattern issues may be that you spend time around those who embrace literally the doctrine of specific religious institutions and/or those with strong political party affiliations or beliefs.

    Both groups are important parts of our nation-states’ cultural heritage but neither (or both together) characterize the majority of citizens.

    As Jared Diamond suggests, in a competitive global context, survival of civilization may well depend on stepping back from the absolutes that characterize much of religious and party rhetoric.

    I have found that when a broad spectrum of citizens understand the importance of functional human settlement patterns, consensus is not hard to reach.

    One other point: There is a difference between “dysfunctional living patterns” (the heading of your post) and “functional and dysfunctional human settlement patterns” (the focus of our work). I am not sure what all the differences may be but I suspect they are substantial.


  9. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    EMR: Sorry about the loss of your friend and for all who grieve for him.

    I spend time with average people who are the majority of the Commonwealth. I don’t follow your ‘group’ identity thing, and it doesn’t matter.

    Just let me know whenever you build a consensus on something, anything, because I’d really like to see it. Best wishes in doing so.

    Again, sorry for your loss.

  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Well – you CAN reach consensus – but do understand that consensus is not unanimous agreement.

    And I’ve give an example.

    In our area – we had so much trouble with new development proposals that most all of them would play out mired in controversy culimated with dozens of “anti” speakers at the rezoning hearing.

    Some citizens talked to developers and encouraged them to hold community meetings for their proposals.

    The developers were skeptical.. thinking that they’d only be lambs agreeing to show up to the slaughter but the same citizens
    advised them to be honest and truthful about what they were proposing.. admit the warts.. and LISTEN.. and come back with meaningful responses to the issues.

    Understood was the fact that some of the changes requested would be outlandish… unacheivable but others might truly be things the developer had not thought of, may not be costly and EUREKA – may even be an improvement that would GAIN support from citizens.

    It would take a series of meetings – not just one.

    The result: At least 3 proposals with all the warning signs of controversy – not only sailed to approval – they did so with citizens speaking in FAVOR – in part, because now they had some ownership.. even if they didn’t want the land developed; they accepted the inevitable right of the developer.. and they worked to get the best development that they could.

    So . .YES it can and does work.

    But it does require a true commitment to a legitimate collaborative decision process.

    (something VDOT could learn).

    Bad examples: I’m sure .. but the point being made is that we DO have successful models.. and they can be built on.

    VDOT’s and arrogant developers “in your face style” while professing to “outreach” to citizens .. done in the name of community involvement has given a bad name to a process than can work.

  11. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Larry Gross: Let us reason together is good for reasonable men and women. Where did you accomplish this?

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