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Western Branch Town Meeting held September 1, 2015
Following are responses to issues, grouped under headings, raised at the Western Branch Town Meeting.
New Traffic Pattern on Bruce Road
The City’s Traffic Engineer reports that the recently completed intersection improvement project that added an additional lane along Bruce Road approaching the Taylor Road signal resulted in a re-allocation of the lane assignments to improve traffic flow (new traffic pattern). The pavement markings for new dual left-turn lanes were designed with a short taper length to maximize the vehicle storage in the turn lanes. Generally, vehicle speeds approaching the signal are slow enough to enter the turn lane without difficulty. Traffic Engineering will continue to monitor the new operations and will modify the pavement markings if needed.
Western Branch Commonwealth Railway Trail
By way of background, the referenced rail line has been relocated to the medians of State Route 164 and Interstate 664. The Virginia Port Authority as owner of the abandoned right-of-way, has informally expressed the desire to transfer the property to the City of Chesapeake. As such, the City of Chesapeake has scoped a project to construct a 10-foot recreational off-road trail to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians. This trail would become a critical component of the larger “Multi-City” Trail that would eventually extend from Suffolk to the Ocean View section of the City of Norfolk, a distance of over 30 miles.
The total project cost is estimated to be $775,000 for design and construction of a 3 mile off-road trail system (Phase 1) along the abandoned Commonwealth Railroad right-of-way from Gum Court to the Portsmouth City line. The Commonwealth Transportation Board included $300,000 for this project in the FY 2015-2020 Six-Year Plan, with $60,000 of this amount required as the local 20% match. Staff submitted a grant this past year for the remaining funding; however, we were unsuccessful in obtaining additional funds. The feedback we received from VDOT was the City’s grant application did not compete well because we do not yet own the property on which the trail will be constructed.
Given the limited funding, Public Works is designing the project in-house. Preliminary survey data has been obtained and design efforts will continue over the course of this year with design completion scheduled for spring of 2016.
Public Works is also coordinating closely with the City Manager’s Office on intergovernmental efforts with various stakeholders to resolve the property transfer issue. Advancing the design and obtaining the necessary right-of-way will better position the City to receive additional grant funding.
Existing Bruce Road Trail
The Parks, Recreation & Tourism Department is proposing paving the existing dirt trail in the 2018 Capital Improvement Program, subject to the future appropriation of funds by City Council.
Bike Lane – Portsmouth Boulevard
Our Assistant City Engineer reports that the 60% plan for the Portsmouth Boulevard project showed the 10' wide multi-use path on the south side of the project (due to the number of driveways and houses along the north side and the fact that the south side was mostly wide open for a future development with better control of access points along Portsmouth Boulevard). The proposed multi-use plan was presented at the project’s citizen information meeting. We received some public input at the time that favored the multi-use path on the north side. After discussions with the consultant and coordination of the two projects (Suffolk’s project), the City of Chesapeake decided to switch the location of this multi-use path to the north side which will match what Suffolk has in place at this time. The current 90% plan under review shows this path along the north side.
Need for Bike Lanes and Sidewalks
The City has numerous bike and pedestrian facility recommendations in the adopted 2050 Trails Plan, including multi-use paths on Gum Road, bike lanes on Airline Boulevard and other enhancements on Elizabeth Harbor Drive and Jolliff Road. As recommended in the 2035 Comprehensive Plan, the City will continue to promote the construction and/or expansion of the identified sidewalks and bicycle trail facilities through the following action strategies: encouraging the development and implementation of a “complete streets” policy to accommodate multiple modes of transit/transportation; seeking to amend the City Code to require to be constructed for new and redeveloped sites along the street frontage; encouraging applicants to proffer or stipulate installation of sidewalks during the development review process; and considering bicycle/trail facilities in the design of all future roadway improvements, shared utility easements between neighborhoods, and right-of-way acquisition. Funding to implement these projects will be pursued through a combination of developer contributions, City capital improvement budget financing, and special funding opportunities through federal, state, or regional bike/trail grants.
Cedar Grove – Speeding
Police Officers have been assigned to increase patrols in that area to address the issue.
Portsmouth Blvd. Property Maintenance Concerns
Concern was expressed that some businesses down Portsmouth Blvd. are not getting enough attention from the City in regards to maintaining the upkeep of their properties – specifically referenced were the Pizza Hut, Burger King, and KFC. The referenced properties were investigated by staff on September 8, 2015. At the time of the inspection, the code compliance inspector determined the properties on Portsmouth Blvd. from Gum Road to Dock Landing were not in violation of the Chesapeake Zoning Ordinance. The average height of grass or similar vegetation is less than 10 inches.
Public Works staff are working on the list of maintenance issues provided. With regard to the paving of Ahoy Drive, it is included on this fiscal year’s resurfacing schedule and it is expected to be completed by mid-November.
Enhanced Landscaping for Taylor Road
Public Works reports that there are no current plans to install additional landscaping along Taylor Road. Maintenance of existing grass shoulders and medians continues. The shoulders on Taylor Road are mowed during each 21-28 day cycle. Prior to mowing, our contractor collects litter in the areas that will be mowed. Taylor Road is swept four times annually. The most recent sweeping operation on Taylor Road was in July, 2015.
Pine Grove West
This is a current application that seeks to rezone 14.32 acres to R-TH-1 (11.95 acres) and O&I (2.12 acres) located on the north side of Portsmouth Blvd. adjacent to the City of Suffolk. View the Planning Commission recommended approval at their September 9, 2015 public hearing, with the proffers. City Council will consider the application at its October 20, 2015 meeting.
Western Branch Community Center
Upgrades to the Western Branch Community Center in the last several years include: recoated gym roof; new sign on Portsmouth Blvd.; replaced cabinets and countertops in kitchen; painting of all walls and trim; repair of ceiling insulation and painting of ceiling, walls and trim in gym; replaced cabinets and countertops in art room; replaced treadmill, Olympic weight plates, and elliptical; replaced floor tile in main building; and this fall, repaved parking lot.
Features of the Western Branch Community Center are: Fitness Room with full collection of up-to-date weight and cardiac equipment; Gymnasium that can be converted to accommodate basketball courts, pickleball courts, volleyball courts or badminton courts; Game room with pool table, TV, gaming system, table tennis table; Art Room that can be used for programming and available for rental by up to 30 persons; Club Room with fully updated kitchen that can accommodate approximately 80 persons based on programming; and 2 half-court basketball courts.
A sampling of programs includes: programs for Seniors such as Peppy Steppers Line Dancing and Pickleball; Instructional Classes such as ballet and tap; Therapeutic Recreation such as Adaptive Movement Program Karate classes and Jr. Alley Cats (bowling); Open Recreation Gym programs such as volleyball and badminton; Youth Programs such as Stay and Play Afterschool Program and Youth Reading Programs; Athletics such as Youth Football and Fall Soccer; Community Center rental options; and Special Events such as Farmer’s Market and Movie & More.
Use of Jolliff Middle School for Recreational Purposes
The School System does not provide for use of their school buildings for recreational purposes by non-students as the schools were not designed to be utilized as recreation centers. The Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism advises that although there are no indoor services offered at this location at this time, the Department is working with Schools to possibly open schools for recreation and structured programs.
Lakes of Jolliff – No Nearby Parks
The closest playground to Lakes of Jolliff is Western Branch Park. The City has been receptive to acquiring land in this area, but there has been no suitable land available, wetlands being the biggest issue in the past. As development unfolds in the surrounding area, the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism will continue to work with developers and pursue land for a playground.
Lakes of Jolliff – Unfinished Paving
The Department of Development and Permits reports that when the plat was recorded in June 2011 for Lakes of Jolliff, home construction was initially slow. Although the infrastructure was constructed, the final surface of asphalt was withheld until the majority of home construction is complete. At this time nearly all lots have been developed and the developer was instructed to install the final surface course, which was scheduled to commence the later part of September.
Sidewalks in Cedar Grove
Most of the residential streets in the Cedar Grove subdivision were designed and built prior to building standards that require subdivisions to have sidewalks. The City Code was revised in 1995, and has since required property owners to construct sidewalks for all new and redeveloped sites along both sides of the street. Many of our residential streets that were built prior to 1995 did not include sidewalks. That is the reason why not all of the streets in the Cedar Grove development have sidewalks. City projects that have proposed to add sidewalks or other pedestrian/bike facilities to existing local streets have generally been found to be very costly and have not been supported by many of the homeowners whose properties front the streets. These projects usually require costly re-location of utilities, right-of-way acquisition from the homeowners, and the re-designing of the roadside stormwater facilities and the residential driveways along the segment of roadway that sidewalks are being constructed.
Because of the high cost associated with adding sidewalks along existing local streets and the low community support for these facilities, new sidewalk projects have been focused along collector streets that connect to activity centers and locations where other existing facilities are provided. Recognizing the need to provide new sidewalks so that residents have the choice to walk and bicycle conveniently to shopping, schools, and recreation areas, a Citywide trails plan map has been developed and is included in the City’s Comprehensive Plan. This detailed map is the primary guide for planning new sidewalks and shows the future locations and the recommended type of facility. View information on the City’s Trail Plan.
Economic and Residential Growth
With regard to economic development and the balance of residential and non-residential growth, the City’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan addresses this topic in Chapter Two – Responsible Growth. This chapter takes into consideration the successful economic growth the City has experienced but recognizes the need to balance residential and non-residential future development and redevelopment. This balance includes identifying areas more suited to economic opportunities in areas less suitable for residential development. An important tool to identify future economic and resident growth is the 2035 land Use Plan. The Land Use Plan establishes a pattern of compatible land uses that help to strike the desired balance of residential and non-residential uses. Additionally, the Comprehensive Plan has a number of policies to guide future growth. Policies include the Planning and Land Use Police a.k.a., Level of Service Policy, which addresses the appropriate timing of growth; the Public Utility Franchise Area which discourages leapfrog development; and the Urban, Suburban and Rural Overlay Districts, which sets forth the future form of development with higher densities in the northern urban areas of the city transitioning to agriculture/open space with limited development in the south.
The Western Branch Task Force has been formed by the Economic Development Authority to focus on economic development issues in Western Branch generally, and also more specifically the Portsmouth Boulevard Corridor. The Task Force will conduct a series of focus group meetings to solicit input from various stakeholders in Western Branch.
Loss of Retail/Need for High-End Grocer
The City’s Economic Development staff maintains a constant dialogue with sought after businesses and their designated real estate representatives or preferred development teams. Many retailers have proprietary metrics they rely on when evaluating potential locations. Many of the retailers choose to “test” the Hampton Roads market by first establishing a location in the most densely populated trade areas of the region. If year over year of same store sales meet company expectations, then other future locations in the region may be considered based (typically) on population density.
Businesses that use demographic information when analyzing future locations are often comparing one trade area with others in the Hampton Roads region or even outside of the region/state. By comparison, certain trade areas are more attractive than others based on various location metrics or economic “drivers” that are key factors in the growth strategy of an individual business.
Any limitation (or perceived limitation) usually results in a location being eliminated from further consideration in the corporate approval process. In addition to the standard demographic information used by all businesses, Economic Development staff uses “outside of the box” metrics to help craft a profile of Western Branch. For example, staff is constantly pitching the health conscience membership of the One Life Fitness facility in Western Branch as representative of the types of shoppers that would frequent a “high-end” grocery store. However, the grocery sector in Hampton Roads is extremely competitive. With estimates as high 16% of the grocery market share attributed to commissaries, many grocers perform an in-depth analysis of shopping patterns when analyzing potential locations.
The City’s Economic Development staff has investigated the feasibility of a "sportsplex” facility in Western Branch. In fact, staff has had confidential, in-depth discussions with sports facility operators. According to those operators, the single most important and limiting factor in the development of a “sportsplex” facility is securing the financing (either via a financial institution or equity investors) necessary to construct and operate an athletic facility. Economic Development has investigated various potential funding sources for athletic facilities but financing requirements are limited for this type of operation.
Western Brach as a Fine Arts District
The proposal to designate an area in Western Branch as a Fine Arts District may be a process that the Chesapeake Fine Arts Commission may want to pursue.
Ads at Western Branch High School Tennis Courts
Chesapeake Public Schools indicates that Western Branch High School has approved placement of these signs on the tennis court fencing, for which the business pays a yearly advertisement fee.
Maintenance of Appearance of City’s Main Roadways/Entrances
The Department of Public Works does have a system (Preventative Maintenance Schedule) in place for regular maintenance of landscaping/grass mowing through a seasonal contract. In addition, there is a preventative maintenance schedule for trash pickup along major roadways.
Comments were made that the City could obtain revenue for infrastructure through increasing the hotel tax. Following is a comparison of the City’s rate to other localities. All cities in the Hampton Roads area are charging an 8% tax rate on hotel lodging. Several, including Chesapeake also charge a flat dollar tax on top of the 8% tax rate.
Schools’ STEM Programs
The Governor’s STEM Academy represents an exciting initiative in academic choices for Chesapeake Public Schools’ students. The Technology Academy opened in September 2008 with its first freshman class. Spring 2012 the Academy earned the distinction of being a Governor’s STEM Academy. The academy operates as a school-within-a-school and features a cutting-edge curriculum especially designed for students with an interest in STEM careers. Students will have multiple opportunities for taking advanced courses and sampling such special programs as mentorship and internship.
The innovative learning environment of the Governor’s STEM Academy also provides students the added advantage of combining academic and technical training that prepares them for a variety of post-graduate choices: entry-level jobs, advanced technology training, or college or university studies. Students are drawn from across the city and may choose to pursue the Standard Diploma Program or the Advanced Diploma Program. Students attending the Governor’s STEM Academy take core academic courses as well as STEM elective courses from one of more of the three career pathways: Engineering and Technology, Programming and Software Development, and Global Entrepreneurship and Technology. Admission to the program is through an application process. Applications are due January 15 of each school year.
The City flag can be purchased from US Flag & Signal, 802 Fifth Street, Portsmouth, VA 23704 (757-497-8947) for approximately $132.50 for a 3'x5' nylon flag.
School Administration provides that they have communicated to all of their building principals that both the American and Virginia flags should be flown every day that school is open, which includes the days the schools are open during the summer regardless if students are present or not. The school division does have a school board policy on flags (P 6-5 Ceremonies and Observances). This policy includes the U.S. flag and State flag only. All schools have been provided information on flag etiquette.
Utility Trailers in Residential Areas
A citizen addressed City Council requesting a change be made to Section 6-2002 of the Chesapeake Zoning Ordinance that would permit utility trailers to be stored in the front yard in residential areas. It was felt that a utility trailer is no different than allowing a work truck in the driveway. Furthermore, it was felt that the size of the trailer should be considered (in this case the trailer is smaller than a car).
According to the City’s Zoning Administrator, utility trailers are grouped with recreational vehicles in the zoning ordinance. The zoning ordinance does not allow utility trailers that are defined as recreational vehicles or commercial vehicles to be parked or stored on any lot in a residential district. City Council previously reconsidered reducing restrictions of recreational vehicles in front yards. After a public hearing, the restrictions were preserved to maintain the appearance of communities. This issue can be reconsidered by City Council.
Possible Interchange at Greenbrier Parkway and Indian River Road
In 2006, a new interchange and roadway (City Line Road) was proposed off I-64 between the existing interchanges at Greenbrier Parkway and Indian River Road. This project, however, was not approved by the Federal Highways Administration.
Sinkhole on Cobb Avenue
The sinkhole around the manhole in this area has been reported to the Public Utilities Department for repair.
Sidewalk on Airline Boulevard
Our Traffic Engineer reports that Public Works has scoped a project to include installing a 10-foot wide multi-use path along the north side of Airline Boulevard that would connect into the existing sidewalk at the Jolliff Middle School and run approximately 1.6 miles to Ahoy Drive. The estimated cost to install the 10-foot wide multi-use path is $1 million. Staff is preparing an application to request federal funding for this project through the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). Applications for TAP funding will be submitted to VDOT by November 1, 2015.
Drum Creek and Taylor Road Drainage Concern
Stormwater Engineering and Operations have investigated the request and it appears that the “retention pond” is actually a finger /tributary of Drum Creek. This waterway leads to the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River and is not considered a City owned or maintained stormwater management facility. The City of Chesapeake is not responsible for maintenance in the area that was described. Removal of sediments by the City is limited to obstructions to drainage within public easements. Normally, public drainage easements do not extend beyond the “high water line” or the “edge of water” of a receiving facility such as the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River. A field investigation was conducted by Stormwater Operations to ensure positive drainage flow for the public stormwater conveyance system in the area. The investigation found no obstructions in the system. The channel from the 12” pipe appeared to be draining properly. The receiving area in question is deemed wet, but the flow line is clear and draining properly. The drop inlet at the right-of-way line is dry and clean. Accordingly, no maintenance work was performed.