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Hickory Town Meeting held February 7, 2017
Following are responses to issues, grouped under headings, raised at the Hickory Town Meeting.
Growth in Southern Chesapeake/School Over-Crowding
Overcrowding of schools in Southern Chesapeake. There are a variety of factors that contribute to overcrowding at school facilities, separate and aside from property rezoning. These factors can include requirements for educational programs that affect classroom size, fluctuations in student enrollments each year based on broader demographic trends and the timing of residential construction in developments approved many years ago or that are already zoned for residential development. Put simply, conditions change over time. A subdivision that was once populated with many young couples with elementary age children typically matures over time to include an increasing number of middle and high school students. Later, the number of K-12 students declines as these young men and women start college or begin careers. Eventually, the cycle often repeats itself as new residents move in to replace the original homeowners who have become empty nesters or retire and move away. Student populations grow and decline dynamically, throughout most cities.
A key goal of the 2035 Comprehensive Plan as it relates to education states that, “The City will meet the changing needs of current and future generations, and will continue to foster the integration of school facilities into the overall fabric of the community.” In other words, it is the goal of the City to ensure that school facilities will meet the future needs of a growing and changing population.
This process certainly includes responsible growth management and the construction of new schools or the expansion of existing ones. However, it also includes the periodic reallocation of students to make the most productive use of existing school resources. Changing school attendance boundaries are only one means of achieving the greatest benefits possible from taxpayer investments in school facilities. However, it is important to note that no school attendance boundary was ever envisioned or intended to be permanent. In fact, it has been evident from the very creation of Chesapeake’s first school attendance boundaries that changes would be inevitable as new schools or school additions were built and/or the distribution of students throughout the City changed. The Comprehensive Plan assumes that growth will continue to occur in Chesapeake and thus the City will need to evaluate all proposed land uses and development densities for conformance with the Comprehensive Plan and other applicable policies, ordinances, and regulations.
Building an addition to Hickory Middle School. The Chesapeake City Council voted on February 14th to continue the issue of appropriating proffer funds for the design of an addition to Hickory Middle School to their March 28th meeting, so it could be considered in connection with the recommended City Budget. This will also allow time for the School Superintendent and me to clarify some questions and, hopefully, identify and articulate a common vision of future needs that both the School Board and the Council share.
Addressing development in Southern Chesapeake. As with any geographic area of the City where development is proposed to occur, the City requires applicants to undergo a rigorous review process for development proposals in Southern Chesapeake, which is generally considered to be in the Rural Overlay District on the City’s Land Use Plan. Development applications in this area are given even more scrutiny, due to the growth management policies contained in the Comprehensive Plan that must be satisfied to ensure the appropriate timing, form, and positive fiscal impacts of new development. These policies include the 2035 Land Use Plan, 2050 Master Transportation Plan, Rural Overlay District, Public Utilities Franchise Area, and Level of Service Policy. The City’s review and consideration of development related rezoning applications includes the following elements: traffic impact analysis; drainage impact analysis; water and sewer services impacts; fire protection; consistency with the Comprehensive Plan; changed conditions in the area that might make the proposed rezoning necessary; compatibility of the proposed use with surrounding uses; economic viability of property under existing zoning designation; an environmental site assessment; and possible impacts on other overlay districts or special policy areas, such as the Fentress Airfield Overlay District. With respect to the long-term impacts of continued development in southern Chesapeake, City staff periodically reviews key City policies and guidelines for necessary revisions, such as the Master Transportation Plan, Master Drainage Plan, and Police Precinct locations and corresponding average response times.
The Comprehensive Plan and development in southern Chesapeake. The 2035 Comprehensive Plan recognizes the historic and cultural significance of the agricultural and open space land uses that are predominant in Southern Chesapeake, as well as the sensitive environmental resources that are vital to the overall quality of life. A number of City policies and ordinances have been established to protect and preserve important resources in this area, including: designation of the vast majority of land in Southern Chesapeake as Agriculture/Open Space, Recreation, or Conservation; a 2050 Preferred Development Pattern Map that emphasizes rural development in Southern Chesapeake with a few consolidated Major Activity Centers; a Rural Overlay District and corresponding Rural Character District design principles that are intended to preserve and protect the rural character of Chesapeake’s southern areas; the Public Utilities Franchise Area Policy, which controls the extent of the City’s water and sewer services; the Northwest River Watershed Protection District; the Open Space and Agricultural Preservation (OSAP) Program; the Southern Watershed Area Management Plan (SWAMP); and the Fentress Airfield Overlay District and Fentress Encroachment Prevention Acquisition Program.
However, there is at least one policy; the Transportation Corridor Overlay District that operates as a dual edged sword. This policy acts to concentrate development along the emerging Route 168 and Route 17 Corridors into Target Areas. It certainly promotes maintaining the rural character of Southern Chesapeake with the only exception being targeted areas along these two corridors. Still, it does recognize the appropriateness of further development near these major arterial roads over time.
By Right Development. Not all development is dependent upon zoning change approvals. By right development refers to projects that are permitted under the current property zoning and do not require any legislative action by the Planning Commission or the City Council. These developments are approved administratively if they meet the requirements of the current zoning and do not require public hearings. However, by-right development may be subject to review and approval by the City’s Board of Zoning Appeals, if the proposed project is not able to conform to the required development standards for the particular zoning district.
Historically, the prevalent zoning districts along many roads in Southern Chesapeake follow a pattern of R-15s (single-family residential, 15,000 square foot lot size) along the road frontage with A-1 (agricultural district) to the rear. Parcels zoned R-15s are intended for single-family residential development on 15,000 square foot lots. Lots zoned A-1 are intended for agricultural use but the A-1 zoning district permits the construction of one single-family residential unit on a minimum three-acre lot size. Consequently, there may be considerable opportunities for by right residential development to occur in Southern Chesapeake based solely on the current zoning.
Frank Williams Tract. The Frank Williams Farm Tract has been studied for more than a decade, beginning with a study by the Urban Land Institute in 2003. In January 2015, the City Council approved a resolution identifying the Williams Tract as a candidate for consideration as a Unique Economic Development Opportunity (UEDO) under the provisions of the 2035 Comprehensive Plan. The Council also requested that the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) designate the Tract as a “mega-site.” A successful grant application was submitted in August 2016 by the Chesapeake Economic Development Department to VEDP to study and make recommendations for designation as a mega-site. On November 2, 2016, a report entitled “Consideration of the Frank T. Williams Tract as a Unique Economic Development Opportunity” was submitted for City Council’s consideration. This report included research into potential impacts of commercial/industrial development on the property to surrounding land uses, including sensitive environmental resources. Stakeholder input was actively sought for the report, including comments from key environmental entities such as U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Virginia Department of Conservation & Recreation, and The Nature Conservancy. The report concluded that the southern-most 1,420 acre portion of the Williams Tract, the site for the proposed Coastal Virginia Commerce Park, could be considered for designation as a UEDO. On November 15, 2016, City Council approved a resolution designating the southern-most portion of the Williams Tract as a UEDO and requested the Planning Commission consider and make recommendations concerning an amendment to the 2035 Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Plan to designate said property for non-residential land uses such as Light Industrial/Logistics. The City Council is currently considering the Planning Commission’s recommendation to designate the specified area as appropriate for Light Industrial/Logistics zoning.
Consequences of zero growth. The Comprehensive Plan contains a Rate of Growth Policy that is intended to balance the advantages of new development (e.g. tax revenues to the City, spinoff economic benefits) with the capacity of the City to finance the facilities and services needed to support that development. The overall target is for the City to accommodate an annual population growth of between 1% and 2%, which is deemed to be a reasonable amount of growth that fairly balances the interests of current residents with future residents. The City’s annual growth rate the past few years has been approximately 1.15%. It is widely recognized that a zero rate of growth leads to economic stagnation in a community, particularly if the average age of the population is increasing, which is the case in Chesapeake. Residential growth, when properly managed and constructed in balance with other non-residential development, can contribute to increased housing options and overall quality of life, including construction of related infrastructure such as roads, sewer, sidewalks, etc. Also, if demand for housing in Chesapeake increases, and the supply does not, the consequences are inflated housing costs, higher taxes, and lessened housing affordability.
Proffers. Proffers are voluntary contributions or improvements offered by a developer as part of a conditional zoning application to offset the impacts of a development on the surrounding community. Over time, tax revenues from the development will ideally balance the long-term demands for City services. However, new developments, especially larger ones, have the potential to overwhelm the short-term capacity of public infrastructure and proffers offer a means to address these immediate or short-term needs.
Over the years, the Virginia General Assembly has restricted the timing and use of proffers. Today, cash proffers can only be collected after completion of the final inspection and prior to the time of the issuance of any certificate of occupancy for the subject property. In addition, cash proffers must be used for the capital improvements for which the cash proffers were made and, in the case of existing facilities, must expand the capacity of such facility. Consequently, it is often necessary to allow cash proffer payments to accumulate until they are sufficient to fund a specific capacity-increasing project.
In addition, it is important to note that Virginia Code Section 15.2-2303.4, which became effective July 1, 2016, imposes more burdensome restrictions on the collection of proffers for residential rezoning applications. The referenced statute includes the limitation that residential development proffers may only mitigate impacts to public schools, roads, public safety and parks. In addition, the statute sets strict requirements on what does and what does not constitute a reasonable proffer and prohibits a locality from suggesting, requesting or accepting any unreasonable proffer. Consequently, the City anticipates that the collection of proffers related to residential rezoning applications may decrease as the new statutory requirements are difficult to satisfy.
Condition of Hickory Road
Public Works staff will be evaluating the road condition and traffic volume along Hickory Road East. This evaluation will consider existing pavement width, road right of way width, geometry/alignment of the roadway, traffic volume and other related factors to determine the level of service along this roadway. The above information will be utilized to assess the need for improvements.
Pothole Repairs on Indian Creek Road
Public Works completed the repair of thirty-six (36) potholes at the referenced location on February 15, 2017
Community Center for Hickory
The Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism’s direction at this time is to repair and renovate existing and aging community centers, as well as to renovate and replace existing facilities and dilapidated park amenities such as playgrounds, athletic lights, tennis courts, fencing, and shelters; installation of facility security systems; and initiatives to help make facilities and parks more accessible. There is no current funding allocated to build any new, larger multipurpose community centers at this time, and to build a new, adequate community center with a pool could cost anywhere from 12 to 17 million dollars, with yearly operational costs of 1.2 to 1.7 million dollars.
No Outlet Sign – Old Centerville Turnpike
Public Works will install a “NO OUTLET” sign at the entrance to Old Centerville Turnpike. In addition, end of roadway markers will be installed at the end of Old Centerville Turnpike. Public Works anticipates completing the installation of signs by March 31, 2017.
Reckless Driving – Old Centerville Turnpike
Police will continue to monitor the location for violations.
Traffic on Ballahack Road
Public Works staff evaluated Ballahack Road conditions along the 100 and 200 blocks. This evaluation included a review of the accidents that have occurred in the last four years, as well as examining the existing curve warning signs, pavement markings, and roadway conditions. The posted speed limit for this section of Ballahack Road is 35 mph. Adding rumble strips along this section of road is not recommended due to the narrow pavement width. Installing rumble strips along narrow roadways may result in hazardous conditions for motorcyclists and bicyclists. The existing pavement markings,, curve warning signs and chevron alignment signs were impacted and found to be in good condition; however, staff is recommending the installation of additional delineators along the road edge.
Coyotes – Ballahack Road Area
An Animal Control Officer checked the area with negative results Information on the use of traps and cameras can be found by contacting the City’s Division of Animal Control Services, main number – 382-8080.
High Traffic Volume on Battlefield Boulevard in Mornings
The January 2017 traffic data shows the average weekday traffic volume for Battlefield Boulevard S. as 14,747 vehicles per day and 8,974 vehicles per day on the Chesapeake Expressway. It was also suggested that the toll plaza should be moved closer to the state line to prevent motorist from by-passing the tolls. The decision to locate the toll plaza at its current location was based on many factors that included citizen input at public hearings during the project development, and financial and revenue forecast studies that were conducted to support the project. The intention of the project was to relieve congestion along Battlefield Boulevard by providing a by-pass route for tourist traffic traveling through our City. An alternate, non-tolled route for local traffic was also preferred by the majority of input that was received at the public meetings, and supported by the financial studies.
Shots Heard in Sign Pine Road Area
An officer checked the area for gunfire with negative results at that time. He also checked calls for service over the last year and found one reported incident. Officers assigned to this rea will continue to monitor for illegal activity.
Home Day Cares
City Council adopted an Initiating Resolution on January 24, 2017 requesting that the Planning Commission to consider and make recommendations concerning proposed amendments to Article 14 of the Chesapeake Zoning Ordinance to repeal or amend the criteria on Level II Family Day Care Home Occupations as necessary to ensure compatibility with residential neighborhoods. The Planning Department is just beginning to study the issue. It is anticipated that a recommendation will be made to the Planning Commission at their May 10th Public Hearing. The specific amendments will be determined after public input. Any amendments will not affect existing home day cares as they will be grandfathered.
Police Presence at all Schools
Police Department staffing levels do not allow for having an officer at each of the City’s public schools. School Resource Officers cover most of our schools and respond to others as needed.
Battlewood Meadows Sewer Project
Battlewood Meadows is a Cost Participation Program neighborhood. The program required at least 75% of the property owners to sign a petition and 50% plus 1 to pay the connection fee before a project can be presented to the City Council. The project was approved to proceed by the Council and is under design right now. The projected construction startup is this year in September, with completion the following September. The project schedule is updated regularly on the Public Utilities’ Cost Participation Program Phase II web page.
It was mentioned at the meeting that the construction for new freeways and arterial roadways should consider the growing population and the need for multi-lane roads. An overview of the City’s Master Transportation Plan can be found at http://www.cityofchesapeake.net/government/City-Departments/Departments/Planning-Department/moving-forward-2035.htm.
Toll Discounts – Veterans Bridge
In order to get the lowest toll rate, motorists will need to have a valid E-ZPass account. There are no other discounts available. The base toll rate for the Dominion Boulevard Veterans Bridge has been set at the lowest rate possible for everyone and that will still support operations, maintenance and debt repayment for the roadway.
Increase Taxes on Large Corporations
Localities in Virginia may only exercise those powers that are expressly granted by the General Assembly or necessarily implied. The tax system suggested is not authorized by Virginia law and, therefore, the City of Chesapeake has no power to adopt an ordinance or policy imposing same.
Public Safety Funding and Turnover
In fiscal year 2016, the voluntary turnover (not including retirements) among sworn officers in the Chesapeake Police Department was less than four percent. The Human Resources and Police Departments monitor turnover trends. In addition, employees are encouraged to complete an exit interview upon leaving City employment. The exit interview results are reviewed and if concerns are shared, the concerns are investigated and addressed, as appropriate.