Sunday, October 16, 2011

City Council backslides in transparency

Make a decision Roanoke City council. The Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op and the neighborhood deserve an “up or down” vote on the farm with or without chickens. Now comes the “closed session” scheduled following the 2:00 p.m. council meeting Monday.

The neighborhoods include Countryside and Miller Court. Voices from beyond these boundaries have also been heard. There were 32 households against the proposal at a recent combined Miller Court and Countryside meeting. Five of those were opposed to chickens but not agriculture. Nine were not opposed to the chickens and agriculture.

This could all have been avoided had the Planning Commission or Planning Department brought the inclusion of poultry or farm animals to the work sessions. The topic was never brought up for this least contentious part of the property in the Master Plan.

The oversight came immediately after the Countryside neighborhood refused endorsement of the plan. Without an attorney to decipher it and point out the “loopholes” there was too much uncertainty. The introduction of chickens and structures proves the point. Structures were discounted for the 12-acre parcel at work sessions.

The neighborhood plans are not worth the paper they are written on – same as proffers as admitted by a former council member. After witnessing so many neighborhood plans being superseded there is no wonder residents say “they are going to do whatever they want to do.”

Estelle McCadden can vouch for that following last week’s Evans Spring public meeting. Frederick Gusler senior planner announced that the Evans Spring plan would supersede the Fairland and Melrose-Rugby neighborhood plans. McCadden cried foul!

Call it “consensus” “direction to the city administration” – by any name it is a “vote” in closed session on moving forward, changing or nixing a project. All reminiscent of Richmond killing bills in subcommittee without a recorded vote.

Below is an email sent by me to city council and city manager:

I respectfully request that council members discuss the sale of the property in OPEN session.

We have been through this in past years and had hoped it would be a more open process.

We would like to know council’s position on using the property for a farm with chickens before negotiating a price with the Co-op. 

If held in closed session our assumption will be that negotiations continue because no council member disagrees with having a farm with chickens on the property.

That would lead us to conclude it is a “done deal” and zoning is a given. It is not fair to the co-op or the surrounding neighbors to linger on this. Either make a decision to go ahead with the farm and chickens or not. 

BUT we should know how EACH council member feels about the proposal in open session and NOT behind closed doors.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Commentary, Politics, Roanoke City Politics

Tags: , ,

Comments (1)

Jack Mcguire

October 17th, 2011 at 11:51 AM    

Wasn’t Bowers campaign slogan about opening the doors and “airing out” Council? You can’t “air it out” behind closed doors.

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