Councilman Ray Ferris
Here we go again. Another 2:00 council meeting Monday going round and round on the legality of the Mill Mountain Advisory Committee. Ray Ferris and as a little birdie told me Court Rosen, who actually started the ball rolling, are hell-bent on getting rid of the MMAC. Ferris has prepared a “brief.” A brief is a legal document that argues the merits of a case to a judge.
Councelor Ray Ferris is a city councilman elected by Roanoke citizens who pay his salary. They didn’t elect an attack dog defense attorney or did they.
Observation of his questioning techniques rivals those of “Perry Mason.” Citizens who exercise their right for redress before city council are submitted to a battery of questions on a “witness stand” rather than a podium.
Tune in Monday at 2:00 p.m. on Channel 3 and watch another episode of “the case of the evil MMAC.” Odds are all the “Kumbaya” council members will go along to get along. You may see fluffy yada-yada speechifying in defense and admiration of MMAC but they will all flush them down the toilet in the end.
Once you read the below councelor’s brief it becomes clear that council only needs to ratify the MMAC as a “committee” for the record. It was an oversight after they fulfilled the requirements to be a committee as a past council requested.
It is just a technicality to be rectified by this city council. Then again rectification is not the purpose of this exercise – suspicion is just “get them out of the way” so they will not interfere with future plans (whatever they might be).
Ray Ferris’ brief to the court is below:
December 17, 2012
Re: Mill Mountain Advisory Committee
Dear Mayor Bowers and fellow members of City Council:
I request that the Mill Mountain Advisory Committee be placed on our December 17, 2012 agenda for discussion and action.
I respectfully submit that City Council records clearly reflect that the Mill Mountain Advisory Committee is an ad hoc committee, as formally recognized by the Council in Resolution 23074 adopted on July 6, 1976. When asked for an opinion about the distinction between “ad hoc” committees and permanent entities, then City Attorney Wilburn Dibling, Jr., by letter dated October 28, 1983 advised the City Clerk that “ad hoc entities are special entities which go out of existence as soon as they have completed a specified task.” Roanoke Municipal Code Section 2-280 provides “the council may also, from time to time, establish ad hoc committees to serve specific purposes” and Section 2-285 mandates that “ad hoc committees and commissions appointed by council shall make periodic reports to the council as to the progress of their assigned duties and responsibilities.”
The history of the committee is relevant for our discussion, so please indulge me as I share some research with you. The Mill Mountain Development Committee was created in 1965. Through the years, the committee brought to council numerous recommendations for “development,” including, but not limited to, a new access road, moving the star to accommodate a hotel and restaurant, improvements to the zoo, improvements to and restoration of Rockledge Inn, clearing a suitable area for use as a ski slope, replacement of Frump-Frump the elephant, construction of quarters to house a hippopotamus, construction of a state science museum, construction of an aerial tram or gondola from downtown, a D-Day Memorial and construction of a new incline (1968 – 1997). It would appear from the city council meeting minutes from this period that these development concepts were brought to council by the Mill Mountain Development Committee.
On March 17, 1997, the Mill Mountain Development Committee presented a report and its Vision and Mission Statements to City Council, along with a request that its name be changed to The Mill Mountain Advisory Committee. The Council approved the requests.
In 1998 the Mill Mountain Advisory Committee recommended that Council establish a policy with respect to illumination of the star and in 2003 the committee worked with Parks and Recreation on the development of the Master Plan. In 2004 the committee started discussing placing Mill Mountain in a conservation easement.
A proposal to build a modem day version of Rockledge Inn by a group that called themselves “Valley Forward” was discussed and presented to the committee in the 2007 – 2008 time frame, and the proposal was rejected by the committee. No proposal was ever formally presented to City Council.
The committee adopted by-laws and requested that City Council make it a permanent committee in 2009. Council took no action on the request.
On June 21, 2010, The Mill Mountain Advisory Committee endorsed the “Blue Line Easement,” which was the description of the conservation easement that won approval of City Council that same date.
Having granted the vast majority of Mill Mountain Park to the Western Virginia Land Trust in 2010, the area available to the City for development on Mill Mountain is extremely limited. In fact, there have been no proposals for development on Mill Mountain since the Valley Forward effort in 2008. Almost five years have gone by without the first hint of a proposed intrusion on Mill Mountain.
I respectfully maintain that the purpose of the Mill Mountain Advisory Committee has been fulfilled. As an ad hoc committee, it ceased to exist when there were no development proposals pending for it to consider. At this time there are no pending projects and none on the horizon, that require action on the part of the committee, and no assignment of responsibility has been made by City Council. Further, should such a development proposal be made or sought at some point in the future, it would be appropriate at that juncture to appoint another ad hoc committee, comprised of citizens from all quadrants of the city, and which necessarily should include a member of the Fishburn Family and others closely associated with Mill Mountain, to consider and make such recommendations as the Council deems appropriate.
The contributions of those who serve and have served on the Mill Mountain Advisory Committee deserve our heartfelt thanks for their hard work and deep commitment to the preservation of Mill Mountain. They have contributed countless hours to improve and maintain a valuable resource that we all enjoy. In no way should this proposal be viewed as a lack of appreciation for all that they have contributed to the mountain and our valley. They are undoubtedly interested and caring citizens who should be encouraged to continue working for the good of Mill Mountain, which, I suggest, can be accomplished through the formation of a private advocacy group dedicated to preserving the environmental and aesthetic integrity of the mountain.
I look forward to our discussion on this matter.