Do We Really Need Light Rail?

The short answer is no.

First, let’s review why some people want light rail in Virginia Beach.

Light Rail, for some city council members and developers, is the central factor of a process called Transit Oriented Development (TOD). Once light rail is accepted as an integral part of the redevelopment process in Virginia Beach, developers will build stations along the light rail corridor and then build apartments and condos near the stations. The people who live in those buildings will get on the light rail and go to an office in Norfolk or other place of work and return home later.

The major advantage to city council would be the huge increase in real estate tax revenue due to the high density. Unfortunately, the total travel time between home and office would be significant: It would include the walk to the station, wait time for the trolley, transit time of 30 to 40 minutes which includes six to eight stops along the way and walk, bus or cab to the workplace – 50 minutes to one hour total. And, of course the same time for the return home.

However, the use of light rail to move people between home and a distant office is last century approach. In the 21st century, light rail is not the best application of our resources. We must evaluate 21st century alternatives.

One alternative to light rail is the development of self-contained communities throughout the Strategic Growth Areas (SGA) without light rail. Council should concentrate on developing new areas and re-developing older areas as mixed-use, self- reliant communities.

The community could include office space, retail, homes/condos/apartments and leisure space. People could walk, ride a bike or drive a very short distance to work and would not have to drive a long commute to work. Each area could include child care, medical assistance, dentist and other needs.

Other areas, or parts of the same community, could have offices and satellite offices that are connected to main business offices anywhere in the county or anywhere in the world. (Could be an international attraction. Easy to fly to NYC and Washington and a four hour drive to DC for face to face meetings or a family visit to spectacular museums.)

The essence of these communities would be, as our city council likes to say, “a great place to live, work and play.“

In this no-light-rail environment, citizens would avoid all the costs of developing light rail including mountains of interest payments; avoid traffic congestion; enjoy a walk, bicycle ride or short drive to work; reduce the expense of gas and insurance; reduce air pollution; enjoy a more pleasant life style; and enjoy more time with family. The city will benefit because new residents will be drawn to Virginia Beach to enjoy the terrific life style – especially educated young and middle managers who want to avoid long commutes.

Also, many developers , even without light rail, would benefit from designing and building all the new communities: all those involved in developing new or redeveloped communities; the planning department, design and landscape architects; developers and others. Developers do not need light rail to have a profitable future.

A motto for this 21st century approach should be “Compute, don’t commute.”

Other organizations have, years ago, instituted similar programs. ODU several years ago instituted a program called “Distance Learning.” Students communicate online and seldom attend classes on campus. Many universities do the same. The state of Virginia and the federal government continue to encourage employees to use Telework Centers that are closer to home.

Finally, an important question is: Why have our city Planning Department, our city council and the HRPDC failed to consider telecommuting as a viable start to reducing the demand for roads? Old Dominion University, The Virginia Commonwealth and even the federal government are way ahead of our local planners..

So, citizens of Virginia Beach, put on your thinking hats: Do we really need light rail? The long answer is: We do not need light rail because Virginia Beach can redevelop a strategic area as a “great place to live, work and play” without light rail.

 

 

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Is It Really A Water Bill ??

NO, our Virginia Beach water bill is NOT just a water bill. Of course the bill includes charges for water service and sewer service, but it also includes charges for storm water and (would you believe ?) solid waste collection.

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Tax Increases Forever

 

The heavy-duty tax increase of six cents that was dumped onto the citizens of Virginia Beach brings back memories of the history of tax increases in the 90’s. Is this increase in our tax rate in indicator of the tax increases that we can expect in future years?

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Do We Really Need Light Rail?

The short answer is no.

First, let’s review why some people want light rail in Virginia Beach.

Light Rail, for some city council members and developers, is the central factor of a process called Transit Oriented Development (TOD). Once light rail is accepted as an integral part of the redevelopment process in Virginia Beach, developers will build stations along the light rail corridor and then build apartments and condos near the stations. The people who live in those buildings will get on the light rail and go to an office in Norfolk or other place of work and return home later.

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“Easy Pickin’s”

Who or what are “Easy pickin’s“?

The citizens of Virginia Beach are “easy picking’s“. When our Virginia Beach City Council decides to increase our real estate tax rate and other fees, the taxpayers of Virginia Beach have proved to be “easy picking’s“. Our city council has, over many years, concluded that most citizens of Virginia Beach never fight back; might grumble a little but that’s about the total response – “easy picking’s“. Read the rest of this entry »

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Open Letter to Councilmen Bob Dyer and Jim Wood

Gentlemen,

In your article in the Virginian Pilot on December 28th you stated, “It is essential that the public be fully informed ……and understand the rationale” council uses in the decision-making process. Later, near the end of the article you state that it is important for everyone to understand facts “without distortion or hysteria.” Certainly “without distortion” is key.

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Not A Pretty Picture

The current “picture” of the mayor of Virginia Beach is not a pretty picture in terms of a reliable, trusted public official. Citizens need public officials who consistently have the best interest of all citizens (emphasis on ALL) as top priority – all the time.

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The End Is Near

The END of representative government in our city of Virginia Beach is now at hand. The struggle to retain our representative government has become grossly unbalanced. The woefully unprepared and inattentive population of our city is no match for the cabal of our elected officials, both state and local, allied with members of the development community. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cost of Living in Virginia Beach

Our Virginia Beach City Council should put the cost of living of the citizens of Virginia Beach, finally, at the top of their priority list. Year after year, we pay more and more for our food, gas, heat and other necessities.

As our cost of living increases due to general across-the-board increases nationwide, our city council makes matters worse by piling on more taxes and fees year after year continuously driving our cost of living in Virginia Beach higher and higher.

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The Manipulators – Old Cavalier

The Manipulators (The City Council of Virginia Beach) decided that they wanted the Old Cavalier restored as an historical site. How to do that? For the Manipulators – no problem.

The Manipulators demonstrated great skill in assessing a special project and driving to the conclusion they wanted. They appointed a special task force to study the Old Cavalier and to make a recommendation that the Manipulators wanted. The Manipulators successfully coordinated the efforts of all who were involved in the effort: The city council, Towne Bank, the Economic Development Authority and the buyer of the Old Cavalier, Cavalier Associates, LLC.

A list of those involved in the decision making process:

1. The Virginia Beach City Council (the Manipulators)

2. Towne Bank: The Manipulators appointed volunteer members to the ten-member Cavalier Task Force including two Directors of Towne Bank, Mr. Doug Ellis and Mr. Andrew Fine.

3. The Economic Development Authority: The Chair of the Development Authority, Mr. John W. Richardson, is a Director at Towne Bank.

4. Buyer: One of the investors in Cavalier Associates, LLC, the group that is purchasing the Cavalier properties, Mr. John R. Lawson, is a Director at Towne Bank.

Does that cover all the bases? Sure looks like it.

Then, the Cavalier Task Force, including the Towne Bank directors, developed the City’s incentive package to save and restore the Old Cavalier as an historic site.

Additionally, the Manipulators directed the Economic Development Authority, chaired by Towne Bank director Richardson, to award an economic development grant under the terms of the agreed upon resolution. The grant, $8.2 million, is the highest amount of city up-front cash – ever. Even Inside Business reported that , “this is by far the largest economic development grant in the city’s history.”

That $8.2 million is an Economic Development Incentive Program (EDIP) grant from the Development Authority – chaired by Mr. John W. Richardson (Director at Towne Bank).

EDIP money is used to incentivize new or expanding businesses which bring new jobs to Virginia Beach. Neither Cavalier Associates, LLC./Thompson nor City staff has provided the number of net new jobs this re-development will bring.

Another issue to be resolved – Almost all of the Cavalier properties lie within the Navy’s Noise Level 2 of 70-75 decibels. The city’s zoning ordinance indicates that no residential buildings of any kind and no hotel or motel are compatible in these areas. Intensive re-development on the Cavalier properties is at clear odds with the city’s ordinance.

The Manipulators will invest $18 million of taxpayers money to start. What will be decided when the restoration costs exceed the original estimate? (You can hear it now – we have already invested millions. All that would be lost if we don’t spend more.)

So what do you think? Did our Virginia Beach City Council, the Manipulators, pull together a terrific team and do a really slick job?

 

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