Legacy: The Big Woods Development Company Request – What you need to know

City Council will be voting on these items TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12th at 7pm.  If you want your voice heard, e-mail City Council via Evie.Insley@poquoson-va.gov or come speak at the public hearing that night.  Following is some information on the Legacy project along with all 6 requests by The Big Woods Development Company.  I’ve added some information after each item and my personal thoughts/comments on each item.  The facts stated are how I understand them based on all information I have gathered and discussions to date with city staff.  I will update/correct as necessary if I receive additional information. I am still gathering and studying information and hearing opinions from citizens and have not decided how I will vote on each item.  This will not come before City Council until the Planning Commission votes on a recommendation, which will not happen until their October 21st meeting.  So, there is a month or more before City Council will vote on these requests.  This is A LOT of information, but I hope it will be helpful and worth the read, so grab a cup of your favorite beverage and get comfortable!

General: The current Ordinance 8.4-5 for the PUD – Mixed Use Overlay District where Legacy lies states, “A 40-foot wide landscaped or naturally wooded buffer shall be maintained around the perimeter of the project area and can be included in the open space requirement.”.  It goes on to state, “However, the perimeter buffer cannot be waived if an adjoining parcel is developed per the uses allowed in the respective underlying zoning district unless said adjacent parcel has been developed for commercial purposes, in such case council may allow for a buffer reduction of up to 20 feet.”.  Based on Legacy’s surrounding properties, the buffer cannot be waived.  However, in 2015 the developer requested “modifications” based on Ordinance 8.2-2  which states, “The regulations in article VII.2 shall apply to the establishment and regulation of all planned development districts.   If the applicant requests such a waiver or modification as part of the master plan, the applicant shall submit the request in writing as part of the application, and shall demonstrate that the waiver or modification would not adversely affect the public health, safety or general welfare and, in the case of a requested modification, that the public purposes of the original regulation would be satisfied to at least an equivalent degree by the modification.”  Because they requested a “modification” rather than a “waiver” the then City Council approved a reduction of the 40’ perimeter buffer to 0’ along the back of the property bordering Woods of Tabb (58,800 sf or 1.35 acres) and adjacent to the back of the City Hall property (19,600 sf or .45 acres), moving the buffer in both locations into proposed homeowner lots.  In addition, the then City Council also approved a reduction in the buffer along Victory Blvd. from 60’ to 25’  (50,400 sf or 1.16 acres) and an increase in the number of stories for the apartments from 3 to 4.  Shown on map by red lines here. Note: there is a city right of way approximately 40’ along Victory in addition to the 25′ buffer.  That area will look similar to the current building at the corner of City Hall Avenue and Victory.

My thoughts/comments:  There are clearly some issues with our ordinances that need to be rectified.  If Ordinance 8.4-5 states that no waiver can be granted for buffers under certain circumstances, there should not be another ordinance that can supersede that by allowing a requester to use the word “modification” rather than “waiver” in their request.  That is just semantics and Ordinance 8.4-5 was written with the “no waiver” wording for a reason.

Request #1: Request for a proffer amendment to change the timeline in which the community clubhouse and pool must be constructed from prior to the 80th single family and/or town home building permit to prior to the 147th single family and/or town home building permit.  Phase I contains 146 town homes and single family homes.

What this means:  Currently, Phase I of the development contains 146 units.  The current proffers approved for the development require the clubhouse, pool and road to access them be constructed before a building permit will be issued for the 81st unit.  The developer is requesting it be changed so construction will take place prior to the 147th unit being built.  The 147th unit would be the first unit built in Phase II of the development.

What the developer has stated:  The developer states this is necessary due to the litigation and mitigation costs incurred to obtain wetlands permits and higher than expected Phase I development bids due to the delay.  The road, clubhouse, and pool would cost approximately $1M, which would also then require the developer to pay the wetlands credits, also totaling approximately $1M prior to the 80th unit being constructed. They want to delay construction until after prior to the 147th unit in Phase II to realize all the revenue from Phase I to help with these costs.

City Council vote:  A YES vote means the developer will delay payment of the wetlands credits and construction of the pool/clubhouse/road be built prior to the 147th unit in Phase II.  A NO vote means the developer will be required to abide by the current proffer requiring the payment of the wetlands credits and construction of the pool/clubhouse/road prior to construction of the 80th home in Phase I.

My thoughts/comments:  Some are concerned that Phase II may not be built leaving a community of 146 homes without the promised pool and clubhouse.  The developer insists that Phase II and III will be built because they would lose a lot money on the project if it wasn’t since most profit comes at the end of the project once it’s built out.  I do hope that is the case.  But nobody can see the future and economic downturns or a myriad of other unforeseen circumstances which could cause Phase II and/or Phase III to go unbuilt or be delayed for any number of years.  I can’t see the future and neither can the developer, so they can’t make promises on the future.  I like to plan for the worst, but hope for the best.  So, I would be willing to compromise and consider changing the proffer to require the clubhouse/pool be built prior to the 146th unit being constructed, allowing the developer to recognize all the revenue from Phase I before building it instead of only about 55% as is required now, but still ensure the pool, clubhouse, and road is built during Phase I.  During the planning commission meeting the developer stated, “In reality what will happen, we’ll probably get to 80 and we may continue to build after 80, but we may start phase II at right 80 because its going to take about a year to get the plans approved for section II, which we’re working on now, and to build the road and then build the clubhouse.  That will take about a year.  So they will still be building in phase I after 80, at the same time the improvements will be going in to get to the clubhouse and building the boulevard going to the clubhouse.”, If that is the case, then it shouldn’t be an issue to construct the pool, clubhouse and road at the end of Phase I just prior to Phase II, since that is what he is suggesting will happen anyway.  I feel this gives some assurances that the pool/clubhouse/road will be built and not delayed due to any unforeseen delay of Phase II of the project.

Request # 2:  Request for a rezoning amendment to approve town home elevations that were not submitted with the original set of approved elevations.

What this means:  When the master plan was approved, there was only 1 elevation (style) of town home submitted by H. H. Hunt, the home builder for the project.  They have now added Ryan Homes and would like to add several other styles of town homes in addition to the original elevations that were submitted. Original elevation here.  Additional elevations here.

What the developer has stated:  The developer states this will provide more variety of town home types and various price points to appeal to a larger number of buyers.  The letter from staff to the planning commission stated that the original renderings, based on the drawings, were more upscale in appearance and, perhaps, more expensive in price than are the architectural drawings being considered as part of the rezoning amendment.

City Council vote:  A YES vote means there will be additional town home elevations (styles) permitted. A NO vote means only the one town home elevation submitted with the master plan in August 2015 will be permitted.

My thoughts/comments:  A variety is good.  Varied price points, some lower is good.  If this is supposed to be a development to attract people to Poquoson, or provide the younger generations of Poquoson residents affordable homes to stay in the city this is a good thing.  I think all the elevations look attractive.

Request # 3: Request for a buffer modification to Area #1 on the submitted Legacy of Poquoson Master Plan to reduce the 40-foot perimeter buffer to 10 feet, which area may be included in recorded lots, but which shall remain undisturbed.

What this means:  The developer is requesting the required 40′ perimter buffer be changed to a 30′ undisturbed buffer in the homeowner lots and a 10′ perimeter buffer in Area 1. This buffer reduction would be a possible reduction of 87,600 s.f (2.02 acres) of tree buffer.  Shown on map by yellow line here.

What the developer has stated:  The master plan approved in 2015 contained a total of 238 single family, 108 town homes, 11 cottages, 200 apartments.  The required perimeter buffer per the ordinance was 40’ in this area. The developer has stated several times there was a “miscommunication” with city staff and the number of units submitted was based on their understanding there was not a 40’ perimeter buffer in that location because it was abutting undeveloped property.  If the 40’ perimeter buffer is required, they would have to reduce the number of single family homes in Area 1 by 8 from the original 238 single family homes submitted. These saved lots would help to offset losses in other areas due to required design modifications.

City Council vote: A YES vote means the developer will be permitted to move 30′ of the required 40′ perimeter buffer into homeowner lots leaving a 10′ perimeter buffer. A NO vote means the developer will have to abide by the current 40′ perimeter buffer requirement in the ordinance and reduce the single family homes by 8 from the original 238 single family homes submitted in the original master plan.

My thoughts/comments: Per the developer’s statement at the planning commission, the reduction of 30′ in perimeter buffer would become part of the lots in that area, not part of an HOA, and would remain undisturbed.  However, if it becomes part of the homeowner’s lots, there is no way the developer can guarantee individual homeowners will keep that as an undisturbed area.  Any type of wording added to a city ordinance requiring this would not be enforced unless there was a complaint, as is the case with many of our ordinances.  Our city is not staffed to a capacity which would allow staff to drive around the city and inspect properties for compliance with all ordinances.  And if the complaint comes after trees are cut down, there is no way the city can rectify that.  So, there is no way the city can guarantee the 30’ of buffer will remain undisturbed.  In addition, Mr. White who owns the property adjacent to this property spoke at the planning commission public hearing in opposition to this reduction. To hear his comments, you can view the meeting on-line here. Whether Mr. White ever chooses to develop his property or not, he has rights as an adjacent landowner and to protect that property for any future generations who may choose to develop it. See “Overall thoughts/comments” at the end of this post for my additional thoughts/comments on the developer’s position.

Request # 4: Request for a buffer modification to Area #2 on the submitted Legacy of Poquoson Master Plan to reduce the 40-foot perimeter buffer to 10 feet, which are may be included in recorded lots, but which shall remain undisturbed. UPDATE – the developer withdrew this request

Request # 5: Request for a buffer modification to Area #3 on the submitted Legacy of Poquoson Master Plan to reduce the 40-foot perimeter buffer to 5 feet in order to provide room for the development of the commercial space located along a portion of the Victory Boulevard frontage as well as the require parking to serve this commercial space.

What this means:  The developer is requesting the required 40′ perimeter buffer be changed to a 5′ buffer in Area 3. This buffer reduction would be a reduction of 13,128 s.f (.301 acres) of tree buffer.  Shown on map by blue line here.

What the developer has stated: The master plan that was approved in 2015 contained a total of 40,000 s.f. of commercial space. The required perimeter buffer per the ordinance was 40’ in this area. The developer has stated several times there was a “miscommunication” with city staff and the commercial section in Area 3 was based on their understanding there was not a 40’ perimeter buffer in that location because it was abutting undeveloped property.  If the 40’ perimeter buffer is required, they would be unable to build a large majority of commercial space and parking.  The developer also states that the Tudor property that is currently undeveloped would likely be developed commercial and therefore a buffer between two commercial spaces would serve no useful purpose. Granting this modification would help offset some of the increased costs without negatively impacting adjacent properties.

City Council vote: A YES vote means the required 40′ perimeter buffer will be reduced to 5′ and a loss of 13,128 s.f (.301 acres) of trees. A NO vote means the developer will have to abide by the current 40′ perimeter buffer requirement in the ordinance and eliminate a large part of the commercial property and parking.

My thoughts/comments There has been no comment by Mr. Tudor the adjacent property owner, but I have asked city staff to reach out to find out if he has any objections. The options here are either to approve the buffer reduction or lose a large part of the commercial property.  While I don’t want to give an exception/waiver/modification (whatever you want to call it) to our ordinance to rectify a developer’s mistake, it does hurt the city of Poquoson to lose commercial property which would bring in needed tax revenues (assuming it isn’t filled with businesses moving from other locations within Poquoson). 

Request # 6: Request for a buffer modification to Area #4 on the submitted Legacy of Poquoson Master Plan to reduce the 40-foot perimeter buffer to 5 feet in order to provide for a “T” turnaround at the terminus of Street A as shown on the Master Plan. The 5’ buffer would be maintained as grass.

What this means:  The developer is requesting the required 40′ perimeter buffer be changed to a 5′ perimeter buffer in Area 4. This buffer reduction would be a reduction of 35,000 s.f (.803 acres) of tree buffer. Shown on map by orange line here.

What the developer has stated:  The master plan approved in 2015 contained a total of 238 single family, 108 town homes, 11 cottages, 200 apartments.  The required perimeter buffer per the ordinance was 40’ in this area. The developer has stated several times there was a “miscommunication” with city staff and the number of units submitted was based on their understanding there was not a 40’ perimeter buffer in that location because it was abutting undeveloped property.   If the 40’ perimeter buffer is required, they would have to reduce the number of lots in Area 4 by 1-2 town homes from the original 108 town homes submitted. These saved lots would help to offset losses in other areas due to required design modifications.

City Council vote: A YES vote means the developer will be permitted to move 35′ of the required 40′ perimeter buffer into homeowner lots leaving a 5′ perimeter buffer. A NO vote means the developer will have to abide by the current 40′ perimeter buffer requirement in the ordinance and reduce the town home by 1-2 from the original 102 town homes submitted in the original master plan.

 My thoughts/comments:  If the buffer reduction is granted, the T-turnaround will be approximately 5’ from the edge of the ditch (Oxford Run), but approximately 20’ from the center.  The T-turn around is needed for emergency vehicles to have sufficient access to the town homes since that street is the only access to the town homes at the end of the street.  For those reasons, removing the T-turnaround isn’t an option.  I understand the importance of the T turn around, but it is also not the city’s responsibility to provide that at the expense of losing perimeter buffer because of the developer’s misunderstandings of the buffer requirements in the ordinance that governs their property.  See “Overall thoughts/comments” at the end of this post for additional thoughts/comments on the developer’s position.

Overall thoughts/comments: The Big Woods Development Company is part of a large development company (Mid-Atlantic) with experience.  Per the developer, they have been in business for 30 years and done over 60 developments.  For them to draw a master plan with homes, commercial space and a needed T intersection that can’t fit within the buffer requirements in the city ordinance was their mistake.  It is the developer’s responsibility to do their due diligence and look at the ordinance for the property they purchased, know what the requirements are, and design their development within those constraints.  It certainly rubs me the wrong way and is not fair for them to continue to suggest our city staff has any responsibility for their misunderstanding/mistake.  While I understand and empathize with the developer’s dilemma, their financial situation or mistakes in submitting their master plan which may cause loss of profit to them are not my responsibility to rectify as a member of City Council.  My responsibility and concern is what is best for Poquoson and its citizens.

I am not anti-development. Probably not in my lifetime, but in the future Poquoson will start to lose housing and commercial space near the water due to sea level rise and need more housing and commercial in the front parts of Poquoson.  That is a reality and something we need to plan for. The property owners who sold their property to The Big Woods Development Company had every right to do so and nobody has the right to force them to keep property undeveloped.  I, as a homeowner, would not want to be told I couldn’t sell my property. Almost every citizen who lives in a home in Poquoson has had trees cut down or farmland paved over to create their neighborhood.  So, it’s hypocritical to say it’s OK for trees to be cut down and roads put in for my house to be built, but no other land can have trees cut down or roads put in for other people to move here.  The individuals who owned that property had a chance to sell highly unsalable land and took that opportunity to benefit their families.  I don’t fault them for that. If there were citizens or organizations who were in objection to the Big Woods being developed, they should have joined together and bought that property so it would remain undeveloped.

I realize this is a hard issue which evokes lots of emotions for good reason.  I am looking at each request in an objective manner, taking citizen comments and the planning commissions recommendations into account and will decide what I think is the best decision for our city.  I have not made up my mind and am still processing and gathering information and will continue to do that until City Council votes on the items.  So, if you haven’t sent in your opinion on the requests, no matter what they are, please do that now. The sooner the bodies making recommendations and decisions have your input the longer they have to consider them. Comments to City Council can be sent to Evie.Insley@poquoson-va.gov  I know I and my fellow councilmen would welcome citizen input.  I know not everyone will agree with every vote I make and I am only one person on City Council, but I am doing what I was elected to do.  That is serve the citizens of Poquoson.

Thank you,

Jana Andrews

City of Poquoson FY 2018 – 2019 Proposed Budget

The City of Poquoson is currently in the budget process for the FY 2018 – 2019 budget, which runs from July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019.  I thought I’d provide some key information contained in the current budget along with some explanations and links for those who would like more in depth information. City of Poquoson Proposed FY2018-2019 Budget There is also a copy of the City budget available in the library and at city hall.  Poquoson City Public Schools Budgets

  • Proposed Real Estate Tax Rate increase from $1.07 to $1.14 per $100 of assessed value
  • City employee pay increase of 2%
  • No additional local government support requested by school division
  • Teacher pay increase of 2% and complete final phase of the 3 year teacher pay plan update
  • Addition of 3 new teaching positions
  • No new city staff positions, although there is money set aside for school safety recommendations from the School Safety Committee, which may include a School Resource officer, which would be a police department position
  • Debt Service of $23 million to cover capital improvements

What does the proposed tax increase mean for citizens?  The average home price in Poquoson is $322,800.  For a home this price it is a $226 per year/$18.83 per month increase in real estate tax.  Tax Rate increase by home value chart

As a reference here are the tax rates for other local cities:  Portsmouth $1.30, Hampton $1.24, Newport News $1.22, Norfolk $1.15, Suffolk $1.07, Chesapeake $1.05, Virginia Beach $1.00 (with special districts from $1.05 – $1.47), Franklin $.99 (downtown tax district $1.23), Williamsburg $.57 (doesn’t include operation of a school system and has high tourism). It is important to note that indeed York County’s tax rate of $.0795 is much lower.  However, they are a large county and even if Poquoson filled every business and developed every piece of land currently available, our tax rate will never be as low as York County.  You can’t compare city to county tax rates.  That is like comparing apples and oranges.

The reason for $.06 of the tax increase is to cover the $23 million debt service that will pay for much needed capital improvement projects in the city.  $.01 cent of the tax increase was specifically for the citizen requested school safety initiatives, which may include a school safety officer. During the recession years and years the city did not increase the tax rate, equipment was not replaced and is now reaching the end of its life span and must be replaced in order for the city to continue to function.  Items needed (but not all covered by $23M) are: Middle school renovation (largest cost at estimated $15.94M –  School Consolidation/Renovation Information), roof replacement at all schools, new police department building, Chesapeake Bay TMDL requirements, bus replacements, fire engine & medic vehicle replacement, loader, grader, excavators, dump trucks, dozier, city hall HVAC, police dept HVAC, sidewalks, ball field lights, parking lot replacements.  What the $23M WILL cover is: middle school renovation, school buses, remainder of city hall HVAC replacement, remainder of funds needed for 1 fire engine, TMDL requirements, roof replacement PMS & PHS, and remaining $2.5M for other needed projects from the list above, to be determined at a later date.

The City Manager did a budget presentation and Davenport & Company did a presentation on the $23M debt service at our April 9th city council work session.  They outlined the borrowing and why the $23M was the optimal amount to borrow and why doing a one time tax increase is the most financially beneficial method in the long run for taxpayers.  Meeting City Council Work Session 4/19/18 – City Budget & Davenport Presentation

Davenport Debt Service Presentation slides

 

 

 

School Resource Officer

I wanted to share the thoughts I’ve had over the past week as I’ve read comments on social media, read e-mails I’ve received, watched the School Board meeting from Monday night and spoken with both Dr. Parish and Chief Bowen.  This topic hits home for me as my son, a graduate from Poquoson High School, is a 3rd grade school teacher in Northern Virginia in an area surrounded by violence.  And, my daughter was a freshman at VT the year of that horrific shooting and in the dorm where the first student was shot and killed. There is no way that I can share all my thoughts in a City Council meeting or even a work session as we have limited time to speak at both. And frankly, I’ve learned since being on City Council, speaking off the cuff isn’t one of my strong suits.  I’m one of those people that think of all the great things I should have said after the meeting. I’m working on getting better at that.

First I want to say, I wasn’t at the Sunday citizen meeting on this topic because I was 2,000 miles away visiting my daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter and didn’t get back until late Wednesday evening.  If I hadn’t been out of town, I certainly would have been there.

Also, keep in mind, my opinion is just one opinion on City Council so by no means will be the determining factor for what City Council does regarding this issue.  These are just my current thoughts on various topics surrounding this issue.  I’m always open to listening to other’s opinions and open to changing my opinion if I get new information that makes sense to me.  If you’d like to contact me to discuss this or any other issue, I will always make myself available.  You can reach me on this website, on my council FB site Click Here , or my council e-mail address jana.andrews@poquoson-va.gov.  I will always respond and if you provide your phone number and request a call, I will call you.

In light of past and present school shootings, on reason for a SRO is school safety.  A fact that I think everyone will agree on is, no student or teacher should ever die in school.  My personal opinion is if you want to stop school shootings, the most effective way is to stop the gun from getting in the school.  No gun, no shooting.  My previous opinion was that the most effective way to achieve that is to have metal detectors in all the schools. Because even if we have 1 full-time SRO in each school, that officer will need to be in the right place at the right time and fire accurately before they are fired on first in order to stop deaths.  Even with an SRO in a school, multiple deaths can happen as we have seen many times.  But, after speaking with Chief Bowen an the amount of resources and time it would take to implement that on a daily basis made me think twice about that.  However, metal detectors aren’t cost prohibitive, especially considering we are looking at the possibility of borrowing $23 million for Capital Improvements, I would like to see a portion of that (it wouldn’t take much – possibly as little as $10) to add some form of metal detectors in the CIP to have on hand to use if we feel the need for a period of time or possibly for school events that are large where the general public is entering to ensure a gun doesn’t get into our schools.  With this large borrowing for Capital Improvements, it would be the perfect time to implement this added level of security.  Some say that if someone wants to kill students, they will find a way to do it, run through the metal detector, get access to students getting on or off buses or while they are out at recess, have someone open a locked door to get in the back of the school, etc.  That is absolutely true, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything we can to reduce the chance to the smallest degree possible.

Some citizens want a SRO to help with the drug and bullying issues in our schools.  Can an SRO officer assist with that?  Of course, but so can trained counselors.  I’m not talking about school counselors, I’m talking about licensed therapeutic counselors experienced in dealing with juveniles.  It is clear to me, we have these issues in our schools, just as every other school does, and they need to be addressed.  My daughter, who is a licensed therapeutic counselor, and I spoke about this issue. She definitely agrees licensed counselors are best equipped to deal with juveniles in the areas of drugs and bullying as that is their specialty.  A SRO officer will have some training in this area, but not as much as a licensed counselor.  Does that mean a SRO couldn’t assist in this area? No, absolutely not.  Also, drugs and bullying are hard issues a SRO or counselor won’t necessarily stop.  You can’t police or regulate parenting, and let’s face it there are troubled homes out there in every community, even ours, and that is where many of the students causing problems come from.  A SRO or counselor can only do so much, especially considering home life or parenting issues if that is where the problem stems from. And bullying, even if it is in writing on social media, which doesn’t happen in school is not an issue the school can or should get involved in. And, if it is not criminal or civil in nature, the police department can’t get involved either.  Teenagers are young adults, not fully mature, with changing hormones and different levels of upbringing and maturity who will sometimes make poor decisions.  Not every instance of bad behavior is bullying, sometimes its just poor behavior. And, no matter what help and support we give, there will always be issues to deal with.  I think there can be a combination of things used to help with issues such as this if they become excessive.

There are some cases where SROs have made issues in schools worse – stories of elementary school students being handcuffed, high school students arrested for incidents which should be a school administration matter resulting in criminal records which adversely impact their long term future.  There are also cases where SROs have been a huge benefit to schools and made a positive difference.  You will always be able to find good or bad to support your view point.  I think if our city hires a SRO, it needs not to be a knee jerk reaction just to hire a body as quickly as possible.  I think that is how you can get the wrong person in the job or hire someone with no program in place and the horror stories can happen.  If our city does decide this is the way we need to go, I think the best step is to get a solid SRO program outlined with definitive guidelines in place before someone is hired.  I definitely do not want to see students arrested for things that should be handled by school administration.

This is a very important position in our schools and it is imperative the right person(s) with the right qualifications and experience working with juveniles is put in place. If the city does decide to implement a SRO program, I think both a male and female SRO officer in some capacity is essential.  There are certain issues girls or young women would absolutely not feel comfortable going to a male officer for and visa versa with boys or young men.  I would also want assurances if we did hire a SRO, there is something in place allowing  termination if adherence to the guidelines weren’t followed or the person wasn’t effective. I don’t want our schools in the position of having one of those horror stories and not being able to do anything about it.  After speaking with Dr. Parish and Chief Bowen, I’m confident they would work together to make sure that didn’t happen.

I haven’t seen much discussion about this, but did want to say I am emphatically against arming teachers or administrators and it would take a lot to convince me otherwise.  Teachers went to school to teach, not to be school security.  You can train a teacher to carry and even shoot a gun.  But, training someone to shoot a gun is very different than training someone to shoot to kill.  No gun training that a teacher would receive is going to teach that.  Even trained law enforcement officers sometimes freeze and can’t fire their weapon – look at Parkland, FL and their SRO.  Adding guns in the hands of teachers increases the chance of an accidental shooting or student getting a gun. My opinion is the only person that should carry a gun in school is a trained law enforcement officer.

Also, we have 4 schools.  If we only have 1 or 2 SROs, which children do we decide don’t need protection? (hence, why I support metal detectors in all schools).  Doesn’t it make sense that if someone wants to come into our schools to shoot students they are going to go to the school where there isn’t a SRO? So, do we have 4 SROs?

Will a SRO ensure there are no school shootings, stop bullying, stop problems in the classrooms, stop drugs in school? No. Those things can and probably will continue to exist even if we had a SRO in each school. Is it possible a SRO can help with those issues? Yes. I think its always better to err on the side of safety.  I think a SRO program would help more than it would hurt.  I don’t see a reason based on the merit of a program to say no to it.  BUT, HOW DO WE PAY FOR IT?  That is the real struggle for me.  I would love to fix all the buildings and vehicles that are falling apart in the city, hire more police and fireman and give them the very latest equipment, give all our city employees and teachers a large raise, put every school security measure in place, build sidewalks, etc., etc.  But the city has a checkbook just like you do and there has to be money in the account to pay for that. If you use money to pay for one thing, that means giving up something else, and what is that something else, when everything else is necessary for the city to function? Do you tell our teachers they don’t get a raise every year so we can pay for SROs?  All our money comes from tax revenue – that is tax you pay as a citizen.  So, we could indeed do all the things I mentioned if citizens and businesses are willing to pay enough tax to cover it.  A SRO would be a police department position and I don’t believe our current department can afford to give up a position to go exclusively to the schools.  So, where do we get the money?  Some say the $23 million we are going to borrow. That debt is for one time purchases for Capital Improvements to fix things like heating systems, roofs, vehicles like fire trucks and school buses that are all reaching the end of their life span and must be replaced, and to make repairs to a middle school that must be made in order for it to stay open.  Keep in mind a SRO is a full-time salary year, after year, after year.  If we don’t replace a roof to hire two SROs this year, then next year, not only will the roof still need replacing, but we will have to come up with another year’s salary for the SRO.  The $23 million for the CIP is not a viable means to pay for a SRO.  I’m not willing to hire someone who is relying on their income to support themselves and/or their families if I don’t know we have a steady stream of continued income to pay for them year after year.

So, there are options, but all have pluses and minuses. We either have to find additional income to go into the budget, cut back on something somewhere else in the budget or find another source to cover the cost of a SRO.

I know re-instituting the boat tax doesn’t seem popular (especially to those with boats), and I’m willing to take the heat from those that don’t agree, but as a finance person with 30 years experience, I think removing the boat tax on luxury boats was a bad decision.  I am not in favor of taxing work boats that people use to make their living. The city doesn’t earn any tax income on the gas the additional boats we may have gained are using at our marinas, that money goes to the state.  And we still have the same expense of sending out $0 tax bills to all boat owners because you can’t by law not have a property tax, so our tax is less than a penny, so we haven’t saved any cost by eliminating the tax. Would we lose some restaurant business and slip business from boats that dock here because they would move to Hampton where there is no boat tax.  Sure, some.  But, I guarantee you most of the restaurant business in our town is from people who live here and in other nearby jurisdictions, not boat owners who only dock here, so even if a Poquoson resident moves their boat, they still live here and will frequent the restaurants.  And in reality, someone who has their boat docked in their backyard, lives in Poquoson, or has enough money to own a boat (boats aren’t cheap) is not going to move their boat to a place its inconvenient to get to just to avoid a tax. The Commissioner of Revenue’s estimate when I asked about this last year, is it would generate $140,000 in income to the city even accounting for the boats we would lose.  That’s $140,000 every year!! Continual income stream folks.

And, what about recreational vehicles such as RVs or jet skis? Is it fair someone with a recreational vehicle doesn’t have to pay personal property tax, but someone with a recreational vehicle does?  Absolutely not. And, I’ve seen the comments that someone who owns a boat but doesn’t have kids in school shouldn’t have to pay a boat tax to pay for a SRO.  Well, to that, I say, you are paying real estate tax that goes to pay for the school improvements and teachers, but don’t have kids in school, what is the difference?  You are also paying restaurant tax and sales tax which is used for things you don’t utilize. Frankly, that is the wrong way to look at any tax.  Any additional income is income added into the general fund that pays for everything, not just a SRO.  If that’s the logic, then I could say “we are going to use the money from the boat tax to pay for something everyone in the city uses (insert whatever you want here) and then take the money we used to use for that for the SRO”.  New money coming in is not earmarked for one specific thing, it goes into the general fund. The bottom line is we need additional money in our budget for EVERYTHING and re-instating the boat tax makes sense and makes it fair to all recreational vehicle owners.  This is something I feel strongly about and will continue to try and change as long as I’m on city council.

So, the bottom line is, this is a hard subject with lots of questions to answer.  Do I think we should go out and hire an SRO tomorrow? No. Do I think we should never hire an SRO? No. Do I think we need to have more discussions about it with our school board and police department to determine what kind of safety program and additional things we should implement to keep our kids safe and make them feel safe?  Yes.  And, City Council members have discussed and are working on putting something in place to accomplish this.  A SRO is a very important position, working with the children in our schools.  It is imperative that the right program be put in place and the right person, one with experience working with juveniles be hired. Without the right program and person, it will be ineffective and a waste of tax payer money.  It is important if we take this step forward we do it correctly and with careful thought and consideration.

I commend citizens for taking the opportunity after Councilman Canella’s comment at our March 12th council meeting to come together for something they feel strongly about. Citizens have the power to make things happen and I’m happy to see active engagement by our citizens.  That is never a bad thing.

There are probably more things I could say on the subject and will probably think of more after I hit post, but I think this is enough for now and hopefully gives citizens an idea of where I stand on the issue, the questions which still need to be asked and answered and the information which still needs to be gathered for informed decisions to be made on this matter.

For information purposes her are a few links:

Current PCPS Crisis Management Plan

Current Capital Improvement Plan

School Consolidation Website

Thanks for your time,

Jana Andrews

City Council Meeting Agenda 11-14-16

Follow this link to the full meeting agenda & documents for the City Council meeting on Monday, November 14th. Below is a summary of items on the agenda (see full agenda and attached documents for details):
Special presentation by Fire Dept and Volunteer Fire Dept Chiefs
Audience for Visitors – occurs at each city council meeting for citizens to speak to City Council about any issue
City Council Actions:
Resolution to support House Bill 250 regarding health care
Resolution to fund a new fire fighter position
Resolution for grant proposal for Stryker Power Stretchers
Ordinance establishing a trust for Post Employment benefits
Ordinance for making additional appropriations & transfers in FY17 budget
Resolution authorizing school division to enter into contracts for capital improvement programs
Appointments to Board of Zoning Appeals and Planning Commission
Closed session to consult with legal counsel regarding litigation of Moore v. City of Poquoson

If you can’t attend, you can watch the City Council meeting live on Fios 25 and Cox 46.  The meeting will also be archived on the City website.  I will provide a link to that in my next blog post with a summary of the City Council meeting.

Thank you for the Win!

WOW – what a whirlwind it’s been the last month!!  My life has been overtaken by phone calls, FB posts, blogging, walking and delivering flyers, talking to citizens, meeting with city officials, and on and on!  In a period of 6 months I’ve gone from a plain citizen interested in getting more involved in local government, to someone thinking about running for city council, to someone deciding to run for city council, to someone who actually won the election for City Council!!!  It’s humbling beyond belief!  I in no way accomplished this on my own.  I have had friends, family, and citizens I didn’t know before this endeavour, help me in so many ways – positive encouragement, sharing info about me on FB, giving advice, putting signs in their yards, editing, folding flyers, delivering flyers, wearing my campaign shirt around town, working at the polls on Election Day and voting for me!  All of those things combined made a difference!  I think the belief others have in me at times has been greater than the belief I have in myself.  That is so touching and the outreach I’ve seen really touches my heart in ways I’ll never be able to express sufficiently in words to each and every one of you who helped!  All that brings enormous responsibility to my shoulders.  I want to do as good a job on City Council as all of us did winning the election.  I know that will be no easy feat!!  There will be tough decisions, and no matter how hard I work or what decisions I make, there will always be someone that is disappointed or not happy with the outcome.  That is going to be the toughest part for me.  But just like I felt going into this campaign, if at the end of the day, I know I’ve done my very best, that will help ease the burden.  I will work hard to listen to what citizens have to say, open up communication between City Council and the community, protect the things we hold dear (our safety, our environment, our schools, our city employees, our small town feel).  But, I am only one voice on City Council, so it’s important that citizens communicate with all of City Council on the things that are important to them!!  That is what really makes the difference.  I am beyond thankful for being elected to the Poquoson City Council and I will do my very best during the next four years to serve in a way that makes the citizens feel like they made the right decision on Election Day!  I will continue to use this blog and my campaign FB page, now turned City Council FB page, to communicate with citizens, so please feel free to contact me!

Have you submitted your input to the Comprehensive Plan Team?

The City of Poquoson is updating the city’s Comprehensive Plan.  This is a very important document because it is the plan and road map for where we want our city to go over the next 20 years, guiding decisions on development, land use and resource management.  YOU have the opportunity as a citizen to give your input into the plan.  It’s very easy!  Go to this link to submit your input on-line:  Click here to submit input for Comprehensive Plan Update

But, the Comprehensive Plan is just the first step!   Without ordinances in place that allow City Council to enforce the plan, it is just a piece of paper with no power.  For example, if we want all large buildings over a certain square footage or that generate over a certain amount of traffic to be approved by City Council, requiring a public hearing, there needs to be an ordinance in place for that to happen.

So, not only should you give your input to the Comprehensive Plan, you should insist that ordinances be put in place that prevent things in the City from happening that don’t conform to the Comprehensive Plan.  It’s our City, we need to take responsibility and speak up for what we want!

I attended the Community Engagement Event the Comprehensive Plan Team held on October 18th to give my input and see what things other citizens had to say.  Below are just some of the things submitted by citizens who attended the event.

Link to Current Comprehensive Plan

COMMUNITY SERVICES

  • appreciate library
  • teacher pay
  • police & fire pay
  • grants for community services
  • senior citizens
  • storm debris pikcup
  • recreation programs
  • school funding
  • indoor pool
  • recreation/community center

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

  • desirable because we are different don’t develop to become same as Hampton & NN
  • commercial to reduce taxes – careful what type of business
  • why do we have to change?
  • housing at water prevents water access to others
  • boardwalk
  • marketing businesses
  • urgent care facility
  • communication to citizens – needs to be in comprehensive plan
  • safe schools, low crime – more development removes attraction
  • empty store fronts

ENVIRONMENTAL

  • sea level rise
  • land use vs environmental
  • oyster farms
  • clearing trees for new developments
  • light pollution Wythe Creek corridor
  • TMDL requirements
  • generate green space properties
  • mulch requirement near shoreline is pointless
  • dredge creeks to maintain water access
  • planting trees – median & parks
  • development restrictions due to RPA

HOUSING

  • affordable housing
  • street lights
  • attract young people
  • enforcement of proposed built/use – Shady Oaks
  • accommodations for elderly

LAND USE

  • process to change land use
  • future use map doesn’t address sea level rise
  • no place to park trailers @ water access
  • beach at Messick
  • more water access for family recreation
  • advertise to citizens more than required
  • traffic lights
  • how much left to develop?
  • water assault to Poquoson
  • aquaculture – water zoning
  • recreational water – prime asset
  • balance housing/commercial base
  • Poquoson theme
  • define high density – 2 stories max – no more density than current
  • desination – unique shopping

QUALITY OF LIFE

  • town center square
  • trees on Wythe Creek
  • starbucks/coffee shop – local owned
  • gathering place/street scapes
  • sidewalks
  • bike paths
  • bury electric lines
  • public transportation
  • road maintenance
  • drainage improvements/maintenance
  • infrastructure
  • town hall meetings

City Council Meeting 10-24-16

I attended the City Council meeting last night and thought I’d share the highlights:

  • The Poquoson Yacht Club held a reception and dinner for the Polynesian Voyaging Society.  Councilman Vernall presented a gift to the city from the society, which was a picture of 3 of their 6 sailing canoes signed by the crew.  The Mayor asked that the picture be hung in the lobby of City Hall for a period of time.
  • Councilman Green, in response to a request by the Director of the Poquoson Food Pantry for the Poquoson City Council to adopt a resolution in support of something more effective than the Medicare expansion (a federal unfunded mandate), presented three House bills for consideration as part of the resolution:  House Bill 193, House Bill 1083, and House Bill 350.  Councilman Green’s opinion, based on input from Delegate Helsel, was that HB 350 was the best of the three.  These bills would provide some assistance to those who fall between the gap, i.e. their income isn’t low enough to receive Medicaid, but isn’t high enough to afford insurance.  The Council decided to study what Councilman Green put forward and come up with a resolution that would be in support of something similar to HB 350.  A resolution will be drafted and presented to Council for adoption at the next council meeting.
  • An ordinance amending Chapter 70 – Section 5 of the City Code pertaining to sign regulations, giving the City enforcement powers regarding sign regulations was passed 7-0.  It would be a Class 3 misdemeanor with a fine up to $500 to unlawfully place a sign.  The City manager made it clear the City does not plan to take action to prosecute, but would use the new ordinance to remove unlawful signs. The Council voted to dispense with the 2nd reading, so the ordinance will go into effect in 30 days.
  • The new storm water pipes being installed on Little Florida between Kathy Drive & Cedar Road that were scheduled to being on October 17th have been delayed until sometime this week.  The road will be closed from 9am to 3:30pm Monday – Friday for approximately 4 – 5 weeks. Traffic will be re-routed down Poquoson Avenue and Odd Road.  The re-routing map can be seen on the government information channels Cox 46 & Verizon 25 or on the City Council Meeting 10-11-16 agenda.
  • The city is working with the insurance company who will pay an engineering firm to do a structural analysis of the breakwater at Messick Point to determine if the failure was structural failure based on design, materials failure, or installation failure. The city is covered by insurance, but the breakwater is also under warranty by the contractor for material & installation for 1 year.
  • Halloween will be observed in the city on on Monday, October 31st from Dusk to 8pm for children 12 and under.  Please drive extra carefully and be aware of children in the streets that evening.
  • There will be no City Council meetings on the 4th Monday of the month in November & December.
  • Thanks went out to the entire community of Poquoson for all the work that went into the Poquoson Seafood Festival and the patience of the citizens for allowing such a large event in our city.
  • The Workboat Race was a huge success with widespread attendance from people as far as the Eastern Shore and North Carolina.  Thank you to the City for hosting this event.

Below are some related links:

City Council Meeting Agenda – 10-24-16

View 10-24-16 City Council Meeting

Link to all City Council Meeting Minutes & Agendas

Link to all recorded City Council meetings