If you like a short read….you’re at the wrong place today. You might want to just copy and paste the text to a document file and read it as you have time. But, please do read it! If you have problems reading this here due to the length. just go to http://myvaresources.com/blogs/depotdazed/
A recent Roanoke Times article “Town Council plots out Christiansburg’s future“, pretty much says it all.
In the first line of the article you will find : “Town officials have a vision for what they want Christiansburg to look like in 2020.
First off, a true long-range view typically covers, at a minimum, a 20 year time span, NOT 11 years. Secondly, this makes if very clear that the Town officials are thoroughly convinced that they are the only ones who should make a determination of what Christiansburg should look like. Thus implying that what citizens want or think is totally unnecessary. Next, Mayor Ballengee notes he has “…always felt we needed to have a long-range plan for Christiansburg…” … duh!… that’s what a Comprehensive Plan is about. That’s what a Capital Improvements Program is about! Since we’re not making effective use of either of those two, we should try something else? Typically, this type of Vision Statement is the starting part for writing a New Comprehensive Plan. Maybe that is what the Town has in mind? Not likely. They have out of date charter, out of date codes, a comprehensive plan that is inadequate and did not include sufficient quality citizen input to be a fair representation of what citizens want….why break up the set! Maybe they are trying to change. I personally doubt it. This just looks like more of the typical ‘smoke and mirrors’ distractions of citizens to keep them as ignorant as possible of what is going on. Only time will tell. And, this is one time that I sincerely hope that my expectations are wrong and that a new era of openness and the inclusion of citizens is going to really happen. I will not hold my breath though. Ballengee’s statement “We hope our community will embrace this plan,” pretty much says it all. What plan? Where is it? Where can citizens see it? How can citizens comment on it? You want us to embrace ‘it’, without knowing what ‘it’ is, without hearing what we (all citizens) think about what you have decided is best for us? Well, that’s how it has worked previously. It is the attitude that has lead to massive developments without fair consideration being made of the impact on citizen’s lives (i.e., traffic, overcrowded schools, increased crime, etc.). Wouldn’t it be novel if the Town asked for a change instead of dictated?
Now, let’s get to the meat of the matter. The “Town” (those 7 elected and who knows how many appointed/paid employees who are privy to the deep dark secrets of Christiansburg) has a plan that specifically addresses (but not limited to) these issues (from the above Roanoke Times article):
- Pursuing green initiatives.
- Enhancing the system of walking trails and multiuse paths.
- Focusing on public information and community relations.
- Reviewing and revising the zoning ordinance.
- Promoting the new Aquatic Center.
Looks, like your guess is as good as mine on the other 15 target issues.
The rest of this article will review some of the history that the Town Council and Town Manager have when it comes to these areas.
Now, it is time for me to play a bit:)
Concering #1: Pursuing green initiatives.
What evidence is there to indicate the Town has done anything other than pay lip service in this area. There are a few references to greenspace where developments were discussed but where has the Town Codes done anything but the bare minimum, to meet State Codes?
Sure, a lot of developments have opted for trails rather than sidewalks in subdivisions. And, yes some of those trails do exist, but they don’t GO anywhere. They are a disconnected, dysfunctional mass of bits and pieces that do not do the ‘interconnectedness’ that they were supposed to accomplish. Maybe the Town has been carefully laying out this patchwork quilt project for years without telling anyone what they were doing, but right now, it just looks like a mass of scraps.
In the June 5, 2007 Town Council meeting minutes this reference can be found: “Town Manager Terpenny drew Council’s attention to a flier placed at each of their seats regarding green infrastructure in the New River Valley. The “Green Infrastructure Initiative” was created by the New River Valley Planning District Commission to educate communities in the New River Valley on how to maintain a network of green infrastructure for healthy and sustainable community growth. An information meeting for Christiansburg is scheduled for June 21 at the Montgomery County Government Center and is open to anyone interested in learning more about this topic. (If you want to know more about this Initiative there is a website with information. Perhaps a good place for our public officials to start would be the page that explains what Green Infrastructure is. It will certainly point out that this has NOT been a top priority of the Town of Christiansburg! There are also meeting agendas and minutes available to the public at the site.)
The June 19, 2007 Town Council Meeting had a representative from the NRVPDC come and give a presentation. This presentation included documents related to funding opportunity request.)
At that same June 19, 2007 meeting, the Town Council gave unanimous suupport to a Resolution for Green Infrastructure Grant where the NRVPDC would seek a U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration Grant to develop a Green Infrastructure Plan.
October 2, 2007, Elizabeth Obenshain, representing the New River Land Trust explained how the town of Christiansburg could participate in that groups efforts to preserve land.
March 4, 2008 the ‘Go Green Virginia Initiative‘ was discussed. “Town Council was introduced to the Go Green Virginia initiative started by Governor Kaine and sponsored by the Virginia Municipal League. The initiative is a nationwide effort to conserve energy. Localities must register with VML to participate, and participants will be recognized for success in various areas included in the program. Three information workshops have been scheduled around the State, and the workshop closest to our area will be held in Abingdon on April 22, 2008. Councilman Wade commented that he attended a seminar on the Go Green Virginia initiative at the 2007 VML conference and he learned that localities are not only saving money by participating, but it is also resulting in better treatment of the environment. mayor Ballengee asked Council to spend some time reviewing the information they have received on the initiative and to be prepared to vote on the matter at the next Council meeting. At the March 18, 2008 meeting Council unanimously voted to participate in the Go Green Virginia Initiative sponsored by the Virginia Municipal League. Unfortunately, this late entry into the process meant that Christiansburg was not found in the 2008 Winners list or in the list of VML Certified Green Governments. I wonder if the Town will manage to make the Sept. 30, 2009 deadline for participating in the Challenge for 2009.
On Sept. 2, 2008 Town Council Minutes: “Go Green Virginia Initiative. Mayor Ballengee presented each Councilmember with a copy of the energy Efficiency Plan prepared for review. After reviewing, modifications will be made as necessary. A copy of the Energy Efficiency Plan is attached and made a part of these minutes.” Unfortunately, a copy of that document was not provided to me or on the website. (You need to remember that the Minutes provided at the Town’s website are only the notes of the meetings, the multitude of additional documents that Town Council are provided with are seldom seen by the public eye…this is one such example.)
Concerning #2: Walking trails and multiuse paths
Notice that these are walking trails and multiuse paths, not sidewalks. These have been discussed for years and have not been able to get accomplished. Why? Do to not getting the grants needed to do it, and Town Council’s unwillingness to part with money for something as mundane as trails and paths when they could get an Aquatic Center instead. Other ‘finds’ searching for the word ‘trail’ led to places where the first 5 letters of the word ‘trailer’ were identified.
In 2005, there was a Montgomery County Greenways and Pathways Committee that the Town had representation on. Where have there been any reports back to the Town Council concerning any ideas/issues raised by this group. Is the group even still meeting? All of the references to this committee found on the internet are dated in 2005 and 2006. At least Montgomery County has some information on Greenways, Open Space & Trail Design on their website. maybe the Town can get some ideas from there or the links on that site.
Sept. 16, 2008, Councilman Vanhoozier proposed a pathway along Cambria Street from Sleepy Hollow Road to the Recreation Center. A feasibility study was suggested and Mayor Ballengee directed this matter to the Town Managaer.
The Town Council Meeting Minutes are full of references to the Huckleberry Trail. Most of these were ideas and plans for which there was no intention on the part of the Town to fund. The Town is more than willing to let public donations and groups accomplish the task. They have shown a willingness to let individuals and groups write grants, but the Town has shown no initiative on its own to make these connections to a viable trail system a reality.
Concerning #3: Public Information??????? Community Relations??????
Oh, they so do not want to go there with ME!!!! Simply go through all the Town Council Minutes online at myvaresources.com and see how many times the very word “public” is used for anything other than as “Public Hearing” or “public utilities”.
Public information and community relations do not appear anywhere in the Town Council Meeting Minutes, so this obviously has not be a priority before now. There are a couple of references to the 18 months the Planning Commission worked diligently to develop the comprehensive plan with the public’s input. Well, we already know what that actually meant.
In the Sept. 6, 2005 Minutes it was noted that “Councilwoman Carter commented that recently much attention has been drawn to evacuation plans. She noted that Christiansburg has an evacuation plan, but that the public may not be aware that a plan is in place. Manager Terpenny replied that while Christiansburg does have an emergency operations plan, it is only direction for public officials on how to handle catastrophes and not a specif plan on how to evacuate citizens.”
Concerning #4: Revising the Zoning Ordinance
Over the years, there have been a very few revisions of the overall Zoning Ordinance. In fact, there are significant questions as to whether or not even the State minimum is being met. How effective is any revision of the Zoning Ordinance going to be if they do not do a revision of the Comprehensive Plan? Simply updated the Zoning Ordinance to be up-to-date with minimum State standards may not be what citizens want. Anyone can cut and paste the existing codes from other jurisdictions that are up-to-date and form a Zoning Ordinance. It takes a decent, citizen-based Comprehensive Plan to form the framework around which that Zoning Ordinance is built. If that is lacking, you will simply get ‘cherry picked’ pieces that town officials want in the Ordinance with no inclusion of the overall community!
Concerning #5: Promoting the new Aquatic Center
What’s been done so far?
April 6, 2004 Town Council Minutes: Resolution for the Department of Conservation and Recreation Grant to Fund a Trail Project to the Future Aquatic Center Site was unanimously approved by Town Council.
April 6, 2004 Ad-Hoc Committee for the Future Aquatic Center created.
May 4, 2004 Adoption of a Resolution for Commonwealth Transportation Board Recreational Access Fund for Future Aquatic Center – This request is for an access road grant to construct a roadway from Nnorth Franklin Street to the new aquatic center site. Unanimously approved.
October 19, 2004 “Regarding the Aquatic Center, Town Manager Terpenny requested that the Finance Committee allow fundraising projects to raise additional funds for a fifty-meter competition size pool. Radford University and Virginia Tech are interested in utilizing the pool if it is a fifty-meter pool. This could mean substantial revenue for the Town. The difference in the twenty-five meter pool and fifty-meter pool is approximately 2.5 million dollars. Mayor Linkous commented that plans are to move forward with the construction of a fifty-meter pool while contributions are being sought.
May 1, 2007 Town Council Meeting Minutes: “Town manager Terpenny said he was recently contacted by USA Swimming regarding possible contracted use of the facility. USA Swimming is willing to work around Virginia Tech’s scheduling. Projected opening of the facility is Fall 2008.”
On several occasions it has been pointed out that the Mayor has established a committee to elicit donations from businesses and/or individuals for money for the Aquatic Center. At the most recent town Council meeting, the Mayor admitted that these efforts have not been very successful. So much for the idea of promoting the Aquatic Center. The Town has not been successful at eliciting support from local businesses and citizens. Thankfully, the builder went beyond State borders and was able to find some financing for some of the most expensive embellishments on the Aquatic Center.
The Town has a long history of NOT promoting itself. It has depended upon other groups and governments to do that sort of thing for them, then sat back and complained about the results.
This seems to be a pretty major undertaking on the part of Town officials. They have decided what Christiansburg needs and wants, and they will be deciding how to accomplish those goals. Hopefully, they will also take the time to figure out HOW TO PAY FOR THEM!!!!
The Roanoke Times article speaks of hiring for a new Town position, Public Relations. Well, what about the Planning Staff that was in the budget? Is that position now being dumped although you acknowledged another Planner was necessary due to the work load? And, what about the money in the budget for Recodifying the Code. Neither the position nor the rfp for either of these has been advertised. Are you figuring that people will just forget that you have acknowledged there are problems that need to be dealt with simply because you put the money in the budget?
I got news for ya’ll: TALK IS CHEAP! All the empty rhetoric in the world will not convince voters. Let’s see some action. Quit talking and start doing! Oh, and by the way, doing it in front of the public rather than hiding behind emails, phone calls, and secret meetings would be a pretty nice way to start showing that you are really willing to change.
After all in that same Roanoke Times article:
“The vision for the town’s future states that in 2020, the goal is for Christiansburg to be known as a retail, commerce and tourist destination, a town of WELL-INFORMED AND ENGAGED CITIZENS, a recreational, cultural and entertainment Mecca, a green community, a clean, healthy and safe place to live, a model for effective land use, a sound financial entity and an interconnected community.
The long-range plan also touts the town’s downtown; the new Montgomery County courthouse; the national retailers, restaurants and hotels in the community; the aquatics center; the mix of residential, commercial and recreational land uses; and walking trails, multiuse paths and mass transit.”
Hey! But it’s all okay. Per the article, the Town Manager and his key staff are going over each of the vision items to determine how to accomplish them. Who the heck needs citizens involved? We have our government taking care of us….just like they have for decades now….and people are so…so…very happy with the results of that!