Ed Elswick

Property Rights Resolution Status Update

The original draft of the Property Rights Resolution was presented to the Board of Supervisors (BOS) on May 14, 2013 after being given to the County Attorney and Board Chair on February 19, 2013 and was again discussed at a work session on July 23, 2013. At this work session, Mr. Mahoney, County Attorney, asked that the problem be defined. In response, I proceeded to examine the role of the Planning Commission within the Code of Virginia and their own bylaws, to study the minutes of both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, and to talk to my constituents. The Board was given my Problem Definition and Summary Digest at the same time they were given the resolution on August 26, 2013. At that time, I also asked each of them for suggestions to improve the resolution. I received none. Chairman Altizer subsequently determined that another work session was not needed and planned to bring it to a vote on September 10, 2013 at the three o'clock meeting. I requested that this be moved to September 24, 2013 at the seven o'clock meeting in order to allow interested citizens to come and voice their opinions. I assumed that because no additional work session was needed and Board members had not given feedback, their concerns about the resolution had been allayed. On September 19, 2013, a further refined Property Rights Resolution was sent again to be formally included in the agenda for September 24, 2013. Mr. Church was the only one who had any comments. Chairman Altizer, Mr. Flora, and Ms. Moore did not offer any suggestions for improvement nor told me what their objections might be until the agenda item was discussed at the board meeting.

The rejection of my Property Rights Resolution by a four to one vote at the September 24, 2013 Board of Supervisors meeting was the most recent example of citizens' rights being ignored. The whole intent was to allow citizens to be more involved with major developments in their neighborhood, to assure maximum transparency, to encourage increased public participation, to promote orderly development; and, according to the Roanoke County Comprehensive Plan Land Use Issues, to "keep our citizens informed and educated on public policy issues by maintaining an open, democratic, and easily accessible governmental system."

If reelected, I plan to offer this resolution again in the new year with a different Board. Thank you for all your interest, input, and support of the Property Rights Resolution.

In light of the extensive coordination and various meetings, it was most disappointing to listen to some of the comments of my fellow supervisors. Their comments reflected little support for strengthening the process for rezonings and site plan exceptions and to assure citizens have a voice throughout the development process.

From my comments:

Input on the resolution:

"A lot of citizens have given input to it and that's the way I like it. I would never, ever put something before this Board that's of a significant impact without asking citizens' opinions and getting their input."

Importance of citizens:

"To me it makes sense that citizens need to be involved in the process because they live near these projects and it's their county, and it affects their way of life."

Improvement of the process:

1. "This (resolution) allows citizens to start working with the staff and developer early in the process. If the developer knows early in the process that the citizens have concerns that he didn't think about, well then he can modify his proposal early in the process. To me instead of slowing down the process, it will speed it up."

2. "(The Site Plan Review Committee) is only used in special cases for major rezonings (and site plan exceptions) where there are citizen concerns."

Before voting against the Property Rights Resolution, supervisors gave comments. Below you will find examples:

Supervisor Moore:

"It violates one citizen's rights over another." (Ms. Moore provided no explanation for her position.)

Chairman Altizer:

1. While referring to numbers 1 and 2 in the Property Rights Resolution: "You don't need a resolution to do that. That's not a property rights issue. That's an administrative issue."

2. "The Planning Commission Procedures for Conduct. I don't know if they have them or not."

3. "Timing events for the Planning Commission the Board doesn't dictate; that's the Planning Commission rules that they adopt themselves."

4. "It's up to this Board to take the personal out of it and we know more of the fact of what is and what isn't going to happen."

Supervisor Church:

1. "The Planning Commission is not binding on this Board."

2. "There have been so many issues given to us by the Planning Commission that they have approved five to zero and we have denied five to zero...countless numbers...countless."

3. "I believe there is a fallacy there that a lot of citizens believe that if they have a problem with the Planning Commission Process they feel like it's over."

Supervisor Flora:

1. "You can add as many meetings as you want to add, you can add a Site Plan Review Committee, you can meet five or six times, you can extend the process from three months to four, five, six months. In the end it all comes down to the collective wisdom of the five people sitting up here. So all these meetings don't mean anything until it gets to us, and it's up to us to make a decision."

2. "And I'll tell you how I do it (make a decision). I sit, I listen to everyone, what everyone has to say, but in the end I have to decide whether that request or that use for that property is the highest and best use for that property."

3. "We come to these decisions differently and that's because each one of us has a mind we operate, and we come to those conclusions all on our own."

The Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman, Ms. Waugh, stated: "it seems to be a solution in search of a problem." It should be noted that the Board of Supervisors was given the Problem Definition and Summary Digest, and Ms. Waugh was not provided this information.

Moreover, I believe this Property Rights Resolution will help foster a more systematic, uniform, and consistent process for our County's development activities and will result in more successful projects for both businesses and our communities. Also I believe it will ultimately result in cost savings to the County and developers, improve project design that adheres to the Community Plan and will achieve highest and best use for the property, and improve communication between developers, business owners, and our residential property owners. If reelected, I will continue the fight for you to be heard and included in our decisions. It is your county and I am here to represent you!

The Property Rights Resolution presented to the Board on September 24, 2013

The Problem Identified and Defined

The Summary Digest of Findings

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