Whose Vision?

We all know the Vision 2020 plan the City has, the first part of which being the recently passed new zoning laws, but how far has the City actually come?

All we have is an old report to go by, as the City as not issued a new scorecard for those playing along at home.

Recently, the City sat down with 3 different groups: Realtors, Home owners, and City Officials and Organizations to find out what they thought about the fate of the City. Interesting list from the Realtors:

What threatens the future of the City?
• The loss of neighborhood schools as schools are consolidated
• A loss of jobs in traditional industries
• Periodic flooding
• The spectre of increased interest rates
• The Dillon Rule that limits what the City can do
• There is a growing “no growth” mentality
• Many residents want the City to stay the way that it is
• The City’s housing court is viewed as a threat by landlords
• The perception that the City is overrun with crime and violence
• City participation with non-profits is considered a drawback for private investment
• The population is aging and fewer people will be available for the work force.

And those are just the Realtors, the citizens were far less reserved.

What has the City done that has not enhanced its livability?

• Widening of major streets, such as Gainsboro Road, has had a negative effect on pedestrians
• Transportation engineering has tended to disregard neighborhoods in favor of moving vehicular
• Poor code enforcement
• Allowing boarded/condemned/vacant structures and lots to accumulate
• Insufficient penalties for owners of derelict properties
• Insufficient regard for alleys
• Inability to reduce crime
• Inadequate enforcement on building maintenance
• Limited success in encouraging home ownership
• Disposal of open space and parks to the detriment of certain neighborhoods
• Parks that do not encourage users
• An overall sense of apathy
• There is a need for increased design standards
• Commercial and industrial development has encroached on traditional residential neighborhoods
• A need for more village centers
• There is no policy establishing equity in housing
• Vacant land is poorly used

What are some of the needs that the City could address?

• More design district overlays
• Enhanced rental inspection program that would assure better maintenance
• Development of jobs to attract people
• Move back to alley collection of solid waste wherever possible
• Provide more streetscaping

What does the City need in order to attract those who are choosing to live in the suburbs?

• The city needs more entertainment opportunities
• There needs to be more housing choice
• The perception is that the City schools are not as good as the suburban schools
• Too many social services serving low-income persons are located in the City
• The City is perceived as being neither responsible nor responsive to issues
• The City needs to acquire and develop more open space, greenways and parks

Then, the City Officials (I'd like to know who, personally) and Housing Organizations gave input.. (mind you Im not cutting and pasting the entire text of each group report - just the common parts, so you can see the similarities)

What are the weaknesses of the City?

• The infrastructure is old and decaying
• The housing stock is older
• The City is landlocked and cannot annex additional property without concurrence from the Counties
• Short commuting times encourage people to live in the suburbs
• Regional attitudes cause fragmentation of services
• There is a high demand for social services
• There is a general perception that the schools are bad
• Resident above the LMI are left out of the redevelopment efforts
• Redevelopment costs are high
• The housing stock is obsolete
• The region has a relatively high real property tax structure
• The airport is not a hub
• There is a lack of imagination and vision
• There is a high percentage of rental units
• Peoples lifestyles have changed in ways that it is difficult for the City to effect, i.e. a desire for one-story living
• There is a resistance to change in the community
• The population is aging
• Diversity is undervalued

What opportunities exist for the City?

• The tax abatement program is good and could be used more
• The City should look at the New Jersey Rehabilitation Code
• The City has been proactive in housing development but could increase its efforts
• The City should market itself more
• There are opportunities for regional conversations on housing issues
• There exists a need for more elderly housing
• The City needs to continue to market its lively downtown
• Public housing is geared toward self-sufficiency
• The City needs to continue to prioritize the use of its federal funds
• There are many areas where street improvements would enhance the neighborhood
• There is a need for partnerships with housing lender
• Commercial centers could be developed in many neighborhoods
• The zoning ordinance revisions could incorporate changes to improve housing development

What are the perceived threats to the City?

• There is a perception that Roanoke is a place for poor people
• There is a difference between the cost of improvements and the cost that is realized at time of
• There are reduced funding resources from both the state and federal government
• VDOT supports sprawl with its road policies
• The population is aging


Now if you read through all 3 of those lists, and think about it - we are at a stalemate of inane proportions and assumptions. It goes back to what I always say about asking more of your elected officials. They figure you dont care - you figure they dont care, and guess what - no one cares!

Amazing how that works, ain't it?

For every civic minded person in the city, there are at least 20 who can't be bothered with anything more than complaining. At least.

But these lists were conducted as part of the Housing Strategic Plan, which is part and parcel of the Vision 2020 plan. Again, something which the average citizen has no way of marking the progress on.

I think maybe its time the City Council left its hallowed halls, and went out into the streets - public Town Hall-style forums, in each and every neighborhood. Maybe a few big ones at the Civic Center.. Time to really embrace each and every citizen and engage them in the business that is Roanoke.

Might just be my idea though...


Lotzothoughtz said...

How can Dillon's Rule be a threat? I say this b/c it is an innate part of the state-locality relationship. The fact that a city or county is a creature of the State is the basis for everything from taxes to funding. How can something be a threat if it is an unchangable rule?


Yeah, a Revolution is brewing.

Bill White said...

There are some problems with that list:

First, the District Court is no threat to local landlords. Virginia law makes it almost impossible for a tenant not paying rent to win a case.

Second, while the city does need better code enforcement, it also needs a better process for eliminating abandoned and dilapidated housing, and a better class of people to occupy that housing.

Really, there are two problems there:

The first is landlords maintaining dilapidated housing. Landlords usually don't start with dilaidated housing -- tenants create it, and small landlords cannot afford to renovate. This is the number one way houses got into the condition they are in.

There is a big problem with the quality of people living in Roanoke's lower income housing -- this is a combination of law law enforcement and a city elite who profits directly from city welfare programs -- which attract the bottom layer of society from many of the surrounding jurisdictions.

As to the abandoned housing, the problem used to be low property values vis a vis the existing liens on the property. With housing values rising and beginning to justify making necessary repairs, two problems remain:

One is the unwillingness for the city to release its liens on abandoned property at market value -- usually close to 25 cents on the dollar -- and allow abandoned property to redevelop.

The second is the slowness with which the city moves on seizing property and enforcing it liens. Part of this is the repeated technical errors the city has made in condemning property. Another problem is the city's preference for demolishing property rather than seizing and selling it for rehabilitation.

If the city could provide basic services, control crime, and make Roanoke a respectable place to live, the other problems -- like the alleged lack of services for Roanoke's small middle class -- would take care of themselves.

RoanokeFound said...

Interesting points..

But how can the city provide the services when a good number of the taxpayers fight the assesment every year?

And constantly pressure the city to lower taxes?

Nevermind the stupidity of the city's inability to figure out how to provide the services to anyone of any age or class.