Friday, July 31, 2009

62% Get It

62% of you realize that Virginia Beach light rail isn't going to referendum. 37% of you are deluded enough to believe that City Council will ignore 3 major business groups in order to kowtow to the VBTA.

The new question: what are your hopes for Mayor Sessoms' Minority Roundtable? Will it be a diversionary talk shop, or will proposals from it actually become City policy?

With the City Council Retreat next Monday and Tuesday (August 3 & 4), I hope to get a poll question idea or two out of it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

TPPC July 30, 2009

The Transportation, Parking, and Pedestrian Committee (TPPC) of Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met this morning. The unusually long meeting lasted nearly two hours.

Delceno Miles briefed the TPPC on the ongoing light rail Study process. A few interesting nuggets emerged. First, the Study is envisioned as a 16 month process, so the SEIS would be back too late for a November, 2010 referendum even if the Virginia Beach City Council wanted to hold one. (Let's pray they don't cave in to the VBTA.) Second, I did say SEIS. The Study will be done as a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, pulling a large amount of data from the 1999 Study. Third, the September public meetings will be held using an Open House format.

Preliminary endorsement was given to allowing outdoor ice skating in the 31st Street park from Thanksgiving until February. Before the City could grant a franchise for a pilot program, a number of technical issues remain to be resolved concerning the rink. No, my fellow hockey fans, the planned rink is incapable of hosting hockey games.

Ridership on the VBWave seasonal trolley service is up 19% over 2008, but still below 2007 numbers. The TPPC decided against surveying visitors on the service this year.

Finally, there was a 30 minute discussion on the wording of new signage for Atlantic Avenue's dedicated mass transit lanes. In the end, the matter was sent to the City Attorney's Office for a legal opinion on two possible scenarios. The hitch is that such signs are required to meet a national standard; would the proposals meet legal muster?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Draft Pembroke Area Implementation Plan

The draft Pembroke Area Implementation Plan is scheduled to be presented to Virginia Beach's Planning Commission at their August 12 meeting. The joint meeting with the Virginia Beach Development Authority at 9 A.M. will cover future land uses for the Strategic Growth Area that includes Town Center.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Glenn Nye Can't Deliver

$3.5 million is being sought in the new Federal Budget for the light rail Study package of the Newtown Road - Dome site and EVMS - Naval Station Norfolk extensions. The House passed their Transportation funding bill...with only $400,000.

It's now up to Virginia's two Senators (Jim Webb and Mark Warner) to try to save the ball that Glenn Nye dropped.

TDCHR July 23, 2009

Today the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (TDCHR), the governing body of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), held it's first meeting with new Chairman Jim Wood at the gavel.

At the outset there was a Public Hearing on three condemnations for construction easements needed in building Norfolk light rail. There were no speakers. (Later the TDCHR unanimously authorized the condemnations.)

Previous Chair Grace Routten of Hampton was recognized for her years of service, not only as Chair but her other work as well.

The TDCHR enacted their new By-Laws with one amendment: Routten moved to have the ADA Committee kept at 21 members rather than the proposed 14.

HRT's procurement policy was changed, bringing it in line with that used by the cities of Virginia Beach and Norfolk. The prior policy had led to light rail delays and cost increases.

Please note, "choo-choo to nowhere" bashers: Change Orders were approved reducing Norfolk light rail's costs by over $545,000.

More good fiscal news: HRT finished FY 2009 about $990,000 under budget. The figures remain to be audited.

Due to further eminent domain hearings, the August 27 TDCHR meeting will be in Norfolk (rather than originally-scheduled Hampton). In turn, both the September and October meetings will be in Hampton.

Light Rail Construction Bus Tour

It had been talked about on a few different websites. Today Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) held a bus tour of the light rail line under construction in Norfolk. 32 people boarded Bus 3033 out of the MAX fleet. It was a mix of TDCHR Commissioners, senior HRT Staff, media, and a few civilians. (FYI, there were 3-4 vacant seats if anyone else had wanted to go.)

The bus first went to the eastern terminus of the line at Newtown Road. (With Virginia Beach across the street, jokes flew about expansion eastward.) We then worked our way westward to the western terminus, taking in as much as the roads would allow an 18 ton bus to do. Fun fact of the day: the rails came in 90 foot pieces, with ten each being welded into 900 foot sections so you won't get the old-fashioned "clickity-clack" riding the train.

Favorite joke of the day: at Newtown Road a flock of geese were on the lot that will become the park-and-ride. That led Senior Vice President of Development Jayne Whitney to quip, "We'll relocate the geese."

Among the media on the bus was a camera crew from WAVY-TV and Debbie Messina of The Virginian-Pravda.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

VBDA Unanimously Approves Purchase of Circuit City Property

This morning the Virginia Beach Development Authority (VBDA) unanimously approved the purchase of the former Circuit City property on Independence Boulevard, pending City Council approval and financing. What was intriguing was the discussion of the agenda item. On the one hand, the pending Pembroke Area Implementation Plan (which has it as a transit center), it's proximity to the Norfolk Southern Right-Of-Way, and Friday's Virginian-Pravda story were all mentioned. On the other hand, neither the terms "light rail" nor "transit center" were ever used. Instead, conversation focused on it's potential as an additional block to Town Center.

Very interesting. It's either a smokescreen or some kind of hybrid facility (like planned at the Dome site) is in the cards. (The entertainment center at the Dome site would have a transportation center on part of it's first floor.) With less than 3.8 acres of land, there's not much room to do much of both.

Speaking of the Done site, the VBDA granted developer Michael Jenkins a nine month extension in putting together a plan. Six months was the original motion, which was amended to nine. It would be a complex facility (with up to 47 entertainment components), plus the current financing market is tough.

On the convention center headquarters hotel, it was stated that the FAA had previously looked favorably on projects up to 180 feet in the area. Given such, the City wished to determine why the FAA was now asking for no more than 110 feet.

Finally, the group performing the Virginia Beach light rail study will come to the August VBDA meeting as part of their series of interviews with stakeholders.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Two-Thirds Oppose Mandatory IZ

68% voted no on going to a program of mandatory Inclusionary Zoning. My question: if not, how do you expect moderate income units to get built?

The new question: will the Virginia Beach City Council put light rail on the ballot? This past week we learned that three major business groups (Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Beach Vision, and Roundtable of Business) have all formally come out against a referendum. In light of that, do you think Council will defy them and do it?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

ACORN Cracked

There's a website up blowing the whistle on that bunch of nuts, ACORN. The website is at Have fun!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

TPO July 15, 2009

Today the Transportation Planning Organization (TPO), Hampton Roads' Federally-mandated Transportation board, met. Some big news out of today's meeting.

First, the TPO received full Federal accreditation. Previously Washington had scolded the then-MPO for a number of practices that didn't comply with Federal requirements.

Second, there was a Resolution approved endorsing Higher Speed Rail for the region. Virginia's Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is currently studying three different scenarios for our region. The catch: who gets the lion's share, the Southside or the Peninsula? Norfolk Southern has informally expressed interest in operating passenger rail between Norfolk and Richmond.

Third, preliminary approval was given to a list of projects for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) stimulus funding. Two regional and some local projects were endorsed. The regional road project was the I-564 multimodal connector, while the regional mass transit project was help for Norfolk light rail, with the focus being a multimodal station at Harbor Park. Suffolk tried to get a project upgraded from local to regional, but was voted down.

1st Annual Southside Republican Picnic & Kickball Classic

Yeah, you gotta love first annuals. However, this one should be fun: a picnic in Virginia Beach's Woodstock Park on Friday, August 21 at 5:30 P.M. The event is being held by the Norfolk and Portsmouth Young Republicans. Already confirmed: Republican Attorney General nominee Ken Cuccinelli.

To offset the costs of the event, Sponsors are being sought. If interested, e-mail D.J. Spiker at

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

LRT Scoping Meetings

The dates and times for the Virginia Beach light rail Scoping meetings have finally been set. As expected, there will be two meetings: one at Princess Anne High School (September 9) and one at the Virginia Beach Convention Center (September 10). Both meetings will run 6-8 P.M.

The sites are targeted at the two big redevelopment areas in the Study: the Central Business District and the Resort Area. Show up and speak or forever hold your peace.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pricing Fun

With yesterday being payday, on the way home from work I stopped to do some shopping. The store was offering a 3 bar pack of soap for $3. On the other hand, it was selling a 7 bar pack of the very same soap for $3.25

Wonder how many of those 3 packs they actually sold....

Thursday, July 9, 2009

64% Want To Raise The Gas Tax

With new road construction money virtually dried up in Virginia, 64% of poll voters supported raising the Gas Tax to boost Transportation. 36% were opposed.

The new poll question: should Virginia Beach implement mandatory Inclusionary Zoning? Empower Hampton Roads has lobbied for it, while Mayor Will Sessoms talked about it on the campaign trail. The Beach does have a voluntary density credit program in it's Strategic Growth Areas (SGAs), but that so far has resulted in zero units being built.

It's telling that while the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) repeatedly goes on about what the Mayor said during the campaign about a light rail referendum, they conveniently omit what he promised on mandatory IZ and running mass transit buses on outlying routes after 7 P.M. The VBTA suffers from very selective indignation.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Toscano At The VBTA

Below is the YouTube video of James Toscano of Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) speaking to the June meeting of the Virginia Beach Taxpayers Alliance (VBTA) on light rail.

What struck me: notice the deafening silence of the audience. The myriad of lies that Reid Greenmun had fed the VBTA are being shredded, and the poor Kool-Aid chuggers - unable to think for themselves - have no idea what to do.

H/T to Michael Ragsdale of HR Transit Ideas for putting together the playlist that allows the three segments (YouTube videos can be a maximum 10 minutes) to be shown as a single show.

The V-P's Sessoms Puff Piece

Yesterday's headline story in The Virginian-Pravda took me by surprise. However, it's slow news around the Fourth of July holiday unless you want wall-to-wall coverage of picnics, fireworks, etc. Therefore, they ran a feature story on Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms

After reading the story, I have some thoughts:

1. Transportation: Virginia Beach now has the Chairs at the TPO (Sessoms) and TDCHR (Jim Wood) at the same time. A great chance for the Beach to show leadership and push a multimodal solution to Hampton Roads' Transportation problems.

2. Regionalism - it's a demographic inevitability that Virginia Beach will be drawn closer into the region. For nearly a generation the Beach's population growth has been entirely minority, mostly from Norfolk and Portsmouth. With family and friends there, you have a harder case convincing voters that Regionalism is a bad thing. A light rail network connecting us with them would interlock our fate.

In this Dillon Rule state, local government can only accomplish what Richmond will allow it to. Therefore, mustering resources to push regional goals at the state level is common sense.

3. Minority Roundtable - it has huge potential, with the catch being how many of it's proposals get enacted into City policy.

If Sessoms can put together a coalition of the business community, the minority communities, and the Republican establishment, he easily wins reelection in 2012.

ABC Stores Closed On The Fourth Of July?

Last night I spent a few hours socializing with the neighbors. We got our lawn chairs out and chatted from about 6-9 P.M.

Something came up that I found surprising: they told me the state's ABC stores were closed on the Fourth of July. (Don't ask me: I'm mainly a beer drinker, taking an occasional Jack Daniels or vodka.) Given the amount of celebrating people do on that day, wouldn't it be common sense to have the stores open? How much in sales are they losing because of that?

Then, government and common sense are usually mutually exclusive.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Virginia News Source = Pro Wrestling?

For those of you who don't read Virginia News Source (I do to help keep up on VBTA antics), last week columnist Pat Murphy abruptly resigned and his blog was pulled down. In a guest post at VBDems, he tells his story of what really happened.

If true, the story is stunning. With Morris Rowe being an old reporter, I would have expected better. (Robert Dean is another story....) Read it and get a glimpse of the stage-managed antics that the Deaniac Empire is notorious for.

Friday, July 3, 2009

You Love Them Or You Hate Them

This poll result was kind of remarkable. 43% are very satisfied with the new Virginia Beach City Council's first quarter performance, 10% somewhat satisfied, 2% somewhat dissatisfied, and 43% very dissatisfied.

First, 53% are at least somewhat happy with the new Council. Second, only 12% voted for the middle positions. You either love or hate this group.

The new poll question: should Virginia raise the Gas Tax for Transportation? Democratic nominee for Governor Creigh Deeds supports such a hike, while the issue started a maelstrom earlier this week on Virginia News Source.

2009 City Council Retreat

The annual Virginia Beach City Council Retreat will be held August 3 and 4 at the convention center. As always, members of the public are welcome to come and observe. However, you won't be able to address Council while in session those days.

I plan to attend, so if you can't make it, watch this blog for coverage.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

RAC July 2, 2009

Virginia Beach's Resort Advisory Commission (RAC) met this afternoon just as the Resort Area was finishing preparations for the holiday weekend now upon us.

Chairman Ken Taylor was out sick, so Vice Chair Gerrie West took the RAC gavel for the second time. She had no Chairman's Report.

The meeting began with a Presentation on Energy Star, a Federal program covering energy conservation and design of new buildings.

Neither the Resort Investment Committee (RIC), the Plan/Design Review Committee (PDRC), nor the Green Committee had met since the last RAC meeting. However, PDRC members and Councilman John Uhrin had met informally with City Staff on Monday to cover design issue facing the Resort Area as it goes to urban redevelopment.

No members of the Communications Committee were present. The Transportation Committee reported out, which I blogged on last Thursday.

The Oceanfront Enhancement Committee (OEC) for the third time has had referred to it the issue of the behavior of homeless people in the Resort Area.

Commissioner Bill Blue was commended for printing at no charge small posters for the program that allows those intoxicated to leave their cars in City parking lots overnight.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mark Your Calendars!

The 2009 Freedom Fund Banquet of the Virginia Beach Chapter of the NAACP will be held at the Westin in Town Center on November 1. (That's All Saints Day for we Catholics.) It's a big annual fundraiser for the local Chapter. First, anyone who is anyone in the African-American community will be there. Second, for any politician seeking favor in the African-American community, it's a must event.

I ran into President Georgia Allen this morning and learned the date and location. Once I get the full spread of details, I'll be sure to post them.