Public Comments for 03/04/2022 Counties Cities and Towns
SB54 - Chesapeake Airport Authority; removes language Authority authorizing language related to removal of.
SB58 - Portsmouth, City of; amending charter, city council, noninterference.
Honorable Chair and Committee Members: SB 58 is the companion bill to HB 564, which you all previously rejected. I commend you for that earlier decision and encourage you to do the same with this bill. The charter change contemplated in this piece of legislation would likely establish an open season for legislative interference with the workings of my city's executive branch by eliminating judicial enforcement with meaningful sanctions for violations and substituting a political remedy with no real teeth, namely censure and a maximum $100 fine. Imposition of those minimal penalties would be dependent on a majority vote of one's council colleagues, all but guaranteeing that members of a dominant council bloc would never bear them, whether merited or not. I believe the proposed changes ill serve the public interest in a city with much higher involuntary turnover historically in the city manager's position than experienced by our neighboring localities. When this matter was on the agenda for city council approval, all citizens who spoke at the public hearing were opposed to it. Indeed, this set of changes did not originate as a requested reform from the citizenry but rather from the council members themselves. Its main effect would be to insulate them from accountability to their constituents. I ask you, therefore, to vote "no" again on the Senate counterpart of the failed House bill. Thank you for the consideration.
SB172 - County boards of supervisors; salaries.
I am strongly in support of this legislation.There are no fiscal restraints on the State Budget with Supporting this legislation.
I'm in support of Senator Peaks Bill in regards to allowing local Government the same right as towns and cities in regards to pay increases.There is not fiscal impact to State Budget.
SB251 - Northern Virginia Transportation Authority; funds for pedestrian and bicyclist projects.
Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling fully supports Senator Surovell’s bill SB 251 to convene a work group assessing pedestrian and bicycle projects not part of road widening projects. While Fairfax County has done a good job of implementing bike projects as part of repaving and widening projects, there are long lists of unfunded projects necessary to create a complete bicycle and pedestrian network. We need to build out these safe, convenient, and comfortable bike facilities if we hope to encourage more people to take short trips by bike. Among many other projects, this includes widening the overcrowded W&OD Trail and additional protected bike facilities in growing areas of the county including Tysons. Even adding shared lane markings, an inexpensive safety addition, is beyond the resources of the county and state DOT as stand-alone projects. SB 251 would provide much needed impetus and hopefully future resources for creating a better bicycling and pedestrian network.
SB253 - Hampton, City of; amending charter, election of mayor.
SB283 - Augusta County; removal of county courthouse, authorization by electorate.
SB286 - Historic districts; required disclosure for buyer to beware, due diligence.
SB322 - The Plains, Town of; amending charter, election dates and terms of offices.
SB387 - Port Royal, Town of; amending charter, reduces town council membership.
SB523 - Portsmouth, City of; amending charter, changes to process for recall of elective officers.
Honorable Chair and Delegates: As a twenty-five-year resident of Portsmouth and a civic activist therein, I write to oppose the changes to the Portsmouth City Charter contained in the bill before you today, SB 523, as you did a few weeks ago with its House companion bill, HB 1117. What Senator L. Louise Lucas has submitted at the request of the Portsmouth City Council is in essence a solution to a non-existent problem. During the entirety of the time that our city charter has had a recall provision, it has only been successfully employed twice to remove a local elected official, and in both instances the official removed was the same individual. (The "Politics" heading in the Wikipedia entry for James W. Holley III provides summary accounts of the two recall campaigns.) Clearly, the existing language in the charter has not facilitated a systematic or indiscriminate employment of the recall tool to overturn the outcome of regular local elections. An attempt to remove his successor, five years after the second Holley recall, failed for lack of sufficient valid signatures. No subsequent effort has even made it to the signature verification. Clearly, the proponents’ argument main argument, that recall elections in Portsmouth constitute a political pandemic, are hyperbolic and disingenuous. When city council held a public hearing on the proposed charter changes on September 14, 2021, only four citizens, I among them, turned out to speak on the item. The official minutes of that meeting reflect that citizen opinion was unanimously opposed to the rewording. In addition, I urged council to submit the proposal to the electorate in a referendum, an alternative method of vetting it provided under the charter, but they declined. My presumption is that they expected the citizenry would not find the modified recall provisions acceptable and were determined to make the changes regardless of the desires of their constituents. Rather than serving the best interests of the citizens as a whole, council’s action appears self-serving, for the effect of the new language is to impose additional barriers in a process that has been demonstrably hard to accomplish in its present form. Delegates, rather than tinkering with our charter for no discernible improvement in the quality of life for the residents of Portsmouth, I ask you, as many fellow citizens have asked our council members, to invest your energies in initiatives that will reduce the rate of serious crime and violence in our commonwealth generally and Portsmouth particularly. Our city council had no popular mandate for sending you the measure that currently occupies your attention, just a desire, it would appear, to insulate themselves from accountability to those they purport to represent. I urge you, therefore, to reject SB 523 as you did with its House counterpart, HB 1117. Thank you for the consideration.
SB537 - Trees; replacement and conservation during development process, powers of local government.
To the committee: I write in full support of SB537. In my role as an at-large member of Lynchburg City Council, I have become keenly aware of how essential a thriving tree canopy is to a community’s long-term success, especially as our part of the world gets warmer and our air quality threatened. But currently, localities lack many of the tools to preserve and expand their tree canopies. This bill takes an important and needed step to ensure localities like mine have the ability to conserve our tree canopy. I urge you to adopt it. Thank you for your consideration, and with respect, Beau Wright Vice Mayor City of Lynchburg
REASONS TO SUPPORT SB537: Virginia LCV 50,000 acres of forest and non-urban tree canopy are converted to other land uses per year in Virginia due to timber harvest, urbanization, agricultural expansion, and other drivers. These bills are the result of the months’ long stakeholder advisory group representing local government, home builders, commercial builders, agriculture, conservation members and Department of Forestry. The legislation prioritizes on-site tree preservation and replanting but affords some opportunities to meet canopy requirements in nearby under-resourced communities—including formerly redlined neighborhoods—to help offset urban heat islands. The bills also allow larger tree canopies to be required when development occurs in areas with existing enhanced tree canopies or when a locality agrees to a somewhat reduced local parking lot, setbacks, and similar requirements.
Newport News City Council supports legislation that gives localities more authority in the preservation and management of urban forests which are instrumental in capturing and storing carbon, reducing storm water runoff, improving air quality, reducing energy use, and mitigating the health effects of urban heat islands. We ask you to support SB537.
VLA is concerned that SB 537 may give localities authority to restrict or require additional requirements on loggers and the logging industry. Silviculture is recognized in the Code of Virginia 10.1-1126.1 and limits local authority. For any development, forest harvesting is normally the first land disturbance and yet is essential before the development may proceed. VLA wants to ensure that legitimate silviculture is completely excluded from local authority even though it is an essential part of every development. Thank you.
SUPPORT Senate Bill 537 Recent preliminary data suggest that 50,000 acres of forest and non-urban tree canopy are converted to other land uses per year in Virginia due to timber harvest, urbanization, agricultural expansion, and other drivers. These land use changes, particularly in urban and suburban localities, hinder Virginia’s ability to reduce stormwater runoff and achieve its WIP commitments to restoring the Chesapeake Bay. This bill is the result of the months’ long stakeholder advisory group representing local government, home builders, commercial builders, agriculture, conservation members and Department of Forestry. The group reached consensus on the following points: SB 537 extends statewide the authority for localities to develop tree canopy programs; programs that require developers to preserve or plant trees that are, or would be, lost because of development. Localities that have an existing tree program are not impacted. SB 537 just offers new possibilities for localities that wish to adopt these ordinances. The legislation prioritizes on-site tree preservation and replanting but affords some opportunities to meet canopy requirements in nearby under-resourced communities—including formerly redlined neighborhoods—to help offset urban heat islands. The bills also allow larger tree canopies to be required when development occurs in areas with existing enhanced tree canopies or when a locality agrees to a somewhat reduced local parking lot, setbacks, and similar requirements. The bills expand the opportunities for localities, as well as non-profit and other organizations, to establish tree canopy banks and tree canopy funds. These will assist in meeting tree canopy goals, including planting and maintaining trees on public and other property, and advancing pollution reduction, stormwater management, flood mitigation, and other environmental goals. Additionally, the legislation requires the State Forester to adopt standards to be used by localities in determining how to achieve tree canopy percentages.
SB35 - Comprehensive plan approval; appeal shall be heard and determined within 60 days, etc.