-By BarBara Murphy
In reviewing past newsletters I came upon o ne penned by Murray Bishop in January 2003 when he was president of the GNL. In it he states that “with so much going o n in Ghent, attendance at the meetings has been way up, and the level of interest shown by the residents of Ghent in their civic affairs is fantastic.”
Well, a lot is going o n in Ghent right now, however, the attendance is not what it should be. Just a few of the important issues are: the recreation of a Block Security Program. Andrew Klear will be the new coordinator, but for this program to be successful he will need a lot of help from “you.”
We’re all busy, but it is your neighborhood, and you can’t depend o n your neighbors to be active – they are busy too. Everyone needs to do their share. Unfortunately criminals don’t go away, they go to neighborhoods that have weak or no security programs and they are coming back to Ghent. Please call Andrew at 533-0316 and volunteer to help.
Another item that is being discussed is the demolition of the Guild House, a contributing structure to Ghent’s historic district. Lloyd Hall, while not officially designated as a contributing structure, but also a building of importance, is slated for demolition as well. The City’s Zoning ordinance (9-1) which covers Ghent states: “The Ghent Historic and Cultural Conservation Districts are of substantial historic and cultural significance because of their compatible and harmonious buildings, reflecting the eclectic architectural styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.” The ordinance goes o n to state that its goal is to protect the existing concentration of harmonious and noteworthy structures and sites against destruction and to encourage uses and activities which will foster their conservation and improvement.
Christ and St. Luke’s Church needs additional space to hold classes, have a reception hall for weddings etc. but their current proposal is to demolish the Guild House and Lloyd and build a new glass-enclosed structure. The Ghent Neighborhood League voted last February to oppose the demolition of the above structures. We believe Christ and St. Luke’s Church can adapt these existing structures to meet their needs. The Williams School is a good example of the adaptation of an old building, the Church Home, to meet today’s needs. We look forward to meeting with them to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
A third matter that has come up, but is currently o n hold, is a change to the zoning ordinance for Ghent. The intent of the amendment is as follows: “To provide regulations for the orderly replacement of non-conforming commercial structures located in the HC-G2 Ghent Historic and Cultural Conservation District that have generally been physically altered negatively impacting their relationship to surrounding properties.” The Basic Amendment Proposal states “Require a special exception to replace non-conforming structures located in the HC-G2 district. (HC-G2 is the area between Olney Road and Princess Anne Road.) The intent is to turn these commercial properties into residential units. Current density in Ghent is 26 units per acre. As an incentive to replace the non-conforming structures, it would be appropriate to increase allowable density. Residential density permitted in the city’s non-historic multiple family districts range from 15 units per acre to 44 units per acre. There is a lot to consider regarding this ordinance (from who decides what structures are non-conforming, to parking, to do we want to eliminate the commercial properties in this sector of Ghent), and we need the neighborhood’s comments, as it will affect each o ne of us, positively or negatively. We have met with the Planning Department and they will leave the zoning for Ghent as is or change it if that is what we want. The “we” is the residents of Ghent, and again, we need your input.
As you can see from the above, a lot is going o n in Ghent. Our monthly meetings are open meetings held at Maury High school the third Monday of the month at 7:30 p.m. See you there.
December is a month that sparkles with lights and festivities: We celebrate life and hope during Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and holiday events abound in religious and secular places throughout the region. And not o nly here: The vintage postcard [pictured o n page 1 of the newsletter, not shown here], which conveys the holiday greetings of the Ghent Neighborhood League this year, shows a merry event in Merry England and comes to us from Australia, courtesy of postcard specialist Nigel Edwards who kindly agreed to let us use it for our newsletter (please see his Web site <a href=http://edwardian-delights.com target=”_blank”>edwardian-delights). Our many thanks to him across the ocean, and our best wishes to people of good will throughout the world.
Tapas Bar approved
<FONT size=2><P align=justify>In July and August respectively, the Norfolk Planning Commission and Norfolk City Council adopted an ordinance that authorized a change from an existing nonconforming use (office) at 626 W. Olney Road to a new nonconforming use (establishment for the sale of alcoholic beverages for o n-premises consumption). The ordinance change allows applicant Bradley Smith to open a tapas bar at the Olney Road site.
<P align=justify>In an earlier letter, the Ghent Neighborhood League informed the commission that it felt unable to take a formal position o n the application since Smith had not, as requested, provided the board with a formalized poll of Olney Road neighbors for his planned 40-seat restaurant.
<P align=justify>”We welcome the continued opportunity to work with the applicant if the Planning Commission determines that it has insufficient input from residents as the basis for determining the appropriateness of this proposal,” noted the letter, which has remained unanswered.
<P align=justify>Key areas of concern among board members were adequacy of o n-site parking, possibility of late night noise affecting residents o n three sides of the proposed restaurant site and the permanence of ABC license attached to property rather than operator, the board noted in its letter.
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<P align=justify>Crime report form now o n-line
<FONT size=2><P align=justify>A crime reporting form was added to the Ghent Neighborhood League’s Web site (www.GhentNeighborhoodLeague.org, see Main Menu), which allows Ghent residents to make written reports about crimes witnessed in their neighborhood and submit them to the league at its board meetings. While the form is to provide a readily accessible crime-reporting tool to Norfolk residents and to increase communication between residents, the police department and the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, it is not meant to replace phone calls to police, but simply to accompany and document concerns. – League board member Andrew Klear recently became the league’s block security coordinator.
Maury group seeks support
The Maury Foundation, an organization of Maury High School’s alumni founded in 1986, launched a $1 million endowment fund drive with the goal of using the fund’s annual interest income for scholarships and educational programs currently not funded by public moneys. Contributions can be sent to The Maury Foundation, P.O. Box 6224. For details call (757) 628-3368.
GNL board attendance
Results of a survey of Ghent residents o n Ghent Neighborhood League board meeting attendance, conducted by former league board member Diane Catanzarro, will be made public at the league’s Dec. 20 board meeting.
Traffic under discussion
On behalf of the Ghent Neighborhood League, H. Blount Hunter, the league’s first vice president, recently proposed to the Ghent Business Association a discussion o n the desirability of asking the Norfolk Department of Traffic Engineering to evaluate the possibility of adding dedicated left turn signals at key intersections in the neighborhood and o n 21st Street.
A copy of Hunter’s letter was sent to traffic engineer Guzin Akan, who is expected to attend the league’s Dec. 20 board meeting for a discussion of this proposal and other traffic concerns.
“These intersections already have dedicated left turn lanes and some protected left turnsignals, just not dedicated left turn signals that cover all traffic patterns,” Hunter noted. “It often takes two light cycles to turn left at these intersections-especially at Colonial/21st Street and Llewellyn/21st Street if traveling eastbound or west-bound o n 21st Street and attempting to turn southbound o n Colonial or Llewellyn.”
Business owners close to the intersection say that traffic there is an o ngoing problem. In early October, an early-morning accident at that intersection caused a car to crash into the window of the Antique Design Center, causing substantial property damage.
Be a good neighbor
From the last of the falling leaves to soon-to-come snow or ice: Please make sure that your sidewalks are cleaned of all debris and other hazardous matters.
Clay resigns from task force
Pat Clay, a founding member of the Ghent Neighborhood League who held positions as GNL president and officer, resigned as the league’s representative to the Ghent Task Force. The task force, a group of mostly Ghent business owners who are appointed by Mayor Paul Fraim, meets periodically to discuss matters of concern in Ghent, including beautification of sidewalks, traffic, parking, etc. The league thanks Pat for his many years of dedicated and invaluable service.
Boslego heads historic committee
Barbara Boslego, the league’s previous PACE coordinator, is the new chair of the Ghent Neighborhood League’s historic committee. The committee is working toward developing the area north of Princess Anne Road into a historic district. Volunteers are welcome.
Hunter joins IDA board
H. Blount Hunter, first vice president of the Ghent Neighborhood League and president of Hunter Retail & Real Estate Research Company, was elected to a three-year term o n the board of directors of the International Downtown Association in Washington, D.C.
This new column is designed to provide a brief overview of recent decisions by the board of the Ghent Neighborhood League and of comments made by those who attended the board’s meetings.
<P align=justify>Board decisions:
<P align=justify><FONT size=2>Between July 2004 and October 2004, the board of the Ghent Neighborhood League voted to take the following actions:
- To support the recommendations of the Dog Park Committee (motion by Mike Spencer, seconded by Jason Madzuma; the vote was unanimous); please see page 3 for a dog park update;
<P align=justify>To support the efforts of the Bay Oaks Committee to save Bay Oaks trees (motion by Carl Sykes, seconded by Mason Andrews; the vote was unanimous);
<P align=justify>To have league President BarBara Murphy send a letter to The Virginian-Pilot, based o n the 2003/2004 board’s previously expressed concerns about o n the expansion plans of Christ and St. Luke’s church;;
<P align=justify>To ask the city for a clarification o n the process of tree removal in Ghent (motion by Carl Sykes, seconded by Blount Hunter);
<P align=justify>To ask the City of Norfolk for a study on the additional left-hand signals in various Ghent locations (motion by Blount Hunter; seconded by Carl Sykes); please see page 5 for an update;
<P align=justify>To seek a meeting with Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim, Ghent’s representative o n the City Council, and Councilman Barclay Winn, who represents Superward 6 of which Ghent is a part, at the site of Christ and St. Luke’s church to discuss with them the proposed church plans;
<P align=justify>To inform Norfolk Forester David Sivyer of the board’s agreement with Sivyer’s request to the city to save an elm tree in front of First Lutheran Church o n Colley Avenue.
<P align=justify>Resident’s concerns:
<P align=justify><FONT size=2>Over the past few months, residents expressed the following concerns to the board of the Ghent Neighborhood League:
The homeless situation in Ghent and its impact on Stockley Gardens; please also see Letter to the Editor, page 6;
Speeding on Brambleton Avenue;
Cutting down of trees in the 500 block of Mowbray Arch; the resident felt that “his property had been violated” when the trees were chopped down;
Trucks loading and unloading on Westover, Colley and Shirley avenues;
Non-working street lights around the Hague; please see page 5;
Trash in the grass and loading dock areas around the former 21st Street Farm Fresh building.
ZONING QUESTIONS PRECEDE REVIEW OF CHURCH PLANS
In view of still unanswered zoning questions, the Norfolk Design Review Committee o n Nov. 8 continued a discussion o n the expansion plans by Christ and St. Luke’s Church o n Olney Road but may discuss the plans at its Jan. 10, 2005 meeting, depending o n a resolution of the zoning questions. Please see http://www.Ghent Neighborhood League. Org for meeting updates.
<P align=justify>The church’s plans include the demolition of two church-owned buildings – the Guild House (also known as the Beehive) and Lloyd Hall – and their replacement with a three-story, stone-and-glass parish hall that Christ and St. Luke’s wants to use for classes, receptions, a nursery, meetings and community events.
<P align=justify>The Guild House (see photo above) is a contributing structure to the Ghent historic district and an integral part of Stockley Gardens.
<P align=justify>At the Design Review Committee’s meeting, league President BarBara Murphy urged church officials to, again, meet with the league to discuss the church’s plan. The league, which opposes the plan, hat met with church officials earlier this year. More recently, league members also shared their concerns with Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim and City Councilman Barclay Winn.
<P align=justify>League board member Carl Sykes also alerted Design Review Committee members to already existing parking problems and additional parking problems that can be expected from the proposed church addition.
<P align=justify>The church needs certificates of appropriateness from the committee for the proposed demolition of the two buildings and its planned new parish hall. Please review the pertinent codes section for demolition in historic districts at http://www.GhentNeighborhoodLeague.org; this site also provides other information o n the plan.
ZONING PLAN RAISES DENSITY QUESTIONS
After a recent meeting with members of the Ghent Neighborhood League, Norfolk Zoning Administrator Leonard Newcomb III said that a proposed zoning change for Ghent’s historic and cultural conservation district would be postponed until next year.
<P align=justify>Ghent has three such districts: HC-G1 between the Hague and Olney Road; HC-G2 between Olney and Princess Anne roads, and HC-G3 for an area between Princess Anne Road and Colonial Avenue.
<P align=justify>BarBara Murphy, the league’s president (please see her message o n pages 1 and 12 of this newsletter), said the Basic Amendment Proposal requires a special exception permit to replace non-conforming or commercial structures in the HC-G2 area of Ghent (the area between Olney and Princess Anne roads) into residential units.
<P align=justify>”As an incentive to replace the non-conforming structures, it would be appropriate to increase allowable density,” she noted. Residential density permitted in the city’s non-historic multiple family districts range from 15 units per acre to 44 units per acre.”