- Board Members
- Sharon Plawin
- Mason Andrews
- Blount Hunter
- Kevin Halista
- Allan Bull
- Dennis Russell
- Jon Hanbury
- Paige Rose
- BarBara Murphy
- Joe Maus
- Mike Spencer
- Susanne Williams
Meeting called to order: 7:05 p.m.
Election vote count
Sharon Plawin, BarBara Murphy and Blount Hunter opened sealed ballots and counted votes for candidates in the board election. Special care was given to counting only the “final” ballots mailed to members. Counts were cross-checked and verified to the satisfaction of the three board representatives. Results were announced at the general membership meeting later in the evening.
Reading and approval of minutes
April 2008 minutes were not presented for approval.
There was no treasurer’s report.
Ghent Task Force
There was no report on the activities of the Ghent Task Force.
Ghent Business Association
There was no report on the activities of the Ghent Business Association.
During April, there were a commercial burglary with an arrest, four auto larcenies, one rape (involving an acquaintance of the victim), one robbery to an individual and two stolen autos in the Ghent neighborhood. For the period of May 1 through 19, Officer Gilda Klein reported two residential burglaries, two larcenies and two stolen autos in the Ghent neighborhood.
The police urge residents to leave nothing visible in their cards. Popular items include GPS navigation units, satellite radio systems and laptop computers.
Officer Klein’s new cell phone number is 390-0405. She also can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org while on duty. Voice mails can be left at 823-4435.
Block Security Program
There was no report from the Block Security Program.
Community Improvement Committee
There was no formal report.
There was no formal report.
Guest speaker Deborah Bunn
Deborah Bunn, Norfolk’s new real estate assessor, discussed her career and experience in the Norfolk Assessor’s office and provided an overview of the complexities of real property valuation and assessment. Bunn described Ghent as a “diverse housing area” where establishing values can be more challenging than in neighborhoods where houses are of a uniform size, age and condition. “Mass appraising” is the method used by the city to establish residential assessment values. The Commonwealth of Virginia requires properties to be assessed at 100 percent of market value. In Ghent, the general assessment is at 92 percent of market value.
The city maintains a property database with a description of key physical characteristics of residences. Cost tables allow for depreciation of properties based upon age and condition. Market values as established by recent sales should coincide with values from the cost table; however, the recent real estate market caused these values to diverge in some cases. An annual assessment is required by the city, so downward changes in market value may be reflected in cost value (assessment basis) in future assessments. There is generally a lag of 12 to 28 months in acknowledging changes in value, either upward or downward. Note that the Norfolk City Council establishes the tax rate while the assessor establishes the assessment values against which taxes are levied.
Most of the assessment increases in 2008 reflected changes in land value rather than building value. Homeowners not satisfied with their assessments have the right to ask for a review of the basis upon which their property value was established. A homeowner can point out inaccuracies and errors. If not satisfied, homeowners can appeal to the Board of Assessment Review. By law, the burden of proof falls to the property owner.
Guest speaker Lenny Newcomb
Zoning Services Manager Lenny Newcomb attended at the request of the league to discuss the fast-tracking of a proposed zoning ordinance change that would eliminate height restrictions on new construction within Ghent (including the historic districts). The proposed ordinance change was scheduled to be presented to the Norfolk Planning Commission for a vote on May 22.
The proposed zoning ordinance change would amend Section 9-18 “Height requirements” by eliminating the current maximum height of 35 feet and eliminating the minimum height of 25 feet for new structures. In addition, the proposed ordinance change would allow any height to be established as part of the required “Certificate of Appropriateness.”
A development “Certificate of Appropriateness” can be the result of a highly subjective and political process involving the Norfolk Design Review Committee, the Norfolk Planning Commission and possibly the Norfolk City Council with no direct accountability. Several board members felt there was insufficient cause for historic preservation-oriented zoning regulations that have been in effect since 1977 to be changed. Lenny Newcomb was unwilling or unable to divulge the origin of the proposed change except to say that a review of similar ordinances in other cities by Norfolk’s new planning director showed the Norfolk height restrictions to be unique.
Several board members felt that the proposed zoning ordinance change had not been fully described to the league or presented with sufficient time for members to consider its consequences. Blount Hunter made a motion (seconded by Kevin Halista) to request a 60-day delay of consideration of the proposed zoning change by the Planning Commission. The vote by the board was unanimous.
The ballot consisted of four nominees: Irene Blake, Jon Hanbury, Henry Code and Eliese Theuer.
The three candidates receiving the most votes were Irene Blake, Jon Hanbury and Henry Conde. The results were presented to the board for acceptance.
Meeting adjourned: 9 p.m.
Submitted by Blount Hunter.