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June 2009 Agenda

June 15, 2009
Blair Middle School

6:15PM Board Work Session

7:00PM Call to Order

  • Introductions of Board Members, Members, and Guests

PROGRAM

7:05PM Crime Report

7:15PM Reports

  • Treasurer’s Report
  • Ghent Task Force
  • Ghent Business Association
  • Block Security Program
  • Historic and Architectural Preservation Committee
  • Elizabeth River Crossing

7:30PM Pending Requests/Issues Reported to City

  • Yarmouth Street
  • The Yellow House
  • 1207 Colonial Ave
  • Colonial Ave Bus Shelter
  • Graydon Avenue
  • 832 Brandon Avenue – Glendale Apt

7:40PM Speaker

Susannah Winstead
Historic Preservation Officer
City of Norfolk

8:00PM Break

8:10PM

  • Guests with Business Before the Board
  • Chrysler Museum of Art
  • Hope House

8:25PM

  • Committee Business
  • 2009/2010 Committee Chairs
  • Reports
    • Community Improvement
    • Sector Representatives
    • Membership
    • Publicity/Social Events
    • Communications
    • Program
  • Approval of May Minutes

8:40PM Community Input

  • Planning Commission Items
  • Design Review Items
  • Other

8:45PM Old Business

  • Audit Committee
  • Meeting Site
  • Board Vacancy

8:55PM New Business

  • Items for July Agenda

9:00PM Adjournment

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June 10, 2009

Mr. E. Dana Dickens
Chairman, Independent Review Panel
Midtown Tunnel/Downtown Tunnel/MLK Extension PPTA Project
C/O Virginia Department of Transportation
1401 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219

Dear Chairman Dickens:

The Ghent Neighborhood League (“GNL”) appreciates the opportunity to provide the following comments and questions for consideration by the Independent Review Panel (“IRP”). We understand that the ERC will present its final remarks to the IRP regarding the project and its conceptual proposal. Given that this may be the final opportunity for the IRP to develop a conclusion for the advancement of ERC’s conceptual proposal to the next phase in the procurement process, we respectfully submit the following as issues and concerns to be evaluated prior to the IRP making its final conclusions.

Representatives from SKANSKA recently met with represetatives of our Board on April (DATED), 2009 and addressed the GNL monthly meeting on April 20, 2009. The Ghent Neighborhood League was also invited by the West Ghent Civic Association to attend and participate in its Special Meeting on May 7, 2009 at which representatives for SKANSKA and VDOT presented.

There were a number of questions and community concerns raised at all three meetings. However, most questions and concerns expressed by Ghent residents and property owners were focused on three major issues:

  1. Traffic and increased traffic volume
  2. The cost of the tolls / potential loss of public transportation funds
  3. How light rail would be integrated into this proposed project.

I. A concern about existing and projected future traffic volume was noted numerous times. While the new tunnel proposal seeks to address the existing congestion on Hampton Boulevard, it does not yet address the volume of traffic on the primary and secondary roads through and along our neighborhood leading to Hampton Boulevard and the Midtown Tunnel. SKANSKA officials projected a 25% increase in the volume of vehicles with the new tunnel, though no mention was made of the burden it would place on our local neighborhood roads nor the additional noise, decreased air quality and potential safety risks. Further, there is a long standing problem of truck traffic on Hampton Boulevard which does not appear to be addressed by the proposal and even with the toll a second tube and less congestion may make Hamptom Boulevard an even more attractive route for commercial trucks than the current alternative routes.

II. The toll will be an additional tax for citizens. Members of our community have raised concerns regarding the cost of the toll which were estimated at three dollars each way. For taxpayers using it for commuting purposes that could mean a new costs of $1,200 or more per year. Our Elected Representatives have already raised this concern to the Panel and we also join them and other neighborhoods in this concern.

Another unanswered question is what will happen to the transportation funds that are used for the current maintenance expenses of the Midtown and Downtown Tunnels. With SKANSKA taking responsibility for maintenance, there is suspicion that those current taxpayer funds would be diverted away from Hampton Roads and at the end of the lease, tolling would continue despite fulfilling the obligation for the tunnel construction.

III. Concerns were raised that the Midtown Tunnel plan does not adequately accomodate the potential future use of the tunnel for light rail. According to SKANSKA it has been given the direction by VDOT “not to preclude light rail” but as further explained at the aforementioned West Ghent meeting , adding light rail would mean using one of the existing or new lanes. We are concerned that with the SKANSKA proposal being for two lanes in the new tube, if one lane is subsequently utilized for light rail the residents of both cities will end up no better off than are we are currently. In fact, worse since we would have just one lane to Portsmouth and a $3 toll for that privilege.

As the GNL participated in the West Ghent meeting, as part of our submission, we are incorporating the attached document titled “WEST GHENT CIVIC LEAGUE, Minutes of the May 7, 2009 Special Meeting re: Midtown Tunnel Expansion”. This document was previously submitted to the IRP by the West Ghent Civic League. For the Panel’s attention, we have highlighted all the community concerns from that meeting for which no substantive answer was given, which an incomplete answer was given or where the responder acknowledged further study or consideration was required. Given the length of unresolved issues, we respectfully request the IRP request further clarification and details on these items from the SKANKA and/or VDOT.

The above comments and input should not be interpreted as meaning that the Ghent Neighborhood League is opposed to use a public/private partnership to expand the tunnel. However we do wish to express that at this point in the process of a proposed tunnel expansion it is not at all clear how we as the neighborhood at the gateway to the tunnel will be impacted and what changes would be merited or mitigation will be needed.

The Ghent Neighborhood appreciates the opportunity to participate in this process and to submit to the IRP these questions and concerns. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the GNL at the above noted address or via email at gnl@ghentneighborhoodleague.org.

Sincerely,

Joan McEnery
President
Ghent Neighborhood League

GNL submission to ERC IRP
Attachment to GNL submission to ERC IRP

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May 2009 GNL Meeting Minutes

May 18, 2009 – Blair Middle School

Board Members

Present: President Michael Spencer, First Vice President Paige Rose, Secretary Joan McEnery, Board Members Irene Blake, Henry Conde, and Jon Hanbury
Absent: Past President Mason Andrews, Second Vice President Sharon Plawin, Treasurer Dennis Russell, and Board Member Susanne Williams

Called to order at 7:06pm. Board, Members and Guest Introductions

Crime Report

There were 19 incidents that met the threshold for inclusion of the police’s monthly crime report. These incidents included five residential burglaries. Members inquired about the following incidents: an alleged purse snatching with injuries; a hit and run on Colonial Avenue and graffiti on the USPS mail boxes.

Featured Speaker

Norfolk Chief of Police, Bruce P. Marquis, provided an overview of law enforcement efforts and crime trends. Chief Marquis reported that all major crimes are down this year except for murder and burglary. He reported that a majority of murders are a result of “disputes between parties” and not random acts of violence. He also reported there were 8 reported aggravated assaults in 2008 and 4 so far this year, with all being assaults on law enforcement officials incident to an arrest. He also reported that larcenies had been down, but are now slowly increasing. The Chief answered community questions regarding the following: time of day of residential robberies, traffic on Hampton Boulevard, graffiti, gang activity, speeding on Colonial Avenue, home invasions, bicycle theft, nuisances, youth violence, Norfolk crime levels compared to other local cities and the status of the PACE program. First Vice President and Sector Representatives Chair Paige Rose, brought to the Chief’s attention the GNL’s concern regarding the gap between the all the incidents reported to the police and the limited number that are included in the monthly report. Board Member Murphy also asked about re-instituting the reverse 911 program. The Chief said he would look into both these issues. At the conclusion of the Chief’s presentation, President Spencer presented to the Chief the GNL’s contribution to the “Badges for Baseball” program in honor of Officer Gilda Klein.

Highland Park Petition

Citizens from Highland Park made a presentation on their effort to reverse the City Council’s split decision to rezone property in the Highland Park neighborhood from low density to high density.

Minutes

The Board unanimously approved the April 2009 Minutes.

Downtown Council Meeting

Board Member Murphy provided a report on the HRT light rail presentation. HRT is getting stimulus money for additional studies. HRT officials stated that light rail could go up Hampton Boulevard or Colley Ave.

Elizabeth River Crossing

Board Member Henry Conde provided an update and an overview of the West Ghent Civic League Meeting at which ERC and VDOT addressed the project. At that meeting it was clarified that under the current proposal any addition of light rail would encroach on one of the lanes thus leaving taxpayers paying a toll but being no better off than they are now. At the meeting, officials acknowledged that there would be a projected 25% increase in traffic volume with the new tunnel. Board Member Conde reported that the next Independent Review Panel meeting is June 10, 2009. The Board unanimously voted Henry Conde to be a designated representative on this issue and requested that he draft a white paper in this topic. The Board directed that a letter be submitted outlining the neighborhood’s concerns to the Independent Review Board.

Treasurer’s Report

No report

Ghent Task Force

President Spencer reported the following: The GBA’s “Heart of Ghent” June 20th event will promote businesses and non-profit organizations. The Ghent NET Loop is still not been resolved but there should be an answer by July. West 21st Street former Senior Center property is on hold. Spotswood Parking Lot construction starts in mid August and will be complete by December. The spaces will be metered with the proposed time of weekdays from 8am – 8pm with a 2 hour time limit. The bike racks are being installed and replacement of the oil barrel trash containers in Ghent is on the target list. Asst. City Manager Stanley Stein is handling the multiple complaints about the yellow house on the corner of Colley and Bossevain. The next Ghent Task Force meeting will be in July.

Ghent Business Association

No report

Block Security

No report.

Membership Committee

Chairperson Hanbury reported that the magnet layout has been finalized and the next step is to order the magnets.

Ghent Dog Park Association

First Vice President Rose reported that a required ordinance for the city to permit the GDPA to donate the fence is before the City Council. President Spencer will do a letter noting GNL’s support for the project.

Public Relations/Social Committee

Chairperson Blake reported that the GBA has asked the GNL to participate in a proposed Holiday homes tour to be organized by the GBA and Hope House Foundation for Thanksgiving Weekend. It was agreed that more specific details were needed.

Zoning Amendment

Secretary McEnery reported that there was a proposed zoning amendment pertaining to non-conformities that would apply to Ghent that appears on the Planning Commission’s next meeting agenda.

Audit Committee

The audit committee will provide its report at the June meeting.

Elections Committee

President Spencer reported the results of the elections and announced the 2009/2010 GNL Board. The Officers are Joan McEnery – President; Henry Conde – First Vice President; Paige Rose – Second Vice President; Ted Warren – Treasurer; and Irene Blake – Secretary. For the open General Board Member positions, Harry Worley, Brian Douglas Smith and BarBara Murphy, received the highest number of votes and will each serve a two year term on the Board. Susanne Williams will serve a one year term filling an open seat. Board Member Jon Hanbury continues on the Board being elected to a two year term last year and there will be one vacant Board seat.
At the conclusion of the report, President Spencer turned the meeting chair over to the incoming President.

New Business

  1. President Spencer reported that EVMS is planning a new academic building.
  2. President Spencer reported that Blair Middle School PTA has requested that the GNL be a sponsor of its annual fun run through Ghent on May 29th. The Board unanimously voted to donate $250.
  3. President Spencer alerted the Board that a new annual use agreement needed to be executed if the GNL would like to continue to use Blair for its meeting.
  4. A member alerted the Board that neighbors on Colonial Avenue are again seeking to have the City implement the Colonial Ave. traffic calming plan.
  5. July Agenda: featured topic will be historic preservation with the city’s historic preservation officer being a suggested speaker. Also suggested was an update on Core Ave. stop signs.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:10pm

Approved by the GNL Board
June 15, 2009

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A presentation on the proposed mid-tunnel expansion — a major transportation project close to Ghent that could bring light rail to Hampton Boulevard — will be made at the April 20, 2009, Ghent Neighborhood League meeting. Presenters will be Christopher Lloyd, senior vice president and director, Business Expansion Services, McGuireWoods Consulting, and Geoff Segal, vice president, government relations, Macquarie Capital (USA) Inc.

Under the auspices of Virginia’s Public-Private Transportation Act, a consortium of several companies — some local, some, as Macquarie, as far away as Australia — proposes to build a second mid-town tunnel, north of the existing one; modify the Brambleton/Hampton Boulevard intersection, maintain the downtown tunnel and extend the Portsmouth Martin Luther King Freeway.

Based on an earlier presentation to three league board members, the new tunnel would have two lanes, going from Norfolk toward Portsmouth; the old, refurbished tunnel also would have two lanes and go from Portsmouth to Norfolk. The new tunnel reportedly would not require much modification on the Norfolk side nor would it require demolition of existing houses; the old tunnel, with a link to MLK Freeway, would result in the demolition of eight houses on the Portsmouth side. Construction — a four-year project — would impact Norfolk less than Portsmouth since materials will be barged over to a Portsmouth International Terminal site.

This project, while being presented publicly within the next weeks, ultimately requires the approval of the Commonwealth Transportation Board and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), an approval that is near. According to the earlier presentation, all requisite permits already have been granted. Also, both Norfolk and Portsmouth already established “technical advisory committees;” City Manager Regina Williams and Mayor Paul Fraim are on the Norfolk committee and Mayor Fraim is said to be a staunch advocate.

The $1.5 billion project is to be financed through toll revenue from trips between Norfolk and Portsmouth, i.e. $2 to $3 dollar toll per trip for the next 50 years and up. Tolls, which may be lowered for low-income residents, will be collected via EZ passes or cameras recording license plates; trucks will pay triple the amount.
Additional monies for the project are said to come from equity bonds, private equity bonds and federally-sponsored monies.

A second mid-town tunnel is expected to be at full capacity right after its opening; however, with planned port terminal changes (more containers at Portsmouth, therefore less truck traffic on Hampton Boulevard), truck traffic on Hampton Boulevard is expected to go down. The new tunnel could accommodate a Light Rail spur but the consortium has not made a decision on this yet and leaves it up to the local communities. Technically, however, it can accommodate a light rail spur but the tunnels would lose a lane.

The consortium reportedly received conflicting information from Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) and the City of Norfolk on proposed Light Rail spurs from downtown to ODU/NOB; its most recent information was an HRT presentation to the Virginia Legislature that endorsed a spur via Newtown Road, not Hampton Boulevard.
This contradicts http://www.hamptonroadstransitplan.com, a Web site that clearly envisages light rail for Hampton Boulevard.

Monday’s presentation to the league will be the only one made to Ghent residents; the only city-wide public comment hearing will be on April 22, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., in the Norfolk City Council chambers.

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