Property Value Increase?

30 12 2008

We received our assessed value papers in the mail yesterday. It went up. Not just a little, a lot. We own 5 lots, 3 of which, the city told us were non-buildable, due to their proximity to the wetlands.
Here are the numbers:
Lot———Previous Value—–Current Value——-Increase
House: —– 115,200 ———- 116,800 ———— 1,600 (1.4%)
Vacant 1:15,500 ————24,000 ————- 8,500 (54.8%)
Vacant 2:2,900 ————- 22,800 ————- 19,900 (686.2%)
Vacant 3:1,400 ————- 2,000 ————– 600 (42.9%)
Vacant 4:700 ————— 700 —————- 0 (0%)
Total: —— 135,700 ———- 166,300 ———— 30,600 (22.5%)

Vacant lot 1 is right next door to my house. At 25 ft wide, a house could not be built on it unless Vacant lot 2 is combined with it. Any house built would be too close to the wetlands and would flood during a nor’easter, let alone a hurricane. Vacant Lot 3 has a city-dug drainage ditch right in the middle of it and has become wetlands. The next lot over, which holds my neighbors house, is listed online as vacant, but highly valued. His garage can flood at high tide. This is absolutely ridiculous.


Holiday Shopping Safety

24 12 2008
Recently, the Virginian Pilot reported a stabbing at Lynnhaven Mall. It was the result of an argument at school apparently it got continued at the Mall. Now, to me, Lynnhaven Mall seems like a safe mall. Whether that is due to a fact or a false perception due to lack of complete reporting on the media’s part, is to be determined. This got me thinking, of course, so I looked up the crime reports from local shopping centers. I used a half-mile radius around the center of each area. I compared:
  1. Downtown/MacArthur Center (using 300 Monticello Ave – MacArthur Center as the center of Downtown)
  2. Lynnhaven Mall (701 Lynnhaven Pkwy as center)
  3. Greenbrier (916 Edan Way North as Center – corner of Eden Way and Greenbrier)
  4. Military Circle/JANAF (5800 Virginia Beach Blvd as center – corner of Military Hwy and VAB Blvd)
  5. Hilltop Shopping Center (1593 Laskin Rd as center)
  6. Chesapeake Square Mall (4200 Portsmouth Blvd as center)
  7. Pembroke/Town Center (300 Independence Blvd as center – corner of Indep. and VAB Blvds)
My results are all within the stated radius in the month of December 2008

1. Downtown Norfolk/MacArthur Center

  • 17 – Larceny
  • 4 – Vandalism
  • 1 – Aggravated Assault
  • 7 – Simple Assault
  • 1 – Narcotics Violations

2. Lynnhaven Mall

  • 2 – Bomb Threats
  • 1 – Stolen Vehicle
  • 1 – Trespassing
  • 16 – Larceny
  • 1 – Annoying Phone Calls
  • 3 – Simple Assaults
  • 2 – Hit and Runs
  • 1 – Domestic Simple Assault
  • 1 – Burglary

3. Greenbrier Shopping District

  • 1 – Fraud
  • 3 – Attempted Strong Arm Robbery
  • 6 – Shoplifting
  • 3 – Attempted Shoplifting
  • 1 – Vandalism
  • 2 – Simple Assault
  • 1 – Forgery
  • 2 – Drug Offense
  • 1 – Threatening Phone Calls

4. Military Circle/JANAF

  • 28 – Larceny
  • 3 – Vandalism
  • 1 – Aggravated Assault
  • 1 – Stolen Vehicle
  • 1 – Robbery

5. Hilltop

  • 5 – Hit and Runs
  • 1 – Burglary
  • 8 – Larceny
  • 2 – Fraud
  • 2 – Domestic Simple Assault
  • 3 – Embezzlement
  • 1 – Burglary
  • 1 – Drug Offense

6. Chesapeake Square

  • 2 – Grand Larceny
  • 1 – Fraud
  • 1 – Child Neglect
  • 1 – Attempted Armed Robbery
  • 1 – Drug Offense
  • 1 – Simple Assault
  • 13 – Shoplifting
  • 12 – Littering

7. Pembroke/Town Center

  • 1 – Robbery
  • 3 – Domestic Simple Assault
  • 5 – Hit and Runs
  • 4 – Simple Assault
  • 11 – Larceny
  • 4 – Drug Offense
  • 1 – Concealment/Price Changing
  • 1 – Burglary
  • 1 – Possession of Stolen Property
  • 1 – Pornography/Obscene Material
  • 2 – Weapons Violation
  • 1 – Fraud
  • 2 – Destruction of Property
  • 1 – Sexual Battery
  • 1 – Indecent Exposure
  • 1 – Stolen Vehicle
  • 1 – Simple Assault
You can use these numbers as you wish, but in my opinion, the safest malls in order are:
  1. Military Circle/ JANAF
  2. Chesapeake Square
  3. Downtown Norfolk
  4. Greenbrier
  5. Hilltop
  6. Lynnhaven Mall
  7. Pembroke/Town Center
I think that this is a very good example of how the news focuses on certain areas and makes them look better or worse than they actually are. You always hear bead about Downtown, Military Circle, and Chesapeake Square, yet they seem to be ahead of the curve, while the so-called up-scale areas like Town Center and Lynnhaven are at the bottom of the barrel. Hopefully, people will see this and either re-evaluate their shopping destinations, or at least voice their safety concerns with management or city officials. Just because it feels safe, does not always make it so.

A New Jordan Bridge?

24 12 2008
An investment group wants to build a new Jordan Bridge complete with a fixed span (aka no draw bridge) for $200 million LESS than the city said it could be done for, according to the Virginian-Pilot. The group includes Philip Schucet, a former VDOT commissioner who worked wonders on budgets and time-lines while at VDOT, and Figg Bridge Developers (Florida). It will receive financing from Britton Hill Partners (Florida). Excellent idea. Excellent solution. This is precicely what I love to see. I doubt that there is any objection to this plan. What interests me more, however, i how they can build it $200 million CHEAPER than the city. I do not doubt their number, I instead question the city’s. Where did they get this number from? Also, perhaps this is why costs are so high with other projects. Public-private partnerships are where roadways are headed nowadays. We need to get on board now. According the the Pilot’s article, the developer has been thinking about a Jordan replacement for “several years.” That is certainly more than Chesapeake has done. To further illustrate the ineffectiveness of Chesapeake’s governing system, Mayor Krasnoff had each council member meet individually with the developers. Would it not have been quicker and more efficient for everyone if it had been done as a group? I know why they did not do it as a group, though. Then it would have had to follow the FOIA guidlines. Wake up Chesapeake. Residents do not want their time and money wasted. They want action. Which is exactly what this company is proposing.

Maybe We Can All Just Walk

21 12 2008
Re: State Plans $1.3 Billion reduction in Road Funds (Virginian Pilot. December 19, 2008)

So far, this brings the total to $2.6 billion in cuts to transportation. Not just roads but ALL transportation activities. More are possible. They (Transportation Officials) say that this means that many projects will have to be abandoned. Most will be temporarily delayed. These projects are in a variety of modes and locations. Interstates, city streets, mass transit (buses, light rail, commuter rail including the long-proposed high speed rail extensions), airports, and the ports all fall under the Commonwealth Transportation Board. Local Projects that would be affected included the US 17/Steel Bridge/Dominion Blvd project, the I-64/I-264 interchange improvements, and the widening of I-64 in Newport News. While these are the largest near-ready projects in Hampton Roads, there are others that would be impacted. Among these, we have the much anticipated, multi-modal Third Crossing, the much-needed (although unwanted by Willoughby residents) Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel expansion, the ill-conceived Southeastern Parkway, and the Downtown Tunnel improvements. The Martin Luther King Freeway extension is, so far, to remain untouched.
I think that this leaves us with but one choice: Restructure how we take care of our transportation needs. Once again, while we cannot have an unelected taxing Authority work for us, we can change what we have. For all of the closed-minded, change-is-bad types, please look away now.
I propose to redefine the Hampton Roads division of VDOT. First, the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Organization should have a greater say in the new VDOT:HR’s decisions. This influence should be binding. We have a regional planning board for a reason, why should VDOT ignore it? Along with this, the MPO’s soon-to be born Citizen Transportation Advisory Committee (currently waiting approval with the MPO’s new bylaws) should also have a voice within VDOT:HR. Second, the state should fund VDOT:HR’s operations and maintenance budgets, while providing a small share of the construction budget (I am thinking 20-35%). The rest of the construction money should be raised using the same taxes and fees that were approved for use by our defunct Authority. These taxes should be levied by the legislature and earmarked for the region. (If this were implemented state-wide, these fees could be state-wide but required to go to the respective MPOs or, if there is no MPO, to the county, which could use the fees for a slightly wider variety of projects.) In addition to removing the bickering legislature out of the equation, this plan would localize control of transportation projects while retaining the benefit of state-backed funding.
In addition to this, we need to preliminarily plan every and all desired projects and prioritize them. Then, in order of priority, they should be planned completely and be made ready to start construction. This thorough, complete planning, along with having each plan MPO approved, would give Hampton Roads an edge when attempting to acquire federal funding.

While this is a drastic plan (and I am sure would face fierce opposition from those who oppose change), I think that in the long run, it would serve the region well and should be considered.

SPSA: To Trash or Recycle?

21 12 2008
SPSA’s outlook is dismal. That is a fact. They have $240 million in debt, a $16 million shortfall, and dwindling income. Will this be the end to SPSA or the beginning of a new era? Hopefully, the latter. They need to manage the collection of waste and the final destination for that waste. The actual collecting of the waste should be contracted out, as well as other various jobs. The Southeastern Public Service Authority should not be collecting its own trash. You don’t see the Port Authority operating its own ships to collect its own cargo. You don’t see the Norfolk Airport Authority operating its own airline service. The point is that SPSA is showing its age. Thirty years ago, it was the norm to have public entities do their own work. Now, in this age of Privatization, that model is all but dead. In order to remain (or become again) viable, SPSA needs to contract out to the private sector. This will maintain a regional waste disposal entity while at the same time, directing money to other local companies.

Harbor Park to Make Modifications

17 12 2008
Harbor Park is set to spend $500,000 to move the right-field fence 20 feet and construct a party deck. Officials hope that this will increase the ability of the players to hit home runs. They say that the park has one of the farthest distances to the right-field fence. While I am sure this is true, they should not claim that it is the reason that they want to make the changes. If home run ease was their primary concern, they would not have put the party deck in the equation. I am not against them building the deck, I do think that Harbor Park should just tell it like it is and say, “Hey, we want to build a party deck and we can do it behind right field, due to it abundance of distance.” I would support that. Regardless, I think it is a positive improvement.
Also, on another note, the exhibition game is April 3, between the Orioles and the Nationals. I am saving money for the tickets now. If anybody happens to be a season ticket holder (they get 1st dibs on tickets) I may be interested in a couple come February 🙂


15 12 2008

This morning I sat through the MPO Committee meeting. It started promptly at 9:30 and last until quarter to Noon. Over an hour was spent listening to a consulting group give the ‘Best Practices’ results from their survey of a variety of national MPOs. While they came up with some great stuff, the Committee expressed their disappointment because the group did not actually make any recommendations or directions for the MPO. I was impressed with the Committee. They actually seemed like they wanted to make a difference in our region. I think that their biggest impediment is that when they come up with recomendations for the region, the state has no obligation to abide by their wishes. I came to this conclusion listening to them talk today. The ideas that they wanted to push for a great. It was said today, though, that they make these plans but the state and its agencies do what they want to do anyway.