© 2019 Thad Williamson. Authorized and Paid For By Thad Williamson For Richmond City Council.

  • Thad Williamson

Fifty Fixes for the 5th, #36-44: Neighborhood Issues

Fifty Fixes for the Fifth #36-44. Neighborhood Issues!

When we started this series, some of my volunteers thought we might have a challenge finding fifty issues in the 5th District to talk about. In fact, the challenge has been keeping it down to just fifty.

I appreciate all the residents who have submitted ideas online or at the doors for this series. If you don’t find your particular issue on this list, don’t worry, we will simply add it to the “to-do list” after the election. In this post we shine the spotlight on nine neighborhood issues that have come up in this campaign; and tomorrow we will talk about six citywide issues to conclude what we will now call our first Fifty Fixes for the Fifth.

#36. Town and Gown: Push for the City of Richmond to reach a comprehensive agreement with VCU across a range of issues

I strongly believe that the City of Richmond should negotiate a comprehensive MOU across a range of issues with Virginia Commonwealth University. The growth of the City and of the university means we must move far beyond the days in which the City regularly deferred to VCU’s plans and wishes. Future growth and development must be carefully planned so as to protect historic neighborhoods, and numerous current issues need to be addressed.

VCU is integral to the City of Richmond and I have partnered with VCU staff and agencies on numerous occasions in support of community wealth building efforts. I believe there is good will, but room to ramp up the university's commitment to the City to another level.

VCU property is non-taxable; in lieu of taxes, it should commit to a comprehensive agreement with the City of Richmond covering limits on future development, student behavior in residential neighborhoods, as well as providing pipelines to employment at VCU and VCU Health Systems for Richmond residents. There is much untapped potential to capital on the economic strength of VCU to support economic opportunities for City residents, and there is an urgent need to set limits on how VCU grows in the future. One Council member alone can’t do this task; that’s why it will be important to build as broad an alliance as possible to compel VCU to come to the negotiating table.

#37. Protect Oregon Hill: Push for a non-expansion agreement by VCU to protect historic Oregon Hill

I have pledged to do everything in my power as City Council representative to get VCU to agree to a written MOU to Oregon Hill to assure no further encroachment of VCU into the neighborhood, as well as to assure VCU treats this historic neighborhood with the respect it deserves. I also support assuring the final version of the Richmond 300 plan designates Oregon Hill as a single-family (medium density) housing zone apart from a commercial corridor designation on Cary Street, as well as other specific recommendations made by Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association in correspondence with Richmond 300 and the Planning Commission. This includes steps up to requesting a meeting with the VCU Board of Visitors.

For more thoughts on this set of issues, see my detailed statement submitted to OregonHill.net.

#38. Connecting the District: Create more opportunities to pull different neighborhood organizations together

The 5th District is compose of distinct neighborhoods and robust civic associations. I have appreciated the opportunity to meet civic association leaders and attend association meetings throughout the district, and as 5th District representative will work to build strong relationships with each association. One way to better connect our diverse district is to create more opportunities for collaboration across neighborhood organizations on matters of shared concern.

If elected I will convene civic association leaders across the district to brainstorm ideas on how better to connect civic associations with each other and also with other resources in the district and citywide. I enjoy connecting people to other people and to resources, and will see this as an integral part of the job of serving on City Council.

#39. Address persistent flooding issues in Reedy Creek

This is a large topic on which I have much to learn, but it’s vitally important that we come up with a viable, long-term approach to reducing flooding in Reedy Creek. Community organizing put a halt to a restoration proposal forwarded by city government a few years ago; what’s needed now is constructive action. A good place to start are suggestions made by the Reedy Creek Coalition; I also would favor bolder steps to address the issue upstream, including acquiring land as needed.

#40. Adopt a geese management program in Byrd Park

Please don’t feed the geese in Byrd Park bread.

Seriously, don’t! There are too many geese which is causing harm to the park, to users, and even to geese, who don’t grow properly if they have an improper diet.

Fortunately, the Greater Byrd Park Geese Management Task Force, chaired by Byrd Park resident Anne-Marie McCartan, has developed a compelling strategy to address this issues based on three principles: Reduce the geese population over time through appropriate methods; Inform the public on why feeding the geese bread has harmful effects; and Discourage (not ban) park visitors from feeding geese through appropriate signage, hand cards, and other mechanisms.

I heard a presentation of the Task Force report recently and was both informed and impressed—impressed by the systematic approach taken to this issue, and impressed by the Task Force’s work as an example of 5th Districts taking on a hands-on leadership role to develop practical solutions for community problems. Well done!

#41. Alleys and Sidewalks

We have previously addressed potholes. Equally important are attention to alleys and sidewalks. A review of the 311 website as well as common observation reveals lots of issues in the alleys around Carytown in particular, sidewalks throughout the district. Sidewalks are the key to a pedestrian-friendly city, and I will both monitor (and report directly) issues need attention in our district and support full funding of this essential component of urban infrastructure.

#42. Find a lasting solution for Semmes Avenue/Forest Hill intersection

City Council adopted an ordinance this summer authorizing the administration to pursue a “traffic modernization” plan at the Semmes Avenue/Forest Hill intersection, adjoining Patrick Henry School of Science and the Arts. That legislation is just the start of what will be a multi-year process. I will monitor this process closely and assure the community is fully involved on the front end of finding a solution that enhances public safety.

#43. Add a stop sign or speed table to slow cards down on McCloy Street between Cary Street and the Powhite Parkway on-ramp; add lane markings in the off-ramp from I-195 on to McCloy.

This is but one example of several spots throughout the 5th District residents have pointed to as badly needing a stop sign. I traverse this particular spot almost every day, so I understand the concern: Cars traveling way too fast down McCloy St., either toward Carytown or toward the Powhite Parkway on-ramp. An all-way stop sign is needed at McCloy and Rosewood, as well as at McCloy and Parkwood. Related to this, the exit ramp from I-195 in to the Stadium neighborhood at this same intersection, has no lane markings at all, creating potentially dangerous situations. Markings should direct drivers to turn left, go straight (onto Rosewood) or turn right as they exit.

#44. Add a crosswalk connecting Fountain Lake to the Byrd Park tennis courts; refurbish the bathrooms into a functional building worth of being on Arthur Ashe Boulevard

This one is a point of personal privilege, as a Byrd Park resident and occasional tennis player. Back in June, the City exulted at the dedication of Arthur Ashe Boulevard. The Byrd Park tennis courts where young Ashe was infamously prohibited from playing as a youth in Richmond are now, in a bit of cosmic justice, located at the base of Arthur Ashe Boulevard.

While the courts themselves are kept in good condition, the adjacent clubhouse building is an eyesore with barely usable public restrooms. Let’s restore that building into a quality facility worthy of Arthur Ashe, for use by tennis players, Little League baseball players, and neighborhood residents and visitors strolling through the park.

Let’s also improve pedestrian safety at the base of Arthur Ashe Boulevard by adding two well-marked crosswalks to allow people to safely walk from Fountain Lake to the tennis courts, without having to dash across fast-moving traffic!

Up Next: Fifty Fixes for the Fifth, #45-50.