Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Railroading Gainsboro Part II

September 3, 2005

Spent today working on  my letter to the Roanoke City Planning Commission.  Why don’t you write the Commission and ask for neighborhood commercial zoning for Gainsboro.  Here’s my draft:

TO: Roanoke City Planning Commission

FROM: Beth J. Wellington

RE: Suggested Change to Proposed Downtown Zoning for Gainsboro to Neighborhood Commercial

DATE: September 3, 2005

I hope the Commission will amend the Zoning ordinance to map Gainsboro’s commercial district as “CN” (Neighborhood Commercial–as is the case for the Grandin Village) and not “D” (Downtown). It does Roanoke no good if the comprehensive plan supports neighborhood planning and then zoning defeats it.

Senior Planner Chris Chittum advised me that “D” is virtually the same as “CN” and that Gainsboro was previously zoned “C-3” anyway. He minimized the importance of differentiated zoning (including the restriction on building height) to encourage conformance to the plan. According to the City’s website, zoning regulations and districts:

established for the general purposes of implementing the comprehensive plan of the city…and [specifically to] protect and enhance the character and stability of existing neighborhoods, and to protect against destruction of core encroachment upon historic areas contributing to the character of the city.

Roanoke’s comprehensive plan, “Vision 2001-2020” continues the 1985 plan, “Roanoke Vision” which

declared Roanoke a “City of Neighborhoods.” The plan advocated the preservation and enhancement of the city’s existing neighborhoods and recommended that city ordinances and efforts support neighborhood revitalization and preservation. A major recommendation of Roanoke Vision was to develop neighborhood plans for each neighborhood. Neighborhood and area plans are official documents that are adopted by City Council and become part of the City’s comprehensive plan.

Gainsboro’s  neighborhood plan  shows the commercial area as “Village Center” on its Future Land Use map.  It states:

The Future Land Use plan on the following page is the most important  recommendation  of this plan. It specifies how future development should take place. Zoning is the principal tool that is used to implement the future land use plan. Some of the current zoning is not consistent with the future land use plan, so the plan recommends changes…[Roanoke should i]nitiate a comprehensive rezoning to encourage desired development patterns in accordance with the Future Land Use map.

The current new zoning ordinance ignores these recommendations. It allows downtown to encroach on what is left of Gainsboro after the ravages of urban renewal, which also are acknowledged in the Gainsboro plan:

Like many inner-city neighborhoods in America, the Gainsboro community continues to deal with the consequences of the urban renewal programs of the 1960s and 70s that displaced many families and businesses. The general sentiment today in America, and in Gainsboro, is that urban renewal was something done to the community instead of with the community. One of the main purposes of this plan is to ensure that the community is involved in determining its own future and that the community’s goals and interests are reflected in future development, ultimately leading to a better and more vibrant Gainsboro.

This vibrant Gainsboro includes the village center concept, best typified by the Grandin area:

Henry Street will become a major village center that will be the focal point of the neighborhood. It should have uses that serve the surrounding neighborhood as well as those that appeal to broader markets. First floors of buildings should be dedicated to higher intensity commercial uses and upper floors should be dedicated to lower intensity uses such as offices and residences. Buildings ranging from 2-4 stories should be the norm. In some cases, buildings taller than four stories may be appropriate, but should be carefully considered in order to preserve important vistas into and from downtown. Henry Street should include a central square as a community gathering place. The village center can also include some high-density residential development in appropriate locations.

Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.


By the way, Dana Nottingham, who served as consultant developing the Gainsboro plan and others has moved from his position as head of Nottingham and Associates to be the Executive Director of the Miami Downtown Development Authority.

My previous entry on Gainsboro is here:

Railroading Gainsboro


Leave the Leaves, Part 3: Who’s D’ Boss?

September 1, 2005

Thanks to Diane for the source to post this poll!

Who’s in charge of the City?
Darling Darlene
The Mayor and City Council

It doesn’t work as elegantly as on Elaine’s site; however, you can enter your vote!  Why this poll?   Sadly, Elaine’s husband, Richard Normand just called and left a message that the leaves are gone and that he received a call from the Mayor that he supported “Leave the Leaves.”  It was a City Manager’s decision.  So, who is in charge of the City Manager?

Meanwhile that clever Roanoke Permaculture Association founding member Marshall McMillan-Zapf wrote me with this idea:

Lets get everybody, including those with cracked sidewalks to paint beautiful little leaves on their sidewalks, maybe we could come up with a stencil/leaf print kit and sell them for fund raising purposes; anyway the city will prioritize the repair of the cracked sidewalks, by the time they get to those the remainder will have cracked, in the meant time the refurbished are painted, but lo, by the time the latter are fixed – and we are all dead and gone the next generation will be painting those and the circles go ………. round and round.

Thanks, too, to Diane for information on The Wooster Collective:  A Celebration of Street Art. This is an  international showcase of urban/street art with daily updates. Not only visual art, but music (by podcast).  You can even  download art as wallpaper for your mobile phone  with the proceeds going to support Keep A Child Alive, which provides anti-retrovirus drugs to children and parents suffering from HIV/AIDS in poor countries.

My other  Leave the Leaves”  entries:
8/30/05–Does Roanoke Really Want Public  Art 
8/29/05–Art v.s. Graffiti

Railroading Gainsboro

September 1, 2005


What’s wrong with the above picture?  Look closely  (at high magnification) at Gainsboro in  section 16 of the proposed zoning map.  Notice how it’s now part of downtown, despite the Gainsboro plan to reverse years of urban renewal, by developing  a village center.  And now the City of Roanoke wants to bring the proposed Social Security building complete with a fifty foot perimeter surrounded by a concrete berm (homeland security, ya know) to the last land on Henry Street which was supposed to be reserved for historic, educational and cultural uses.

For more information, see:  Railroading of Gainsboro Part II

Leave the leaves, Part II: Does Roanoke Really Want Public Art

August 30, 2005


Got a return call from Kenneth King reiterating Ms. Burcham’s position.  Can you imagine what would happen in Roanoke had been in charge of the Caves of Lascaux?


Elaine’s friend Diane has posted a poll on art or graffiti  on Elaine’s website, where you can also see pictures and a narrative of her dealings with the city.


David Harrison of The Roanoke Times wrote an article  “Leaf art on sidewalk creates a pile of controversy.”

Fall has come a little early to the 500 block of Mountain Avenue Southwest, with dogwood and maple leaves ranging from bright green to flaming orange strewn across a stretch of walkway.

But look closely. Those fiery fall leaves are mostly confined to just a couple of squares of pavement on the odd side of the street. And they don’t crunch underfoot. In fact, those leaves aren’t leaves at all. They’re paint. …


Call him at (540) 981-3349 and say thanks or better yet, write the editor.


Quotes of the Day from Harrison’s article:

  • Somebody can put something down that everybody likes, but then the next guy might put something down that’s offensive, and we need to be consistent,”–Bob Bengtson, director of public works.
  • [Obliterating  the leaves ] “seems a little petty,…”My sidewalks are all busted up and cracked up.– David Whitmore, who lives across the street
  • I say just leave them [the leaves] alone. –Ted Farewell who lives down the block.
  • They’re kind of whimsical…This one is my favorite because it looks so real. –Elaine Fleck


My other “Leave the Leaves”  entry:

Art v.s. Graffiti

Leave the Leaves! (Art v.s. Graffiti)

August 29, 2005


Here’s the e-mail I sent to Roanoke’s city Manager.  Why don’t you contact her too?

Darlene L. Burcham, City Manager
215 Church Avenue, S.W.
Noel C. Taylor Municipal Building
Room 364
Roanoke, VA 24011
 Phone Number
(540) 853-2333
Fax Number
(540) 853-1138
E-mail Address
Office Hours
7:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Monday – Friday

Dear Ms. Burcham,

I love how Roanoke artist  Elaine Fleck  enhanced the leaf imprints in the concrete sidewalk in front of the house she and her husband own at  535 Mountain Avenue, SW, Roanoke.

I was saddened to learn that you were of the opinion that because “the sidewalk is a public right of way, and despite the appearance, the city cannot allow individuals to deface that right of way. To allow in this instance would open up the opportunity for others to do the same, and who is to say that the next effort would not be offensive. …We will be taking steps to remove just as we did the crosswalk in [the]r neighborhood which others thought was attractive too.”

I’ve attached  digital photographs of  her sidewalk,  as well as the photo from the City’s web site of graffiti.

The Roanoke City Code Graffiti ordinance 21:25 states:

Willful damage to or defacement of public or privatefacilities


(a) Graffiti defined. Graffiti means the unauthorized application of any writing, painting, drawing, etching, scratching or marking of an inscription, work, figure or design of any type on any public buildings, facilities and personal property or any private buildings, facilities and personal property.

When I looked up the terms in a legal dictionary online, I found no entries. In common English usage, the definition of damage is “to harm or injure property or a person, resulting in loss of value or the impairment of usefulness.” The definition of deface is “to mar or spoil the appearance or surface of; disfigure; or to impair the usefulness, value, or influence of.

Elaine’s art doesn’t seem to meet these definitions. It seems the way to distinguish art from grafitti is the issue of permission. My question would be, “Can the city establish a permission process, similar to Portland, Oregon, that allows neighborhoods to beautify their surroundings.”

Since the Arts Commission is to ” advise and assist City Council on matters relating to the advancement of the arts and humanities within the city” perhaps they could take it up and have City Council address this matter before  “take steps to removet” something that makes Roanoke so much more pleasant a place.

For more information on Portland, see  City Repair’s site.

Your Parks and Recreation Director, Steve Buschor, attended a presentation sponsored by the Roanoke Permaculture Association and the Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op on  April 22 by Toby Hemenway, who is on the Board for this project.  Mr. Buschor might be able to  fill you in.