Letters to the Editor, Week of Aug. 1, 2013

Posted on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Town Council should support rezoning proposal

I am writing in reference to the effort by Sumpter Priddy to renovate and open for business the old site of Jake Spears’ store on Thompson Street extended Route 54 West.
Here is what I don’t know:
I don’t know the exact nature of what business Mr. Priddy is hoping to occupy the space.
I don’t know what the town staff can do to limit the types of businesses that can use the space.
I don’t know how long the residents in the area have lived there, and what they may know about the history of that area.
Here is what I do know:
I know that one would be hard-pressed to refer to the area in question as a quiet, tranquil residential neighborhood.
I know that referring to Jake Spears’ store as an historic area must take into account that it was a retail/commercial establishment when it operated.
I know that within a few hundred yards in either direction, there is currently a dry cleaning store, two day care centers, and what was once known as Bryant’s Store, which in later years housed a fishing and tackle shop and then, a sandwich and catering business. None of these enterprises could possibly have been zoned “residential.”
I know how excited I was to see that someone (before I knew who that was) had purchased the property in question and was going to renovate it for something that would be wonderful compared to what that site had been for so many years: an eye sore and home to nothing but wild animals.
I know Sumpter Priddy, and I know how much he loves Ashland and all that is in it.
When I balance what I don’t know with what I do know, I find that Mr. Priddy’s efforts are much appreciated by me. I certainly hope that the Town Council will see fit to support what Mr. Priddy is trying to do for our town.

Conde Palmore Hopkins

Business belongs in downtown Ashland

We are writing in reference to the rezoning request for the former Jake Speers property now before Council.
The applicant is proposing a commercial (B1) zoning for the parcel which is currently residential (R2). All the property in this area is residentially zoned and is indicated in Ashland’s Comprehensive Plan as remaining residential. In fact, there is no other commercially zoned parcel anywhere along the Thompson Street corridor from the 7-11 all the way west to the county line.
There is a reason for this.  It is a residential neighborhood, a neighborhood of shady streets, gardens, historic homes and sidewalks with families walking to the Farmers Market or the coffee shop downtown.
Our Council has tried in the past to preserve our neighborhoods, to protect us against commercial encroachment, to keep our western Gateway green.   So how did this “spot”  (literally) ever get on the map?  It’s because some citizens once said they wished the old building could be restored.  I do, too.  However, somehow that wish got translated into a whoppingly inappropriate request for a B1 zoning (B1 encompasses shopping centers for example) in the midst of a residential neighborhood. And the supreme irony of the situation is that the building has not been protected by a conservation easement so could be razed to make way for whatever future developers considered its most lucrative use to be.
Just how long do you think that structure might survive if it is sitting on the only commercially zoned land in the whole corridor?  And what is to prevent other property owners in the area from requesting similar rezonings once this precedent is set?
Downtown is where business belongs…in our historic Main Street district we are all working so hard to promote and protect.  Why encourage the spot zoning of inappropriate, unwanted commercial activity away from our vital downtown?  What public interest is served by doing so?
Let’s all help the current owner to find a positive, neighborhood enhancing repurpose for this bit of Ashland’s heritage.  Please join us in urging Town Council to deny this application.
Restore, don’t rezone.

Lauren & Steve Thompson


Board should reconsider its vote on FOIA

I was so dismayed to read the article in the Times-Dispatch last week about the Board of Supervisors’ vote to request changing the public meeting laws. As you might imagine, Jay Pace is as appalled up in heaven as I am here in Hanover County.
I thought Hanover had moved beyond encouraging “back room” deals by public officials. I know that is not supposed to be the purpose of the proposal, but, having served on several boards not nearly as political as the Board of Supervisors, I know this change would enable that activity.
As I believe the T-D editorial page said, Rhu Harris doesn’t need to have four meetings; he just has to have one open meeting.
The media provides a wonderful check and balance to government.  Witness the arrests and worse of opposition media that goes on in countries where there are repressive regimes.
I urge you to rethink this vote and keep the “sunshine” that is in the FOIA laws now. I frankly am astounded that this was even proposed, much less passing unanimously.

Pat Pace

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