Letters to the Editor: Week of June 26, 2014

Posted on Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 11:22 am

Proposed B1 plan deserves greater attention, coverage

I continually see the examples of fireworks and funeral homes as examples of uses that would not be permitted in the proposed B1 ordinance changes. I have seen many quotes by town staff and town council, but few in-depth interviews with citizens, business owners, and property owners who have invested countless hours over the last six months attending planning commission work sessions and public hearings, and meeting one-on-one with town staff.
As in any political conversation, it is easy to distill conversations into sound bites. What is more difficult is reporting on the nuances of a failing brick and mortar retail market, or the domino effect of changing a use on a building, thus triggering complex requirements from Hanover County’s building inspectors, or the wisdom of placing businesses, which cater to children, the elderly, or the infirm, on a second floor with no elevator access. Not to mention relegating certain arts and culture businesses to second-tier status by refusing them ground level street facing space in the heart of the arts and culture district.
There are many good changes in the proposed update, many of them long overdue. Currently in the 2-year-old arts and culture district, art galleries, museums, and working artists’ studios would all require conditional use permits, among other restrictions. This would all change.
The proposed use of “Artist Studio,” and council’s decision to fast-track the implementation of that use, will finally create opportunity to draw working artists to Ashland. Considering the lack of incentives besides a $30 a year BPOL tax break, the very least the town can do is to actually allow artists to open businesses in the arts and culture district without having to pay $1,200 and go through months of public hearings – a process retail, office, and service businesses do not have to go through.
Allowing artists to reclaim old spaces, which are largely unsuitable for purposes besides manufacturing, without having to go through a county process of change of use requiring extensive remodeling to allow public access (including wheelchair access and ADA restrooms) will give artists an opportunity to work in a space, create art, and make a living, while applying for grants to convert the space into a retail/gallery-type space that can be open to the public. Such reclamation of old spaces is one of the very reasons artists are considered to be “Engines of Growth” by the National Governor’s Association.
Sixty voices are hardly a small minority of voices, especially to my knowledge since there are zero voices, (other than those of town staff, council, and planning commission) that have spoken publicly in favor of the increased proposed restrictions in use, setback, and architecture that are in the proposed package. It would also be nice if reporters acknowledged that all 60 voices are in favor of the increased uses that are in the proposed package.
Consider this: 60 voices out of a business district with less than 200 businesses is over 30 percent participation. If that is a “small minority,” how much smaller minority is the 11.4 percent of registered voters that actually voted for town council in May?

Arthur Brill
Founder, Ashland Arts Alliance

It’s strange insurance companies don’t counter TV ads

Just a thought but has anyone before me questioned why the insurance companies do not retaliate against the law firms who advertise daily that the insurance companies will take advantage of you if you file a claim without a lawyer?
Could it be that the insurance companies are happy with the results when handled by a lawyer? After all, the lawyer fees come out of your settlement.
Think about it: insurance companies are not dummies; they know what a claim is worth and law firms know what a claim is worth. Supposing your lawyer and the insurance company both agree a claim is worth a certain amount. Maybe you and the insurance company would have come to the same conclusion. The difference is that your lawyer gets 33.3 percent of your money. Assuming the insurance company would only rip you off for 10 percent, you would get 23.3 more by dealing directly with the insurance company.
I think I would go to the insurance company first and get a proposed settlement amount, then go to a lawyer and say, “This is their offer, guarantee me that I get more after you deduct your 33.3 percent and you get the case.”
Just asking, but it seems strange to me that the insurance companies do not make an advertising counterattack if they are paying out more than the claim is worth. After hundreds of years of insurance claims I’m sure there is a menu of settlement amounts for legitimate claims, but if you want to scam the insurance company you definitely may need some help.
I’m sure there is something I am missing in the TV ads but being from West Virginia, I just can’t figure it out. By the way, I am also working with authorities to stop the West Virginia jokes as we find them disparaging to Native Appalachian Americans.

Ted Mentz
Old Church

Are supervisors appointing ‘Yes Men’

No political appointment is for life, but there is a funk emanating from the appointments of Norman Sulser and Roger Bourassa that a tornado cannot disperse.
It brings into question the appointments of Sue Dibble and Hank Lowry. Are the supervisors trying to create a school board of yes men? There should be a healthy amount of disagreement between the school board and board of supervisors; they have different objectives. The school board should be striving to provide the best education possible and the supervisors should be protecting the taxpayer from the educational zealots.
Mechanicsville Supervisor Canova Peterson doesn’t owe Millican anything, but each supervisor owes all of us a detailed explanation of why a change was made.
Could this be more of the “We know best, don’t question us” attitude that Democrats employed   to pass the Affordable Care Act? How do people expect to restore funding for education when they never confront the amount of revenues being spent on the false premise that government is a provider of sustenance for the individual?

Randy Waters
Montpelier

‘Sludge’ proposal would affect Hanover

Residents from seven Virginia counties may be receiving toxic sludge, if a permit is issued.  Synagro Central is requesting a permit from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to land-apply over 16,000 acres of industrial sludge on forest and farmland, coming from Tyson Food, Smithfield Packing and RockTenn paper plant.
More than 100 acres would go to Hanover County. The other counties are King William, King and Queen, Surry, Goochland, New Kent and Prince George. The sludge contains excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous which will further stress the waterways and the Chesapeake Bay. Of particular concern are heavy metals and carcinogens from RockTenn presently sent to a lined landfill, which is safer than spreading on the land.
Synagro has a documented record of violations and fines in other states and in Virginia, and the company does not merit our trust. The sludge will migrate during heavy rains, adversely impacting marine life and human health, as the pollutants flow into groundwater and surface waterways. People fear their drinking water wells would become contaminated.
June 20, the Synagro permit was pulled from the State Water Control Board’s (SWCB) June 26 agenda, when the permit was to be heard, discussed and voted upon. The DEQ said they will review public comments and set a new date for the SWCB to consider the proposed permit.
Concerned citizens  should contact their elected officials to advise them to deny the permit.

Tyla Matteson
North Chesterfield

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