Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Input on Long Term Planning for the City of Chesapeake to the City Council

To: Mayor Krasnoff and Members of the City Council
Cc: City Manager James Baker and Director of Planning Jaleh Shea
Date: 9/12/2017

As you hold your Retreat to look at long term planning for our wonderful city, the Friends of Indian River would like to share some thoughts about the future of our city.  As you look at our city’s priorities and policies we urge you to find a better balance between new development and revitalization efforts in our existing neighborhoods.  

1.    Budget to Support Incremental/Infill Development. The older sections of the city, such as Indian River and South Norfolk are seeing incremental/infill development. This infill reflects a healthy renewal of our housing stock and a traditional, pre-suburbia, development pattern.  It increases the wealth and tax base of our city.[1]  But without the corresponding upgrades and maintenance of our infrastructure – streets, schools, parks, water and sanitary sewer systems, etc. - the increased housing density strains the fabric of our community
2.    Create Safe and Welcoming Streets. Our communities need safe streets that improve the quality of life in our communities rather than just serve as roadways engineered to speed traffic past our communities.[2]
·        Our streets need to be safe for pedestrians and bicyclists and encourage patrons to frequent local businesses.  
·        This includes reducing speed limits and adding bike lanes on streets like Indian River Road, especially when they pass through residential area and shopping areas.
·        We also need to allow experiments with traffic calming measures to make side streets safer.[3]
·        Architectural guidelines (like the Great Bridge Village Design Guidelines) should be established across the city.  Better code enforcement on signage and landscaping will also help improve the visual appeal and quality of life in our communities.[4] 

3.    Address the Infrastructure Maintenance Backlog.
·        The older sections of the city suffer from a multi-year maintenance backlog for our aging infrastructure, including street pavement, storm sewers and ditches, water systems, sanitary sewers, and pump stations.
·        The city must also address the on-going quality and safety issues related to the Aqua Virginia system in the Indian River area. 
·        To assure the continued health and vitality of our existing neighborhoods, the resource allocation for this upkeep must be considered before allocating resources for further expansion, particularly when the new expansion will ultimately add to the maintenance backlog.   
·        For Capital Projects, the funding to upkeep existing facilities should generally be given precedence, particularly over the expensive roadway expansion.[5][6]

4.    Develop a plan to respond to a changing retail landscape.  The retail world is rapidly transforming due to the explosive growth on online commerce.  
·        The coming decade will likely see more store closings and vacancies in our strip shopping centers, big box storefronts, and malls.[7][8]  
·        Old strip shopping centers, like Indian River Shopping Center, are already failing and becoming a blight on their community.
·        The city needs to look at repurposing these lands, perhaps rezoning them for mixed used redevelopment that combines apartments, condos, and businesses on a single site, as was typical in traditional cities.  This would bring residents and business together and encourage new service oriented business such as markets, cafes, and restaurants.[9]

5.    Establish a new balance between Revitalization vs. New Development.  While new residential development in south Chesapeake frustrates the local residents and consumes cherished agricultural lands, it also has real costs, both short term and long term for the older sections of the city.  
·        Expanding infrastructure has immediate costs (even if initially underwritten by the developer) and becomes a long term maintenance liability for the city.
·        The lower the density and the farther from the “urban overlay” of the city, the higher the infrastructure cost per household and the more likely that these costs exceed the tax revenue collected.
·        When reviewing new development projects, the city should carefully consider these long term costs.  Proposed projects that indicate a negative fiscal outcome during their first decade should be looked at with particular concern.  
These costs mean the loss of money and opportunity to support the ongoing needs of existing sections of the city.[10]

6.    Re-focus on our Sustainability Plan[11] including
·        improving water quality through efforts such as the Eastern Branch Restoration Plan[12]
·        adequately funding our Urban Forestry Plan to increase the city tree canopy[13]
·        supporting efforts to switch to Renewable Energy - both at the residential and utility scale - and improving energy efficiency across the city.[14] 
·        revitalizing city parks and protecting green spaces, and
·        protecting and fostering our city's wetlands for the vital services they provide in water quality and flood protection.[16]

We know that balancing the needs of the community as a whole with local public opinions is a daunting challenge.  There are many conflicting voices and demands as groups focus on local interests. But we do believe the long term vitality of the city will require a new balance and will require a cultural change to avoid unproductive development patterns that ultimately degrade the city’s quality of life and the city’s financial stability.

2.    Slower Cars = Safer More Economically Productive Streets
3.    St. Louis Plan4Health Traffic Calming Demonstrations
6.    What’s Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse
9.    The Strip Center Apartments on O.S.T.
12. Eastern Branch Restoration Plan
15. Wetlands stopped $625 million in property damage during Hurricane Sandy

Monday, August 21, 2017

August/September Newsletter

It has been a long hot summer.   And if it feels like the summers have been getting hotter, NASA would agree with you.  I know a lot of folks were shocked at their July electric bills around here. But hopefully we'll be seeing more pleasant weather in September because we have a very busy calendar of events this fall, including a canoe/kayak gathering and cleanup, Riverfest, our monthly meeting, our quarterly Adopt-A-Road cleanup which we will be expanding with a whole community theme, and our 1st ever plant swap.

Rogard Ross
Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator

Monthly Meeting - Learn about the Sierra Club

Date: Thursday, September 21st, 7 pm
Location: Oaklette United Methodist Church, 520 Oaklette Dr.

Zach Jarjoura, Conservation Program Manager (Norfolk) for the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club will talk to us about the conservation efforts by the Sierra Club in our area and how folks can get involved.  

There will be light refreshments and door prizes after the meeting.

Adopt-A-Road Cleanup along Indian River Road /Community Cleanup

Date: Saturday, September 23rd, 9:30 am to 11:30 am
Starting Location: Irwin's, 4300 Indian River Road

We need your help for our quarterly cleanup.   Join us for a few hours to clean up the mile of Indian River Road from the city limits at Wingfield Avenue all the way to MacDonald Road. We are also asking all business owners along Indian River Road - and everywhere really - to make sure they sweep up in front of their storefronts as part of the effort.   And if you can't make it out for our organized cleanup please take 15 minutes and cleanup the street and ditches in front of your home; pass the word to your neighbors!

For our main cleanup on Indian River Road, the city will provide garbage bags and orange safety vests. We'll have water and snacks available. Please wear closed-toe shoes, a hat and bring work gloves and other items that may be useful. Participants under 18 years of age must have adult supervision.

1st Annual Plant Swap

Date: Saturday, September 30th, 11 am to 1 pm
Location: Indian River Library, 2320 Old Greenbrier Rd

Gardeners and Plant Lovers - Got some extra plants in your garden?  Want to switch out that rosemary plant for something new?   Got too much bee balm?  Well, join us for our first ever Plant Swap at the Indian River Library.  Bring a plant and trade it for a different plant. The more you bring more you may take home.   Bring Perennial Flowers, Herbs, House Plants, Small Shrubs, etc.   There will be a Chesapeake Master Gardener Help Desk at the event to assist in identifying plants and answering other questions.  We'll also be doing a Fundraising Sale of miscellaneous gently used garden paraphernalia.  

Please, no invasive species are allowed, including English Ivy, Privet, Vinca (Periwinkle), Chinese Wisteria, Bush Honeysuckle, Common Daylily, etc.  Please include a name card/label it identify you plant(s) if possible.      

Other News
  • The 2017 RiverFest will be on Sunday, September 17th from 11 am to 4 pm at Carolanne Farms Park in Kempsville, on the banks of the Eastern Branch.   FREE Guided Kayak Paddles, FREE Kids Activities, NEW Elizabeth River Scout Patch, Learn what's in our river at the Science Dome, Native Plant Sale, Adopt a River Otter, Become a River Star, Live Music by Lewis McGehee, Mountaintide & The Storyweavers, Food Trucks, Dog Friendly.  Come visit the Friends of Indian River table at the event!  See for all the details.
  • Local concerns about a planned natural gas pipeline that would cut through the Georgetown, Sunrise Hills, and Campostella neighborhoods of our area were on display on August 16th as residents protested the project.  The pipeline would follow the Dominion Power Line Corridor which cuts through multiple backyards.  Virginia Natural Gas is finalizing an "encroachment agreement" with Dominion Energy but would still need to obtain easements from around 80 property owners.
  • Congratulation to Lynn Gilbert for being this year's Notable Yard Winner for the Indian River Area.
  • Through September 26th, the Chesapeake Master Gardeners are continuing their Plant A Row for the Hungry program.   They are collecting food donations either from your garden or from your pantry on Tuesday mornings at the "Trailer" at the City Hall complex.  Click here for more info.
  • You can now also become a member of the Friends of Indian River, renew your membership, or make a donation online at

Thursday, June 8, 2017

June Newsletter

Summer is almost here -  Barbecues, trips to the beach, and 4th of July fireworks.  But before everyone takes off, we do have one more monthly meeting on Thursday, June 15th, where we'll learn how to prevent mosquitoes from ruining your summer fun.  And we'll also get an update on the oyster reefs established in the Indian River last year.   On Saturday, June 17th we have an Adopt-A-Road cleanup along Indian River Road and a key focus will be cleaning up under and around the Indian River Bridge and at the site of the future canoe/kayak launch site.

And on Saturday, June 24th, from 9 am to 1 pm there will be Sneak Preview of the renovated Rokeby Center in the park.  This is located at the corner of Rokeby Ave. and Providence Rd.   The Parks Department will be showing off the newly renovated center and give a preview of the many activities that will be scheduled there, focusing on the folks "55 and Better".    Stay tuned for more details.

The Chesapeake Town Meeting at Indian River High School on June 6th was very informative. It had a very environmental theme with practically every speaker raising an environmental concern, and they weren't just from the Friends of Indian River! There was a detailed update on the status of the Aqua Virginia negotiations; please see below for more info.  

We can also report a very successful Clean the Bay Day.   Over 100 volunteers came out to Indian River Park and Plymouth Park.  We hauled out almost 3000 lbs of trash, mostly from the flood plain behind the little league baseball field, which has probably never been the target of a cleanup.

Rogard Ross
Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator

Monthly Meeting - Mosquito Prevention and Oyster Restoration
Date: Thursday, June 15th, 7 pm
Location: Oaklette United Methodist Church, 520 Oaklette Dr.

Dreda Symonds, Director of Chesapeake Mosquito Control Commission, will give a presentation and talk about mosquitoes, what the city is doing to control them, and what you can do to control them in your yard.

We'll also have a short presentation on local Oyster Restoration efforts along the Indian River.   Hear from 3 of our members and local homeowners who worked with the Elizabeth River Project and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to install oyster reefs along their waterfronts.   What planning and permitting was involved?   How are the reefs doing a year later?

There will be light refreshments and door prizes after the meeting.

Adopt-A-Road/Bridge Cleanup along Indian River Road 
Date: Saturday, June 17th, 9:30 am to Noon
Starting Location: Oaklette United Methodist Church, 520 Oaklette Dr.

Join us for our quarterly cleanup.  The more volunteers who come out, the more territory we can cover!  We'll be cleaning up 1 mile of Indian River Road from the city limits at Wingfield Avenue all the way to MacDonald Road. This will help to spruce up the area, collect trash that will otherwise get washed into the river and impact wildlife, and give us the opportunity to interact with residents and businesses along Indian River Road. We'll also be cleaning up under and around the Indian River Bridge and at the future canoe/kayak launch site.

The city will provide garbage bags and orange safety vests. We'll have water and snacks available. Please wear closed-toe shoes, a hat and bring work gloves and other items that may be useful. Participants under 18 years of age must have adult supervision.

Preview Opening of the Rokeby Center 
Date: Saturday, June 24th, 9:00 am to 1 PM
Location: Rokeby Center, 1709 Rokeby Avenue

Join us on Saturday, June 24th, from 9 am to 1 pm for a Sneak Preview of the renovated Rokeby Center in the park at the corner of Rokeby Ave. and Providence Rd.  The Parks Department will be showing off the newly renovated center and give a preview of the many activities that will be scheduled there, focusing on the folks "55 and Better".    

Other News
  • One of our partner organizations, the Norfolk Highlands Civic League, is looking for a new President.   Adam Aborgast, who has done an absolutely terrific job since helping to found the current Civic League in 2011, is sadly leaving the area.   The League is looking for someone to step in and fill those shoes.   Adam is ready to provide a full overview of the responsibilities and provide guidance to help keep things going.   This is an important opportunity for the community.   For more information, please visit their Facebook site.
  • The Campostella Square Plymouth Park Civic League has their monthly meeting this Thursday, June 8, 6:30 pm at the Cuffee Center
  • Saturday, June 10th, 9 am to Noon, is the next Chesapeake Recycles Day at New Galilee Baptist Church, 1765 S Military Hwy (across from Southern States).  Bring your hazardous waste (5 gallons of liquid or 75 pounds of solid waste) and shredding (3 copy paper boxes or 3 paper grocery bags - no plastic bags or large boxes), electronics, Goodwill, and regular recyclables.  They are also collecting non-perishable canned goods for donation to a local food pantry. Please note that this year shredding will not be done on-site. For all the details, visit
  • There is still time to Register for the Oyster Gardening orientation offered by Chesapeake Bay Foundation.   Help raise baby oysters off your shoreline, especially if you have a pier or other easy access to the water. And best of all, we will likely be able to keep many of the oysters raised on newly established reefs along the mouth of the Indian River. Chesapeake Bay Foundation led Training classes start in June. See Lynn in this 1 minute video explain how easy it is and learn how you can sign up.
  • The Campostella Square Plymouth Park Civic League will be hosting a Community Spirit Basketball Tournament (Ages 10-17) at the Cuffee Center on June 27th.
  • For a full update on the Town Meeting results and the status of the Aqua Virginia negotiation, please see
  • The Friends of Indian River worked with local businesses to install flowers along our 'Main Street'. Check out the geranium planters placed at several locations along Indian River Road. If you have a business in the area and want to participate in this effort, reach out to us and we'll put you on the list of potential locations to be added as funds become available.
  • Over 100 volunteers came out on June 3rd for Clean the Bay Day cleanups at Indian River Park, Plymouth Community Park, and a neighborhood cleanup in Norfolk Highlands.   All together we removed about 3000 pounds of trash and litter.   A big thank you to all the volunteers that came out from multiple groups including, but not limited to Cub Scout Pack 42, Boy Scout Troop 6, Cox Communications, Burns & McDonnell, the US Navy, Norfolk Highlands Civic League, of course our dedicated volunteers from the Friends of Indian River.   You can find pics at herehere, and here.
  • You can now also become a member of the Friends of Indian River, renew your membership, or make a donation online at