Rumor Mill

Rumor Mill – Rumors vs. Facts 


Occasionally rumors, gossip and sometimes unconfirmed claims can spread quickly. In an effort to enhance communication between the City of Colonial Heights and our citizens, this page will be updated from time to time with topics that will hopefully clarify some of the more well-known rumors that maybe out in our community. 

Do you have a rumor you would like to share with us? Email us at
 gibbse@colonialheightsva.gov.

filigree
Exotic Birds

December 15, 2016

Rumor: "The City Council does not like exotic birds and “has it in” for anyone who owns them."

Fact: This is untrue.  During its December 13, 2016 meeting, Council spent approximately 1 ½ hours (which is highly unusual) listening to and speaking with Lewis Waskey to gather as much information as possible in regards to his application for a permit to keep as companion animals 22 large exotic birds already located on his property, which is almost three times the legal limit.  Given that this request concerned pets, and birds listed as an endangered species, Council wanted to learn all available facts before making its decision.  After careful consideration of the owner’s request and the needs of his neighbors and the City as a whole, the Council voted to allow Mr. Waskey to keep 8 of his 22 birds (4 per residence), plus his dog; but the remaining 14 birds have to be located elsewhere by May 1, 2017.  Council’s decision was based on the following considerations: 

The birds are located in a City with other residents living in close proximity (unlike rural areas in a County).
Noise 
Complaints from neighbors
The precedent that granting Mr. Waskey’s request would set forth for other situations where citizens with a large number
of animals apply for a permit. 

Despite denying Mr. Waskey’s request, the Council Members greatly respect his affection for and care of his birds, and the courtesy he exhibited prior to and during Council’s December 13, 2016 meeting.

filigree

Rental Inspection Program

November 29, 2016

Rumor: “Will rental properties be inspected by the Building Inspections Division anymore with the recent repealing of the Rental Inspection Program, Chapter 113 of the City Code?”

Fact: The City Council did hold a public hearing and had a first reading on Ordinance No. 16-43, repealing the Chapter 113, Rental Inspection Program, of the Colonial Heights City Code at the November 15, 2016 meeting. However, it will have a second reading at the December regular meeting of City Council for the Ordinance to be effective.

However, this does not mean the Building Inspections Division will not inspect rental properties in Colonial Heights any longer. Tenants of rental property, properties they are actively renting, will still have the right to request a building inspector to inspect the property that they are renting for any building code violations. The tenant will need to fill out a property maintenance complaint form and sign it. This is the Building Inspections Division’s proof of legal right of entry to the interior of the property. The Property Maintenance Section of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code provides for the inspection of owner occupied or rental properties for violations located and visible on the outside of the primary structure such as rotten window seals, structures with damaged or missing siding, chipped paint, and other unsafe living conditions.

Also, the repealing of this Chapter of the City Code will not allow for structural changes to a single family residence to occur without a building permit issued by the Building Inspections Division and no structure can be converted to multiple housing units without the proper rezoning.

filigree
Kroger Project Update

September 20, 2016

Rumor: "Is the City of Colonial Heights buying back the property from Kroger?"


Fact: Kroger has notified the Colonial Heights City Council that commencement of construction of its new store at 401 Temple Avenue, the site of the former Colonial Heights Courthouse, will be delayed until February 2017. Kroger's corporate office has decided to delay construction of the Colonial Heights store and numerous other planned stores in order to significantly reduce capital spending for the next few months. However, the City Council wants citizens to know the following facts:

  • Kroger continues to express its commitment to building the Colonial Heights store, and City Council remains enthusiastic about the project.
  • Although the Council has a contractual right to buy back the property from Kroger, Council is willing for the time being not to exercise its right.
  • Currently Kroger pays $33,852.80 in real estate tax on the property; therefore, even without a business on the property, the City is still receiving a significant benefit.
  • The Council deeply appreciates the patience the citizens of Colonial Heights have shown, as well as their enthusiasm for the Kroger project.
Questions about this matter may be directed to William E. Johnson, Acting City Manager, at (804) 520-9332, or to Hugh P. Fisher, III, City Attorney, at (804) 520-9316.

filigree
Campers, Utility Trailers, Boats, and/or RVs


June 13, 2016

Rumor: “Is the City planning to limit the number or size of campers, utility trailers, boats, and/or RVs I can park at my home?”

Fact: No – in fact, what the City Council has most recently said is the exact opposite of that.

The Council and staff have recently continued their on-going discussion about achieving the desired level of aesthetics and appearance of properties throughout Colonial Heights. Part of that discussion has been to consider the possibility of certain limitations of this type of equipment. 
As a result of their discussion at the June 7 Work Session, however, the Mayor and City Council unanimously stated their intention to not limit the number of campers, utility trailers, boats, and/or recreational vehicles a resident can park at their residence; and further unanimously stated their intention to not limit the size of these units (length, width, height, etc.) that can be stored at residential properties.

Rumor: “Why is this issue even being discussed?”

Fact: This particular topic rose from a review of city code requirements in response to citizen complaints about large commercial vehicles being operated and parked in residential areas. As part of our effort to respond to such concerns, city staff identified material weaknesses in both the language and enforcement of the existing city code relating to these items.

The applicable code section that regulates these commercial vehicles also regulates campers, utility trailers, boats, and/or recreational vehicles. Given that the City had previously received complaints about some of these items as well, it was appropriate that the discussion include a review of what regulation of these items (if any) should also be considered.

Rumor: “Are there any other items being considered that could impact a resident who currently park their campers, utility trailers, boats, and/or RVs at their home?”

Fact: Yes. The one remaining policy issue the City Council has yet to determine is whether or not there should be a requirement that all campers, utility trailers, boats, and/or recreational vehicles be parked behind the front line of the main structure (in the side or rear yard).

There is one line of thought that having such a requirement improves and maintains a higher aesthetic and better appearance of properties in residential areas – and this is a typical requirement in many localities and residential subdivisions.

The countering viewpoint is that such a restriction is unnecessary and unfairly restricts certain residents and/or property owners. Due to the unique nature of some of its neighborhoods, all Colonial Heights homes cannot accommodate all such units and be able to park them only in the side and rear yards.

This is the one known remaining policy issue that will be part of the continuing discussion by the City Council on this general topic.

Rumor:
“If the parking of commercial vehicles in residential areas is really the main motivator of this discussion, what is happening with that?”

Fact: The City Council is also continuing to deliberate the basic question of “Should there be limitation on commercial vehicles in residential areas and, if so, what should those restrictions be?”  However, the current quandary faced by the Council in this discussion is that while many seem to agree that large commercial vehicles such as tow trucks and tractor-trailers should be limited in some fashion, prohibiting every commercial vehicle seems too restrictive. The continuing discussion will likely focus on developing a clear definition of what type of commercial vehicles should be restricted.

Rumor: “Is there a particular urgency with these items that requires the City to move quickly on a decision?”

Fact: No. While residents who have voiced concerns about properties in their neighborhoods that may be effected
by new code requirements are anxious for a resolution of these matters, there is no other particular reason
for City Council to “be in a hurry” to decide these matters.
filigree
Kroger – Former Colonial Heights Courthouse
May 4, 2016

Rumor: I’ve noticed the old courthouse property on Temple Avenue looks pretty rough these days and needs to at least have the grass mowed. Unfortunately, there seems to be a few property owners in town who have to receive multiple notices from the City before they even remember to just mow their grass – but since the City is the “code enforcer” on grass mowing, you’d think this property would be better-maintained. What’s the story?

Fact: First, the City of Colonial Heights no longer owns the property at 401 Temple Avenue that was the former location of the City Courthouse. The City sold the property in its entirety to Kroger Limited Partnership I last November. And, under the terms of Development Agreement with Kroger, a new grocery store that is scheduled to open in May, 2017 will be constructed on the site.
Secondly, it is correct to say that the property in question is currently in violation of certain city codes, but the property owner has been put on notice as to same. As with any such code violation, city staff is also working with the property owner to abate the violations as soon as possible.

As it relates specifically to the grass mowing, the property owner (Kroger) has committed to have the grass mowed and violation abated “by the end of the week”. If by Monday that has not occurred, the City’s contractor will be directed to mow the grass and the property owner will be billed. The Building Official has also placed the property owner on notice as to multiple building code violations; and city staff has engaged in discussions with Kroger as to the imminent demolition of the existing building to abate said violations.
Although the City has certainly developed a unique partnership with Kroger on this project, they must comply with the same basic rules and procedures as all other property owners – and city staff will continue to work with them - as we do all other property owners - to cooperatively address any concerns.

April 22, 2016

Rumor: “Now I am hearing that Kroger has changed their mind and is moving into the Martin’s store on the Boulevard when they vacate.”

Fact: There is no indication from either Kroger or Martin’s officials that such a move has ever been contemplated or discussed.

This past November, Kroger paid the City of Colonial Heights $2.48M for the site of the former City Courthouse. Under the terms of the Development Agreement with the City that facilitated acquisition of that property, if Kroger is to build anything, it must be the previously-discussed grocery store. If for whatever reason Kroger changes its mind, it cannot sell the property to anyone else without the City’s approval; and the City has the right to buy the property back (at a reduced cost) if Kroger fails to build.

Kroger continues to invest substantial funds in this project and the most recent estimate for the new store opening is May, 2017. Obviously, the project is unique from a development standpoint and has faced a variety of challenges which has caused delay; not the least of which being the VDOT roundabout project.

Although we can ‘never say never’ and it would be within Kroger’s discretion to abandon five years of planning and millions of dollars invested in the courthouse site, the City fully expects groundbreaking on the project to occur soon (30-60 days) and that the Colonial Heights Kroger will be open by late next Spring.

As for the Colonial Heights Martin’s, we have not yet received official word from the appropriate company representatives as to their future plans.

filigree
Utility Bills – Water Cut-offs
April 22, 2016

Rumor: “In the most recent ‘City Manager's Monthly Report’, it included the following information about Water & Sewer Billing: 3,631 bills sent – 768 delinquent notices – 151 water cut-offs for non-payment. Is that right? That number cut-offs sounds way too high.”

Fact: Unfortunately, that is not only the correct number for the most recent month, it also represents the approximate average number of water cut-offs that the city has to do nearly every month – but it is certainly not a duty that city staff enjoys. It adds significantly to their workload and increases costs for other rate payers. However, it is a necessary task and an effective measure to secure full payment of services rendered.

As an Enterprise Fund, the Water & Sewer Fund our goal is to manage it in such a way so that the monthly customer payments are sufficient to pay for all costs associated with providing such services. So, when a customer fails to pay their bill for services received, they are essentially making all other customers pay that bill for them. In order to maintain fairness and the financial integrity of the Water & Sewer Fund, it is imperative that all customers receiving services be current on their bills for same.

The City of Colonial Heights always strives to maintain customer-oriented services, though, and we are always willing to “work with” people in special circumstances. For example, we make extra efforts to not disconnect businesses (especially during business hours); and we also try to identify unique or individual or circumstances that may occur on rare occasions that might affect a customer’s timely payment.

Simply said: It would certainly be our preference to never have to disconnect anyone's water service, but the statistical analyses indicates that with a certain percentage of our customers, cutting off their water service (or the threat thereof) is likely to be the only way to motivate payment.