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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kroger Project Update
June 26, 2017
The following are some relevant facts regarding Kroger’s decision to not build a store in Colonial Heights and the old courthouse property:
- Kroger issued the following media statement regarding their decision to not build the store in Colonial Heights:
"After careful thought, we have decided that our planned Colonial Heights store will not move forward to the construction phase. We understand that our decision to not build the Colonial Heights store may seem confusing or cause frustration and we sincerely apologize to those who anticipated our store opening. Our company has made a decision to focus our efforts on improving the customer experience at existing stores through renovations and innovative technology.
We have truly enjoyed working with the City of Colonial Heights and the entire community over the past few years. Kroger will work closely with the City of Colonial Heights to help find a new, viable tenant for the property and cover the cost of demolishing the courthouse. Thank you for your patience.”
- This was a Kroger business decision, not a decision by the City of Colonial Heights.
- The City did everything it reasonably could do to have the store constructed, and City officials are disappointed with Kroger’s decision.
- Kroger will market the property to sell, but the City has to provide written consent for who purchases the property.
- Under the City’s agreement with Kroger, the City does have the option to purchase the property back from Kroger (this option has not been exercised at this time).
- Kroger will demolish the old courthouse building, at no cost to the City.
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).
• 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.
Rental Inspection Program
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.
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.
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.