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Newbille tells packed house that she will not vote for Pear Street

It was a packed house Thursday night at the Family Resource Center as a diverse group of citizens came to voice their concerns about the Pear Street project up for vote at City Council on Monday.

Several people gave formal remarks including Leighton Powell, Executive Director of Scenic VA foundation. Bill Jenkins, a 23-year-resident of Church Hill, gave his opinion that the special use permit applied for at the Pear Street parcel cannot be approved from a legal perspective.

Several other long time residents spoke against the Pear Street Development as it currently stands. All argued that the building clearly violates the downtown Master Plan and Riverfront Plan which state that buildings next to the James River should be no more than 5 stories tall.

Head of city Planning Mark Olinger said that the parcel for Pear Street appears on some maps of the Master Plan and not on other maps so it is unclear whether or not it falls under auspices of the Downtown Master Plan. Several people then asked if a 15 story building is in the spirit of the Downtown Master Plan and Riverfront plan.

Councilwoman Cynthia Newbille then briefly shared that she has heard “divergent responses” about Pear Street and did not clearly state her position for or against Pear Street.

Questioning became more pointed and Ms.Newbille fielded a volley of queries from the audience . Several people voiced that approving this development would set an uncomfortable precedent for more high rises.

The general tone was of approval for development along the river, but devlopment that stays within 5 stories.

By the end of the meeting Newbille agreed to tell the developer that her constituents have stated that the plan as it currently stands is too tall. Most people supported the idea to vote “no” on the current plan and ask the developer to come back with another plan that is lower.

Newbille communicated at the meeting that she will not vote for the project at its current height. It was unclear if Newbille plans to vote “no” or simply delay the vote again.


Melissa Pocock 09/05/2014 at 7:53 AM

A bit frustrating, but very informative meeting. Is it odd we didn’t hear from additional, current city council members (who were present at the meeting)? Audience members who approve the developer’s plans were completely mum.

jean mcdaniel 09/05/2014 at 9:26 AM

I know that I was not the only one who was shocked to learn that, and I quote Ma. Newbille, “when you have a city that is landlocked, you have to go up”!

That was the first time I had ever heard that the City of richmond was “landlocked”. Sounds like developer speak to me.

ask around 09/05/2014 at 11:20 AM

when you talk to other developers, real estate agents, planners (not necessarily City planners though I’m sure some would agree), many will say that space for new development on unimproved land is dwindling, aka that Richmond is landlocked.

Jean M. Wight 09/05/2014 at 12:04 PM

Was I the only one at the meeting that felt like we were being patronized? Would it not have been a more meaningful conversation if our Councilperson Newbille would have been more open and willing to share her own concerns about the application, rather than continually saying that she “hears” our concerns?

What we got was a wooden “Teflon” front, and that just might be her personality (?), but it does not instill confidence with voters in her District nor City-wide in her political leadership potential.

To rephrase Michela’s question, “Does Newbille believe in us?”

Alli Alligood 09/05/2014 at 1:10 PM

I loved the meeting last night. Love that there were so many folks interested in this issue who care deeply about the integrity of the historic fabric as well as the integrity and intention of our community planning process, and of course our beloved James River and view form Libby Hill Park. Our representative on council gave us her word, and I for one am gladly accepting it. Thanks to Dr. Newbille and all involved in this frank discussion.

Next Friend 09/05/2014 at 2:10 PM

The councilperson is doing exactly what you asked her to do and you are still going to take swings at her? Keep on posting. Maybe the Why Not In My Back Yard people will get energized by the injustice.

crd 09/05/2014 at 4:40 PM

#8, I suspect they are worried because of the last sentence – “It was unclear if Newbille plans to vote “no” or simply delay the vote again.” Clearly, most folks want her to vote “no” and not put it off yet again under the guise of “negotiating with the developers” who would then lop off a half story or something inane like that. Five stories, or no building at all, seems to be the prevailing opinion (and mine).

Bill Hartsock 09/05/2014 at 5:53 PM

Just got word that the SUP has been withdrawn by the developer.

jean mcdaniel 09/05/2014 at 6:10 PM

How does starting a post with “idiots!!!!!” contribute to a meaningful conversation?

What is “Wonderful” about this project? There are no accurate drawings of what it will look like so you can’t mean visually “wonderful”.

Are you one of the ones who wants to live in one of the Penthouses along with Mr. White, Mr. Salamonskie, and others who have stated publicly that,” there is a ghetto of people in Church Hill making $50,000.00 and higher income needs to be brought in”?

PLEASE express your opinion here in writing how this is a wonderful project. This is your chance and maybe I (and others) am uninformed.

If you were at this meeting you know that people are not against developing this plot of land.

Aud 09/05/2014 at 7:34 PM

Mr. Johnson, were you at the meeting? Not one person spoke up about their support for the current developer’s plan at the meeting last night, even though supporters were present. You could have spoken your peace directly to Dr. Newbille and residents.

crd 09/05/2014 at 10:50 PM

Times Dispatch has story –

Sounds like she did it. There is also a message from Jeff Cooper, an email, that it’s been pulled from the agenda for Monday’s meeting.

Trish 09/06/2014 at 1:30 AM

The CHA sent the word last night that the developer withdrew the SUP. Huzzah!

Stewart Schwartz 09/06/2014 at 6:51 AM

Re “Ask Around” comment that city is landlocked: The answer is it’s not even close. When you contrast Richmond to the vibrant streets of DC and other revitalized cities, Richmond still has potentially thousands of acres of land available for development and especially redevelopment. Abandoned lots, acres of parking lots, obsolete and non-historic one story commercial buildings, and even ancient parking structures in downtown, As we continue our revitalization these underutilized parcels are replaced by mixed-use, walkable urban development. The point of community-based planning is to create a vision for all parts of the city and to identify (with everyone at the table) the best places for different types of development — for example high-rise in some areas, mid-rise in others, rowhouses with corner stores in others The Downtown Plan was just such a plan.

Eric S. Huffstutler 09/06/2014 at 8:46 AM


I think when Newbille’s comment about being “landlocked” was more a reference to her district. There isn’t thousands of acres available for development in Church Hill, Shockoe, or Downtown and it is in this area they want to construct the high rise with a view.

And a reminder that the site they want to build on does not fall into any protected historical boundary so open for any kind of construction.

jean mcdaniel 09/06/2014 at 9:21 AM

Stewart Schwartz @17

That is why Ms. Newbille received the response she got when she made the statement that the City was Landlocked. I suspect it was one of the lines proffered by Mr White and Co. during their lobbying of her.

Mr. Johnson @11 I am still waiting for you to explain to me why this project is “Wonderful”. You called us all idiots so I think you owe it to us to tell us why you feel that way.

KatManDo 09/06/2014 at 9:46 AM

I would like to thank all of the individuals and organizations (e.g., Scenic Virginia, James River Associates and others) who got involved in this effort to protect the panoramic view from Libby Hill for all of us and for those yet to discover it.

Special thanks to Richmond City Council members who understood the importance of this issue and joined forces with us. And also, to Cynthia Newbille who, at last, understood..

180RVA 09/06/2014 at 11:47 AM

To clarify #18 comments about the land
“being open to any kind of construction”
This is incorrect – it is zoned M1 – Light Industrial
The by right development is closely restricted – examples allowed are hotels, retail sores, auto centers, day care etc.
The land was purchased with full knowledge of these restrictions

crd 09/06/2014 at 1:48 PM

@21, sorry can’t resist – “hotels, retail sores (sic), auto centers, day care, etc.” – this SUP was an eyesore! Had they put retail in it, too, it would have been a retail sore eyesore!

Thanks for your correction re M-1 as well as your involvement with this non-project. Here’s hoping it does not come back in the near future in any form except five stories or less.

silly question... 09/06/2014 at 3:01 PM

Okay, I’ve been following the issue, but I just want to make sure I understand: per @Trish, the SUP has been withdrawn. Does this mean the issue is over? I tried doing some research but couldn’t find any info on the withdrawal.

crd 09/06/2014 at 5:19 PM

@23 I don’t think it’s silly, and I think it means it has gone away for now. Whether they bring it back in a year or so, don’t know. I’ll let someone from 180RVA go into more detail if they have any.

Eric S. Huffstutler 09/06/2014 at 8:42 PM

180RVA – I may have been a bit open-ended I my comment about any kind of construction but what I was meaning is that any “style” and should not make a difference since it would not be controlled by historical regulations.

I guess my question would be what would have been a realistic and fair for all parties concerned middle ground decision excluding height restrictions?

The building “upward” is a reference to that you can’t spread out 15-stories of apartments into the same lot space if only restricted to 5. The lot would have to be triple in size.

So that the developer could benefit as well to sell the property for scenic value, where is there an alternative location? Just curious to hear from the NIMBY crowd.

Stewart Schwartz 09/07/2014 at 9:38 AM

Eric: The project is in a national historic district, Shockoe Valley and Tobacco Row, although not in a city Old and Historic District which would trigger the additional city reviews.

There are many examples of well-designed mid-rise buildings in Richmond and nearby DC which the developer can draw from in designing such a building for the site. 180RVA included recommendations in its submissions and I hope the developer will work new architects and with the community to create a great design.

Eric S. Huffstutler 09/07/2014 at 11:01 AM

Stewart, I believe this was approached before and there was a bit of a gray area with the maps that left me a bit fuzzy. I went back and checked.

The CAR admits that the address in question on Pear Street does NOT fall into the Old & Historic districts that “the city” recognize but does fall into the Shockoe Valley-Tobacco Row Historic District handled by the Department of Interior and locally by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. But, CAR “the city” does NOT recognize these districts other than they do benefit from tax credits.

So, that brings me back to wondering if the city is not involved concerning anything about historical preservation on that site and doesn’t recognize the Shockoe District other than tax credits, why is there such a fuss by the city and Newbille? There were what, 100 people who showed up and were all opposed? And does 100 people represent all of Church Hill or the city for that matter?

Trying to be realistic since I am for progress when there is an opportunity in the right area. As I mentioned in the past I am sure there were complaints by residents when the tobacco warehouses and canal with boats developed at their doorstep in the 1800s but they were built and now being preserved.

chpnfan 09/07/2014 at 3:20 PM

Eric, the City is still involved in governing.

The land is currently zoned for industrial use. To build places for people to dwell on a parcel zoned industrial requires a special use permit, to change the use and… oh, he wanted to build a building 11 stories higher than what is allowed for that industrial parcel of land. That and all special use permits are submitted at City Hall and then it go to City Council to evaluate, approve or disapprove based on a multitude of factors.

Being outside of the Old & Historic District I’d suppose, he could build a five story industrial building and paint it pink if he so desired.

Eric S. Huffstutler 09/07/2014 at 5:57 PM

Thanks chpnfan for the clarification! \

So if the developer has pulled his SU application then I guess the deal is dead anyway?

And I would have to object to a Pepto-Bismol pink building… It has to be green with purple polka dots! 🙂

chpnfan 09/07/2014 at 7:44 PM


He’ll be back, I’m sure.

Paul Hammond 09/08/2014 at 8:40 PM

Jean McDaniel,

Richmond IS essentially a landlocked city. Court rulings and State law have made it nearly impossible for Richmond to grow naturally like most cities do. If Richmond is to grow it must grow inward and upward.

Next Friend 09/09/2014 at 9:32 AM

If the 180RVA group actually believes what it says, it will do all of the following: 1) push the City administration to formally adopt sight lines or view height standards so good faith developments won’t be hampered in future (i.e. developers will be certain of the box in which they can work), and 2) actively recruit AND SUPPORT actual developers with viable plans 180RVA thinks are compatible (drawings don’t count).

If 180RVA is just a NIMBY group cloaked in buzz words whose true agenda is to keep a vacant buffer around valuable single family residential property, then we will hear crickets going forward except when they show up to oppose whatever good plan comes next.

ray 09/09/2014 at 9:53 AM

I can’t believe it!

A full 32 comments before someone throws out the mindless NIMBY acronym!

Congratulations, Next Friend!

jean mcdaniel 09/09/2014 at 10:39 AM

Paul Hammond@ 31
There are many reasons that Richmond is the way it is, but it is not landlocked. Jim Crow and annexiation is the major historical / legal impediment. Purchasing a tiny plot of land and then claiming that to be a viable development you have to desicreate the surrounding area is not “landlocked”.

There are many areas that this type of development would be just fine. The problem is that Mr. Salamonski and Mr. White don’t own any tiny plots of land there.

I suggest you go across the 14th street bridge, take a left anywhere after the railroad tracks and see what is happening.

Next Friend 09/10/2014 at 10:17 AM

Thanks, Ray! Sarcasm aside, this opposition effort is and was textbook Not In My Back Yard. Hyperbole, fliers, yelling, name calling of the developers – all textbook.

It’s time folks up here get as good as they give.

chpnfan 09/10/2014 at 11:38 AM

The proposed development was “Not In My Back Yard” personally, but it would have obstructed my view and the view of all of the visitors to the site seeking a bit of history and serenity for the next 100 years.

Let’s name it for what it was and is…. NIFOOHV…. “Not In Front Of Our Historic View”. Sure, I’m not sure exactly how to pronounce the acronym and it doesn’t sing like NIMBY but hey… it’s the truth 😉

crd 09/10/2014 at 1:16 PM

@36 I like your acronym, and think it should be pronounced with the H silent as in ” nih – FOOVE”. Accent on the second half.With practice, it will sing like NIMBY!

chpnfan 09/10/2014 at 9:12 PM

@ 37 ~ crd

I bet that would echo like a war cry from Libby Hill…. “nih – FOOVE!!!!!!!!!!”


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