City’s land buy could move Larus Park project for­ward

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - FRONT PAGE - BY MARK ROBIN­SON

Rich­mond’s Depart­ment of Pub­lic Util­i­ties has agreed to buy a tract of forested land ad­join­ing Lewis G. Larus Park in South Rich­mond, a de­ci­sion Rich­mond Mayor Le­var Stoney’s ad­min­is­tra­tion is pre­sent­ing as a so­lu­tion for a stalled plan to ex­pand wa­ter ser­vice to Ch­ester­field County ratepay­ers.

The city agreed last week to pay the Red­ford Land Trust $420,000 for 18.2 acres bor­der­ing the 106-acre park lo­cated off West Huguenot Road, near Stony Point Fash­ion Park, the city an­nounced in a news re­lease Mon­day.

If ap­proved by the Rich­mond City Coun­cil, the land pur­chase could end a month­s­long standoff with res­i­dents over a pro­posal to lease ex­ist­ing land in the park to Ch­ester­field for the con­struc­tion of a new pump­ing sta­tion and stor­age tank to pro­vide 5 mil­lion ad­di­tional gal­lons of drink­ing wa­ter to county res­i­dents each day.

“This is a bet­ter out­come and a win-win for our res­i­dents,” Stoney said in the news re­lease.

Un­der the pro­posal, Ch­ester­field would spend $7.5 mil­lion to

build and op­er­ate a new wa­ter pump­ing sta­tion and tank on 1.2 acres the county would lease from the city for $1 per year. The county, which has an ex­ist­ing agree­ment to pur­chase wa­ter from the city, would in­crease its wa­ter con­sump­tion from 27 mil­lion to 32 mil­lion gal­lons daily.

The agree­ment was first pro­posed in April. The Ch­ester­field Board of Su­per­vi­sors has ap­proved it.

City of­fi­cials have said the agree­ment could net $4.1 mil­lion in ad­di­tional rev­enue in the next five years and im­prove wa­ter ser­vice to city wa­ter users, too. Plans call for the fa­cil­ity to be op­er­a­tional by fis­cal year 2020.

Some city res­i­dents voiced their dis­plea­sure with the pro­posal, say­ing it would elim­i­nate too many trees and dis­turb the pub­lic park. They also ques­tioned whether the agree­ment would vi­o­late city code for­bid­ding the leas­ing of pub­lic park­land for re­de­vel­op­ment or the 1978 agree­ment trans­fer­ring the prop­erty to the city, which in­cludes a pro­vi­sion stat­ing the city should leave the land in its nat­u­ral state.

In July, the Rich­mond city at­tor­ney’s of­fice said the re­stric­tions in ques­tion did not nec­es­sar­ily ap­ply in this case, but ad­vised that the coun­cil could sim­ply amend the lan­guage if nec­es­sary to move for­ward with the pro­posal.

More than 1,300 peo­ple signed an on­line pe­ti­tion op­pos­ing the agree­ment and con­struc­tion of the fa­cil­ity. About a dozen res­i­dents de­liv­ered the pe­ti­tion to the mayor in Septem­ber. Fac­ing dis­cord, Rich­mond of­fi­cials tabled the pro­posal, and Stoney’s ad­min­is­tra­tion said it would work to­ward a so­lu­tion that could sat­isfy all par­ties.

Jean­nie Reinick, a 4th District res­i­dent who started the on­line pe­ti­tion, said she planned to meet with city lead­ers and dis­cuss the new pro­posed course of ac­tion but, at first glance, it seemed like it ad­dressed the con­cerns she and other res­i­dents had raised.

“I don’t think it’s per­fect, but it’s a bet­ter so­lu­tion than what was pre­vi­ously put to­gether,” Reinick said.

Ch­ester­field will pay $91,136 to the city for trees it will cut down to build the pump­ing sta­tion and stor­age tank. The city will put the sum to­ward the land ac­qui­si­tion, the city news re­lease stated.

Be­yond the 1.2 acres nec­es­sary for the pump­ing sta­tion and tank, the ad­di­tional 17 acres the city is seek­ing to ac­quire would ex­pand the park’s foot­print. The city’s Depart­ment of Parks, Re­cre­ation and Com­mu­nity Fa­cil­i­ties would be re­spon­si­ble for main­tain­ing it.

City Coun­cil­woman Kris­ten Lar­son, who rep­re­sents the district in which the park falls, said in an in­ter­view that she had not re­viewed the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s new pro­posal as of Mon­day af­ter­noon, but she planned to hold a meet­ing next Mon­day to gather res­i­dents’ feed­back.

“I think it’s im­por­tant to hear from the pub­lic on this,” Lar­son said.

Kim­berly Gray, a mem­ber of the coun­cil’s Land Use Com­mit­tee, said she’s un­sure how the city plans to pay for the pur­chase, which the coun­cil did not bud­get money for. She also ques­tioned whether the over­all pro­posal would still be prof­itable, given the price tag for land ac­qui­si­tion.

“If we’re pur­chas­ing 18.2 acres, that def­i­nitely changes the num­bers for whether or not this is rev­enue-gen­er­at­ing or whether it’s go­ing to be sub­si­dized by Rich­mond tax­pay­ers to pro­vide wa­ter to a sur­round­ing lo­cal­ity,” Gray said.

The coun­cil’s Land Use Com­mit­tee is sched­uled to dis­cuss the pro­posed agree­ment at its Nov. 21 meet­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.