City Council Meeting – October 11, 2021

Citizen comments began with Josh Stutz, who is the Executive Director of Friends of the James River Park. He believes that the American Rescue Proposal is a “visionary investment.” It addresses green space disparity. He also stated that an increase in green spaces can lead to decreases in violence and crime. Thus, he wants the council to support the ARPA, so that the city can become “greener, healthier, and safer.”

Mary K. Martin also spoke in support of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) as it is a good use of the budget money and supports the master plan. This act will create more greenway access to other parts of the city, which will allow the parks to better serve communities, especially those without access to a car.

Rodney Gaines also came to support the ARPA. He is proudly in a black, latino, and white neighborhood and supports what the Mayor’s ARP Plan for Parks and Recreation will do to his communities and others.

Kwasi Deitutu, who has received his Masters of Social Work, is in support of the 5 million dollar Health Equity Trust Fund. He has seen from his work and studies that access to quality healthcare will critical for a city to thrive, so he asks that the council support the Health Equity Trust Fund for that reason.

Willie Hilliard spoke in regards to the City’s Recent Infrastructure on Brookland Park Boulevard. He is the president of the civic association, and is frustrated that it seems like the council has not reached out to the group. He wishes for the removal of this infrastructure.

The next speaker was Toby Vernon,the Executive Director of the Richmond Community ToolBank. The work of the non-profit is to offer groups tools, and has recently been working on offering outdoor Classroom Furniture for Public Schools. The organization has loaned 5 million dollars worth of tools, provided 90,000 volunteers for community projects. They have donated 700 outdoor furniture for any schools asking for it so that safe outdoor gatherings can occur.

After citizen comments, a public hearing on any opposition to the consent agenda opened. All opposition was in regards to Ordinance 2021-257, which is “to authorize the special use of the property known as 801 Lincoln Avenue for the purpose of an accessory dwelling unit within a single-family detached dwelling, upon certain terms and conditions. (3rd District).”

The first person to speak was Brianna West. She opposes this special use permit because it detracts the character of the neighborhood. The community of Washington Park is almost all one-family dwelling homes, with only one two family dwelling. SHe wishes this type of home to be an exception, not a rule. She believes that this building will be a catalyst for unwelcome change from the one family home standard.

Three other speakers expressed their distaste for the property. They live near the property, and related concerns regarding the home and the communication between the community and the owner of the property, Ryan Robertson.

Ryan Robertson, the owner of the property, spoke to explain more about his plans and the property. He has connected with Councilwoman Lambert and has taken steps to engage with the community. 

After this section, a public hearing on a paper on 2021-268 was heard. Ms. Hampton spoke on this proposal for an inclement weather shelter. 

Jay Brown, with Cathollic Charities also spoke about the inclement weather shelter and how the group will support it.

Councilwoman Robertson and Councilwoman Lynch showed their support and appreciation, finding this a great step forward to having homelessness be replaced with stable housing for the people affected. 

Major Stoney came to speak on RES 2021-R067, which is a resolution to consent to the Mayor’s appointment of J. E. Lincoln Saunders to the position of Chief Administrative Officer. While some council members seemed hesitant, they ultimately see the good work Mr. Saunders has done, and supports the decision.

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