On Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to see up close and personal a new home community being built in Blacksburg. The community is called "Mount Tabor Meadows", and it's a project being built out by Green Valley Builders. I've mentioned it briefly before.
So what? There's a lot of construction going on around Montgomery County, what's so special about this one?
Mount Tabor Meadows is building these homes to be Earthcraft-certified, and they're working hard to assure that each home exceeds the Earthcraft standards. It's one of the first times in recent memory that we've seen a builder locally truly practice the green model with new construction on a large-scale basis, and I'm glad to see it come.
How is an EarthCraft house certified? It starts with the builder joining the EarthCraft House program,
attending training, and registering as an ENERGY STAR partner. But it doesn't stop there ... when a home is being built to EarthCraft standards, the builder must participate in a design review with EarthCraft House staff and do a walkthrough with that same staff, as well as pass a final inspection by an EarthCraft House inspector. Other requirements include:
It's no joke, and these guys seem to be taking it very seriously. I'm glad to see their project beginning to take shape - if you'd like more information on the project, or a personal tour of the site and available homes, contact me and we'll set it up!
The AEP Falling Branch-Merrimac Transmission Reinforcement Project is in need of public input. They've got a big long name to say that they need to add overhead electric lines through portions of Blacksburg, Montgomery County and Christiansburg. My question is ... why can't these be buried? They're burying everything else these days. Here's the text of the email I received:
Appalachian Power announced a $15 million upgrade in the electric infrastructure that serves parts of Montgomery County, the Town of Blacksburg and the Town of Christiansburg. The company is in the initial study phase of the project which involves construction of approximately eight miles of electric transmission line and is seeking public input into the siting process before pursuing approval to construct the new line. The project scope is focused on the south end of Blacksburg in the vicinity of the Montgomery Regional Hospital and continues through Montgomery County and the Town of Christiansburg.
The new facilities will be constructed on single pole structures with an average height of 100 feet tall and be built on a 100 foot-wide right of way. The company has identified preliminary proposed corridors for review. The public can provide comments on the preliminary study corridors and suggest alternative routing options at Appalachian Powers website, which is linked below and at a public workshop 5-8 p.m. Thursday, June 5, at Christiansburg High School, 100 Independence Blvd., Christiansburg, Va., 24073. The public comment period continues through July 18.
Once, I was bemoaning all of the legal and ethical problems the President at the time had gotten himself into, and how it reflected on our society. My wife looked at me very sternly and asked "did you vote?". She knew the answer; she knew I hadn't, and she said I had no room to complain. I learned a lesson that day - whether I want power lines or don't want power lines, I can't complain without having my voice heard. Here's our chance to have our voices heard.
There's a lot that's been happening recently, and I've gotten to virtually none of it here on the blog. So ... allow me to introduce Short Shorts, the category established for when things just get a little bit crazy.
That's it for now. A couple of new posts coming out shortly, specifically my take on whether now is a good time to buy and sell or not, as well as some thoughts on why it just got tougher to buy a home if you're self-employed. If you enjoyed this post, why not leave a comment and subscribe via RSS or email here to be sure you don't miss the next post?
Do I agree with every point in the article? No, but the point made in the third paragraph hits the nail on the head - empty storefronts add no quality or value to an area. Regardless, our elected leaders seem to be negligent at helping to find creative ways to combat this blight. What will it take? Maybe the name of the blog should be "Think, New River Valley!"
Here's the text in its entirety: Dialog
published in local newspapers in May 2007 about the proposed
South Main should be reframed beyond SCATs or Cooties because it
affects a larger area than just one community in Montgomery County.
This is more than
shifting the local portion of state sales tax within this or that town,
or business taxes collected in one town instead of another. If
something is diminished within the NRV, there’s no cause for celebration.
This is more than
businesses changing addresses from existing buildings and moving into new buildings.
Having empty buildings in our community doesn’t add quality or value.
Do you believe any major
chain will maintain two stores a few miles apart, whether Wal-Mart or
Books-A-Million? Look where our area’s original “mart” was located,
Goody’s was located before its last move. A grocer on South Main
impacted adjacent tenants due to an anticipated expansion. Those plans
were on hold for months, so once could expect yet another address
change was considered.
How many partially
occupied shopping centers do we need within Montgomery County? How
acres of barren, paved parking lots do we want? How many miles of
sidewalks or bike trails do these unused acres of pavement represent?
How badly do we want any
traffic congestion to be a routine part of getting somewhere, or creating new
bottlenecks within our community? Do we really want town
governments and county supervisors fighting over the few dollars available for
upgrades to local roads and major traffic arteries? Or would we rather
they work together to get many long-talked about yet unfunded improvements
Is this about Smart
Growth, or repackaging sprawl while laying the ground-work for future blight?
No matter how many
“anchor” (translation: big box retailers) stores arrive in Blacksburg or depart from Christiansburg, employees
working at these businesses will earn service-sector wages. It may even
cost some employees more to get to work, since the locality with public
transportation has the highest housing costs. This may translate into
more cars and congestion in Blacksburg, but where’s the value in that?
The South Main concept
was introduced as being “pedestrian friendly” yet that element is now absent,
so living where you can walk to work or shop is no longer a factor in the
discussion. No higher paying or new jobs, just a shift on where you may
earn or spend wages.
No matter which “anchor”
stores arrive, individuals won’t automatically have more money to spend.
The presence of nationally recognized chain stores doesn’t equate to a rise in
personal income, a decrease in real estate taxes or enhanced government services
-- they change shopping destinations or whether a shopping trip is 5 or
15 minutes away (when people can’t or don’t use public
transportation). Folks, we are not talking about South Dakota
here with a 50-mile one-way commute for a loaf of bread.
Why not discuss how
proposed developments affect county and both towns’ revenues? Where is economic
development in this dialog on creating
new businesses, or expanding and
sustaining existing ones? Why recruit fickle chain-stores that leave
communities littered with vacant buildings? These points should be
worthy of action and passion, too.
Where is the dialog about
identifying how sales, meals or other use-taxes allowed by Dillon rule could be
increased, rather than shifted from one locality to another? Why
should a public entity’s business operations receive an advantage over private
business owners? As one example, why must private restaurateurs collect
taxes from customers when a public institution is selling “more than 5 million
meals each year”? What would the meals tax revenues be for Blacksburg if ALL diners were taxed?
A redevelopment of one
town’s southern gateway creating new sales or tax collection points should
stimulate residents to reflect on impacts “anchors” and
“chains” represent. The rising tide theory (if you build it here,
they will come from there) isn’t an assurance of real, sustainable community
growth (but it’s a pretty sure bet developers passing through and remote
big-box corporations will profit). Let’s bring these points into the
dialog instead of creating disharmony about shared values and common wants.
If another acronym is
needed as part of this dialog, how about “Corporate Opportunists Overwhelming
Towns, Instead of Economic Sustainment”? Community members should
be looking at development from a panoramic perspective, not through a straw.
Could this specific
project bring much needed revenue to Blacksburg? Yes. Would
existing businesses vacate a current location for a new one?
Possibly. Are living wage jobs being added to the local economy?
isn’t priceless, many people try to get a tentacle attached to your taxes or wallet, and
neighbors watch out for each other.
It was funny when Austin Powers said it, but not as funny now that Virginia lawmakers have to debate exactly HOW to make up the anticipated $1 billion budget shortfall Virginia will be seeing this year. The Governor had suggested a withdrawal of nearly $425 million from the rainy day fund, while the Republican-controlled House suggested $225 million be withdrawn. As with everything politics, I'm sure there's a lot of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" going on, but it'll be interesting to see how this shakes out. In all likelihood, the Session will run longer than normal until they get it worked out - you can follow it all and more on Richmond Sunlight.
The gist of the article is that towns like Blacksburg and Radford are not immune to a recession, but the universities they support help to soften the blow. When we were on Capital Hill last week, that was one of the comments our delegation made to Dave Nutter - our university communities seem to be doing quite well, at least when it comes to real estate, because of the periphery of businesses that surround the universities, as well as the schools themselves. Just like you would diversify your financial portfolio, the diversification of the economic portfolio (wow, I sound smart) helps keeps things on a fairly even keel. According to Ernest Wade, an economics instructor at Radford University quoted in Tonia Moxley's article, the universities provide high-quality jobs (although not always high-paying) that don't rely on what he calls "smoke stack industries". I can imagine that one example of an area here that does rely on such an industry would be Pulaski and its loss of the Pulaski Furniture Company. It takes careful planning, though - we're not likely to see major changes here in the Valley, but there's a good chance we'll see small ones, and that, according to Blacksburg Town Manager Marc Verniel, requires careful
planning and supplementation of alternative revenue streams. Something we ought to be doing anyhow.
What's to come? I certainly don't know. I feel confident, however, that the Valley will continue to grow and thrive despite what the short-term holds. What do you expect to see?
I've come across a few things that I just haven't gotten around to talking about, 'cause in between searching for the new Hokie Express and actually trying to sell a property or two this week, I've just run out of time. So, here are a few things I thought might be of interest:
The NRVLiving Real Estate Show live and in prime time tomorrow, 10am. We'll have Beth Mann from Cabinetry By Design in studio, and Mark Weddle will stop by to make a Big HUGE announcement! 810am or 810wpin.com, call in at 866-961-1430 if you have a question you'd like to ask!
My refrigerator broke down the other night. I reach in the other night and pull out a warm beer and soggy, frozen corn. How's that for a gourmet meal? Didn't make sense - two years old, a fridge shouldn't die that soon, should it?
I called two local repair shops who said they don't work on Frigidaire models, but one repair shop recommended a company called Kittinger Appliance Services. So I did. And it was worth it.
When you find someone who works hard and does a good job, you want to tell folks about 'em. And Larry certainly didn't disappoint. After I called the shop and left a message, he called me back that night and said he needed to work me in but that he'd do his best. I didn't hear from him Day #1, but about 8pm last night he
called me and said he had just finished up a job and would be glad to swing by now. I was impressed - I didn't want him coming by if it was going to be a big job, but certainly appreciated him thinking of me at the end of the day.
Long story short, he showed up today. Turns out it was a bad "timer", or something like that. $100 and I was on my way, good as new.
Need a good refrigerator repairman? Know someone who does? I'd recommend Larry Kittinger, (540) 382-3381. Tell him I told you to call.
It's official, the Huckleberry Trail is growing. One of our area's unique features for its length as well as its ability to connect two Towns in our area, Christiansburg Town Council and Bill Ellenbogen - president of Friends of the Huckleberry - announced plans to extend the Trail to the Christiansburg Recreation Center. The current Trail runs from the Blacksburg Library to the New River Mall, a distance of about 5.7 miles. The Trail is frequently used - though admittedly not often by this author - by individuals and families, as well as groups like the Blacksburg Striders for races and such, and connecting to the Recreation Center will open up the Trail to commercial development as well. Makes the Trail that much more useful, I think.
Already donations have come in for feasibility studies, and Gay and Neel has started work on engineering study. I'm excited to see this one come to fruition, it'll be a nice addition to an already unique aspect of our community. Which reminds me ... maybe I should use the Huckleberry more often. You can check out the Huckleberry Trail here.
Blacksburg and Virginia Tech have been in the news quite a bit lately, and while the media reported on the real sense of community and helping hands they saw extended after last Monday's tragedy, it's still unfortunate that the attention heaped upon the Town was for such a negative event. Which got me thinking ... how safe are we REALLY? It's not a favorite topic, exposing the seedy underside of the community you live in, but an important part of determining where you and your family should live involves the examination of crime statistics, and after last week's events I thought it would be good to revisit why I still believe the New River Valley is a safe place to live. Unfortunate tragedies happen everywhere, and Blacksburg happens to now be on that list for eternity. Let's look at how the communities of Blacksburg, Radford and Montgomery County report their crime statistics, and compare those to the state capital of Richmond. (For the purposes of reporting, Christiansburg is not included as it
wasn't directly clear where the statistics were on their website.)
It was quickly apparent that every community reports their statistics very differently. For instance, Montgomery County and Blacksburg allow you to search various times of the year as well as the most recent week, while Radford's updated statistics were only for the month of December 2006. In these three areas you'll see that the majority of cases reported included larceny, vandalism, and intoxication. I didn't count up all the individual cases but at first glance I think that's what you'll find. Feel free to dig into the various communities a little more by visiting Blacksburg's police report, Radford's crime map, and Montgomery County's monthly crime report (Download mont_co_crime_419.pdf). You can find Richmond's report here - in five days last week there were several robberies, rapes, shooting assaults and a few homicides. I'm not putting Richmond or other areas down - crime is an unfortunate event in any society, but the events here at Virginia Tech highlight the need for us to all examine our personal security. For instance as REALTOR's, when we write an offer to purchase property we insert language into our Contracts encouraging buyers to use the Sex Offender database offered by the Virginia State Police, and do whatever other due diligence they need to to be comfortable with their decision. The efforts to fight crime don't just lie with our public defenders, but with all of us. Isn't that what McGruff taught us?