Paper challenged to probe UDO inequities

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 4, 2004

Editor, the News-Herald:

Your recent piece about the so-called Unified Development Ordinance (UDO – read that &uot;People Control Ordinance&uot;) and its Family Transfer wrongs was interesting. I was Chairman of the Suffolk Chapter of Virginians for Economic Prosperity (VEP-Suffolk) which fought long and hard against the UDO. But in the end the voices of my membership of more than 500 Suffolk property owners and taxpayers was completely ignored, and the UDO was adopted, warts and all.

In fact, the very day the Kansas City lawyers flew to Suffolk with their 600-page-plus, draft of the UDO (which not one of the members of the City Council or the Planning Commission had even seen, let alone read), a joint meeting of the Council and the Planning Commission was already convened to pass the unseen UDO into law. Had not my group filled the school auditorium in opposition, the original, even more flawed, UDO draft would have been passed exactly as it came off the plane from Kansas

Email newsletter signup

City. Another fact regarding that meeting is that, although I was the 3rd person to sign up to speak at the so-called &uot;Public Hearing&uot; (read that &uot;stacked deck&uot;), I was the 46th person allowed to speak that night.

As for the Family Transfer provisions of the UDO, I personally identified and pointed out to the then- Mayor, City Manager, and Planning Director the gross unfairness of the &uot;10-year hold&uot; provision. I was assured that I was an alarmist, and no problem would ever exist if there was a &uot;real hardship.&uot; On a purely personal note, I spent several thousand dollars to hurriedly prepare and file a Family Transfer application before the UDO could be passed so that I could give each of my 3 sons a lot. Since then I have paid more than $5,000 a year in additional taxes just to keep those lots ready for my sons when they are able to afford to build there. I don’t dare put the lots back into Land Use because I know I’ll never be allowed to reinstate such lots when my sons need them.

I challenge you to have one of your reporters look into the UDO and its gross inequities. For starters, I suggest they ask, as I did before the UDO was adopted, why it is a crime to park your fully licensed vehicle (with its Suffolk Decal) in the Front Set-Back Area of your own property for more than a stated number of hours. Or maybe ask why the UDO uses terms regarding real estate transfers and recordations which have no meaning under Virginia law, or why certain UDO sections refer the reader to other non-existent UDO sections. What business the City has in dictating the number of windows (and their locations) one must put in a new home could be another question.

But, I guess it would be too much to ask this Council to repeal and correct the many UDO flaws. Heavens no!!, that might mean someone at some level in the city government might appear to have made a mistake.

C. L. Willis, P. E.