The Battle of Echo Harbor

04/10/2009 8:06 AM by

An email from Heather Dinkin concerning Echo Harbor has with much forwarding become an open letter to City Council 7th District representative Betty Squire:

Thank you for coming out […] to meet with all of us last week, and for listening to everyone’s comments and concerns. What sticks with me about your comments, is that you are going to “evaluate the facts”.

I would like to offer up some facts.

Fact # 1: The parcel that is proposed for the construction of Echo Harbor and all surrounding property is not zoned for residential construction. The owners bought this property fully aware of this fact. Even if zoning was changed, the the depth of the property would only allow, under current city code, a building of under 40 feet.  Not 240 feet or even 60 feet. So even if City Council votes to change zoning you would need to give an enormous variance to allow construction of a building of any size.
Fact #2: This property is a federally designated floodway, not a flood zone, but a floodway, which means that it floods every time the river rises, every time it rains, like now for instance, it is a swampy mess. Federal law prohibits any structure built in a floodway from impeding the flow of the river during a flood, whatever is built on it must allow the river to flow though it without slowing the water or moving it out of the way? How could the developers do this? They proposed putting parking underneath, or building a empty riser story or two under the parking. This may not even meet the Federal requirements, but remember they can’t legally build anything over forty feet even if you change zoning to suit them. Not much of a low building can be built when you need 20 feet of nothing underneath to meet federal law.
Fact #3: The property itself, as stated above, is a swamp, I have spoken to several architects and they all say the same thing, it would take tens of millions of dollars to build infrastructure to support even a small building, before  beginning the building itself, not to mention moving the combined sewage overflow pipes that will cost millions more to move.
Fact #4: All of the above can be summed up by saying this is not a property rights issue. George Ross’s clients have no more right to put a huge condo unit on that property than I have a right to put a Wal-mart or meat processing plant on my residential lot.  They can not put an industrial enterprise there because it would be too expensive to make a profit as such for the reason stated above.
So, why we have to ask are the “Developers” paying for all these plans and lobbying? There is one very probable answer, they are trying to convince City Council and the people of Richmond that this is a valuable piece of property and inflate what the city will pay in compensation when the proposed parks are finally built.  Call their bluff, they are clever and Mr. Ross is just doing what he gets paid handsomely to do, but he is trying to pass off a pig’s ear as a silk purse, they have a swampy unbuildable lot and they are now trying to get you to trade them a lot of value for it or get more money than its worth from the City.
These are the facts, see how when confronted with the infeasibility of the original plans they have begun the bait and switch. Don’t be fooled, they are trying to direct the emphasis off the real facts, they can’t legally or financially do what they are suggesting. The City should go ahead with the Master Plan as written, create a lasting enriching park to showcase our city’s beauty and  history, and pay George Ross’s clients fair market value for a piece of swampy, unbuildable land.
Thank you for your time and attention in considering these facts.
Heather Dinkin 



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