Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Thanks to Trudy Feigum, we have the minutes of the last Middle Peninsula Planning District Committee meeting. If you are not attending these meetings, I think you will see the need to do so. Thanks Trudy.

MPPDC Notes from October 26, 2011 Meeting

(Note from Betty Lucas: there are 23 Commissioners on the MPPDC. Only 12 are present for tonight's meeting and only 8 of those are elected officials. Is a quorum not required to conduct business? Who really is making the decisions that impact us?)

Acting Executive Director's Report:
Regional Water Supply Plans now being given public hearing by counties and localities within the district. According to Louie, some counties have had to delay adoption of the Plan for various reasons and "that's o.k."

Project 32115P, Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program. This will impact Middlesex County (and other counties on the water). Intention is to determine how the private landowner's right to develop a commercial aquaculture business fits in with the authority being assumed by local government to zone all water in creeks and rivers. It took eight months (!) to come up with four recommendations; i.e., (1) take no action (authority remains with local land-use); (2) adopt legislation to regulate; (3) amend Right to Farm Act to apply only to aquaculture in ag districts and ag areas; (4) place aquaculture under state oversight, including land-based activities and areas already managed by VMRC.

Project 30309 Rural Transportation Planning. Clara Meier, staff planner, attended first Broadband Authorities information meeting, hosted by Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority and Department of Housing and Community Development; discussed barriers and obstacles that wireless/broadband authorities and projects have faced throughout VA. [Government is working hard to regulate radio, TV, and Internet.]

Project 33000 Middle Peninsula Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. MPPDC staff attended a Federal Reserve conference, "Unleashing the Power of Local Data". Want to find ways to locate and use public data to "further educated decision making." [This is scary…]

Agency Administration. MPPDC board room limited to 36 people. Entire building limited to 50 people.
Public Participation Rules – by VA Code 2.2-3707, there is no statutory mandate to have public comment at regular PDC meetings. Rules:
*All speakers must give their name and locality prior to start of meeting (had to sign in at front door of board room). Louie shook my hand.
*Each speaker will be limited to 3 minutes.
*No one may cede their time to another speaker.
*Speakers who can't complete their comments within the 3 minutes may submit their comments in writing and may submit 25 copies to make available to Commissioners.
*Comments must be directly related to items on current or last Commission Meeting Agenda.
*Written comments must include name and election district of the author.
*Public Comment will be limited to 20 minutes per regular Commission meeting.

Public Comments:
Trudy Feigum talked about negative impact Regional Water Supply Plan will have on Middlesex County.
Betty Lucas provided handouts to explain her comments relating to September minutes, rules for public comment and participation, Rural Regional Long-Range Transportation Plan, Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan and Regional Executive Planning Committee report.
Rural Regional Long-Range Transportation Plan Technical Report. Clara Meier gave a Power-Point presentation to update Commissioners. [This "show" was a feel-good presentation, designed to make Commissioners believe they've done something.] Points taken:
*VDOT funding is drying up rapidly. It appears county will now have final authority over all secondary roads [more money the county will have to come up with!].
*Entire Plan coming to MPPDC in December for local and regional adoption. Recommendations contained in Plan may be out of sync with local projects, according to Meier. All priorities will be recommended at/by local level.
*Light rail is not part of this district's plan.
*Meier will check on Mathews County bridges—question was "news" to her about needed replacement.
*After review locally "we" are to tell Commissioners what needs to be done that's not been addressed.
*Bicycle Paths are the #1 recreational desire in communities, according to Meier.

Sea Level Rise. Louie Lawrence was extremely excited about this, telling Commissioners the level of the Bay is rising, more flooding is occurring, there are more hurricanes, etc., and "this PDC must address these facts and decide what must be done." [No one, particularly Louie, said one word about increased winds that are not only pushing water in to the Bay, including rivers and creeks, but also not allowing the Bay to drain during tidal changes; nor THE FACT that every little wind coming out of Africa these days is given a name.] Sea Level Rise: Local Fact Sheet for the Middle Peninsula, Virginia, has been prepared by William Reay, Ph.D., and Sandra Erdle, both from VIMS. This covers everything from what we should worry about to why we should worry.

Data obtained at the Mathews Rotary Club [scientific?] is being used to help put this information together. Louie stated "scientific data is being collected locally but is not processed yet." Louie said he has asked VIMS to develop a Fact Sheet. This should include arguments about why it's happening. The Mathews Planning Commission is split on the question of sea levels rising. Louie said the Chesapeake Bay area is seeing more changes in levels than anywhere else on East Coast. Moe Lynch agreed, saying "There are definite coastal changes occurring." The next report on this will be in December or January.

*It will be up to local Planning Commissions to determine what they need to do locally. They must deal with results not causes, Lynch said. Asking civic groups for their thoughts on this is not scientific, he said. Discussion about recent information published by National Geographic: Chesapeake Bay is filling at a rapid rate with sediments—occurring from run-off, erosion, etc. "Fill up is a natural process—a geological process," Lynch said, "when salt water enters the Bay and meets fresh water, the minerals and salt settle out of the salt water to the bottom of the Bay." [It is obvious Moe Lynch is the Commission's "resident expert"…no one argues with him.]

Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan. This Plan is about how Virginia responds to the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Clean-Up order. The EPA decided that local governments must have obtained their model data from the EPA and acted upon it—having set benchmarks that must be met—within the next 90 days. According to Shawn Garvin, EPA Regional Administration, the rules are changing, however. [THIS IS GOOD NEWS.] TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) pounds of pollutants allowable are not accurate. Ordinances may be adopted by the General Assembly and/or local governments to state what tools will be used to clean up the Bay, but not how. [A Middlesex supervisor/commissioner calls this whole Plan "a moving target".] Nothing is clear as to how this will be done, but deadlines are 12/15/11 with latest date given 2/1/12. VAST is not going well, according to Louie. [I don't know what this means.] VAST data is too complicated. Discussion: Do nothing as a local government and the General Assembly or EPA will tell you what to do. Louie: State is deficient in providing communications and directions to local governments. "Models are good on a large scale, but do not work well on a local scale due to local information not being included," said Moe Lynch. It was agreed to start taking action locally and copy legislators. 2025 the results will be tested. There is to be no data manipulation. "Good model; lousy data" for the chlorophyll regulations on the James River, said Moe.

WATCH FOR THIS: Louie Lawrence will draft an ordinance and send it to all Boards of Supervisors in the PDC to regulate the "how" of the Bay Clean Up order.

Regional Executive Planning Committee. Formed to study future of MPPDC. Came out with four work products:
1. Dues to PDC will in essence double in FY 13-14
2. Public partnership needs to be increased
3. Public outreach needed; developed pamphlet to send to all Boards of Supervisors*
4. Assessed Louie Lawrence's performance/progress since becoming Acting Director

Chairman Theberge gave a pep talk: There is such high "value" for PDC staff and work they do. Counties couldn't possibly keep up with all the grants, managing contracts without the PDC. She said the Commissioners must recognize how important it is to get the work of the Commission done without allowing the time to be taken up with public comment! [Obviously, part of her plan for "public outreach".] She said there must be a major effort put forward to educate PDC members and Boards of Supervisors about the importance of the PDC and the need for it to be properly funded.

Theberge called the current funding for the PDC an "UNSUSTAINABLE MODEL". January 1 is 40th year of PDC being in existence. It's been almost 20 years since there was a "dues" increase for PDC member counties and localities. Don Richwine, mayor of Urbanna, objected to recommended initial dues increase; Urbanna would have to raise taxes 22% to meet the increase. He prefers a slower rise in dues, a flat rate not per capita. The year-round population of Urbanna has decreased by about 400 people this last census indicates.

Louie said that his office will "create a new fiscal model" to pay for PDC staff and building costs up front from grant monies and then the work product. He said $.80 out of every $1.00 goes to indirect costs (salaries, benefits, administration). [This is an eye opener!!!] PDC also gets money from the General Assembly. He laughingly said, "There would be less legislation if there were no PDCs!"

More discussion ensued regarding the need to develop a Public Relations Program to sell the continued need for the MPPDC. [If a PR program is needed to justify their existence, maybe the PDC isn't needed???] Commissioners agreed they should get mayors and other local government officials together to learn about PDC. After all "PDC does work that affects us in our homes!"

They agreed they will tout/sell septic pump-out program, Bay Aging, etc. And, they all agreed that it is vitally important to maintain structure, staff salaries, benefits—all administrative costs are to be covered!

Next meeting will be November 16, dinner. December meeting will be the 14th, not the 21st. Program for the November 16 meeting may change from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation panel regarding tools needed for Bay clean up. Instead, Commissioners were urged to have elected officials present to "get the sell" [Theberge's words] on PDC. What followed: lots of telling each other what a good job they do as a PDC and the importance of speaking with a united voice. "Localities would have to deal directly with state and federal governments!"


A Tea Party member sitting next to me observed, "This is better than television!"

*We, the taxpayers at the meeting, were told these pamphlets were only for the Commissioners, not for the public. Louie told the Commissioners the pamphlets didn't cost them anything [doesn't this always just amaze you?]. I managed to snag three of them.

If we fail to act against what we know is wrong, we are complicit with that wrong.

DeWitt Edwards

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