Tuesday, March 25, 2008

HPLA: Mortuary appealing zoning denial for 530 Sycamore Street

Brought to my attention yesterday by a neighbor and verified by Joe Hatch today by phone:

Shirley P Johnson Funeral Home, which was formerly on Halifax Street across from the Tabernacle Church before a fire damaged the building in January, is hoping to reopen at 530 Sycamore Street, which is on the corner of Sycamore Street at Walnut. The building has been empty, and was previously a doctor's office.

The service is small, about 3 to 4 funerals a month, according to the owners. They were denied use of this building, which would initially be a leased property, and are appealing the zoning decision this Thursday, March 27 at 2:00 pm on the third floor of City Hall.

If you have an opinion and cannot make it to the meeting on Thursday, you may submit a letter to
Joseph Hatch, Zoning Administrator
135 N. Union Street
Petersburg, Virginia 23803

For questions, please call Mr. Hatch at 804-733-2309.

posted by Mady

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Ward 4 meeting on April 3 at 6:30pm

The Ward 4 meeting will be on April 3 starting at 6:30pm at St Mark's Methodist Church. (Address and link to map below.) A rep from the Assessor's office will be attending, as will reps to discuss the new library project and South Side Train Station. The Old Towne Merchant's Association will be doing the reception. Councilman Moore will not be distributing fliers this time, but he will send out a telephone message.

St Mark's Methodist Church
225 Claremont St
Petersburg, VA 23805
(804) 733-4487

posted by Mady

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Monday, March 24, 2008

HPF notification of 503 W. Washington Street approval by ARB

HPLA was sent a notification from Historic Petersburg Foundation of a recent decision by the Architectural Review Board to approve a commercial trailer as a temporary structure for the Islamic Temple at 503 W. Washington Street in the Folly Castle Historic District.

The concern is that the trailer was approved for a year's use, and it is believed by HPF that the approved commercial trailer will linger past its approved time period. HPF would like the ARB to work with the house of worship to find a more appropriate structure for their use.

HPF has filed an appeal with the ARB and requested that the issue be listed as a City Council agenda item.

HPF asked me to share this information with you and requests that write a letter to Isaac Ward, Chair of the ARB, expressing opposition to the the March 12 decision approving the temporary structure.

The ARB information follows:
Architectural Review Board
Department of Planning & Community Development
City Hall, Room 304, Petersburg, Virginia 23803

If you have any questions, please contact David Primeaux, president of Historic Petersburg Foundation, at the below address:
Historic Petersburg Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 691
Petersburg, Virginia 23804
Telephone: 804-732-2096 Fax: 804-733-0867
420 Grove Avenue, Petersburg, VA 23804

posted by

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Police and Community Together, a problem-solving workshop

Petersburg Bureau Of Police Presents
Police and Community Together
Tabernacle Community Life Center
444 Halifax Street
April 12, 2008
9 AM TO 4 PM
The Petersburg Bureau of Police invite you and your neighbors to attend a neighborhood problem solving workshop. Together we will focus our efforts on solving the problems you live with everyday. With the help of schools, churches, city agencies and service providers, we will make a difference in our neighborhoods and our city.
You must RSVP by March 28, 2008—Please Call 863-2726
Neighborhoods Including the West End, the Heights, Pocahontas Island and Old Towne
Wards 7– Webb, 6-Coleman, 5- Mickens and 4- Moore
Breakfast and lunch will be served compliments of Motorola.

posted by Mady

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Become an HPLA blogger!

If you are a Poplar Lawn resident and want to post on our blog, please sign up for a blogger account and email the neighborhood (PoplarLawn-at-gmail) for an invitation. All opinions are welcome. We do not censor, and we allow everyone to comment.

posted by Mady

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Answers to HPLA Questions received in emails and through blog

Hi, everyone:

There have been some questions and concerns sent to me, and I will do my best to address them here.

Question: "When did Mady take over from Phil as President? Who are the board members?"

Answer: In name, I have been president this past year, but Phil and I have been working as co-presidents so the position would be filled.

Currently, the HPLA board is made up almost entirely of emeriti because we have not had parties interested in running for board membership. Despite requests for board members, many of these requests made personally to people in our community, there has just not been a resource for board members. That is understandable, as people in our neighborhood are just too busy helping our city and neighborhood in other ways. However, the board is now made up of the same people who have been doing this for years, and who are all stretched a bit thin. Hopefully, with the influx of new neighbors, we will have lots of new board members this year.

The board members are as follows:
Amy Rizzo, Mady Dersch, Kathy Fields and Phil Cheney are all emeriti who are staying on the board to try to help keep it going. Christine Shorr (past president) agreed to be on the board as an emeritus member as well. Jeff Abugel is in his last year in his term, but we don't ever want to lose him because he keeps his eye out for crime, always shows up when needed, and writes hilarious blog entries. Susette Kearns (who is one of our most dependable association members ever and shows up to everything but who does not reside in her home here in Poplar Lawn) was our only new member this year. Amy agreed to stay on in the VP position, and Mady stepped up to the President position for the year, with Phil's help.


Question: "Why didn't HPLA support High Street's Holiday Party last year?"

Answer: There have been several accusations that we did not promote last year's All Neighborhoods Party. While this accusation in and of itself seems sort of ludicrous, (Why would there be an organized attempt to systemically thwart a social event?) the HPLA board commits its support to the 2006 Holiday Party hosted by High Street.

On the contrary, the neighborhood was emailed last year with notification of the High Street-sponsored party. Mady also personally delivered to residents the hard copies that were given to us by High Street and did the usual call tree calls for the 2006 party at the same time that she called residents to inform them of the HPLA 2006 party. (not a lot of people came to the HPLA party in 2006 either).

The short answer: HPLA announced the 2006 Holiday Party hosted by High Street. The party was advertised by High Street and by HPLA. Not a lot of people went. A resonable guess is that people were busy with all the other parties and commitments during the holidays, which brings me to our next concern ...


Question: "Why didn't we have a Christmas Party this year?"

Answer: Everyone in our neighborhood was too busy: we all have careers and commitments and old houses that need fixing and families, etc. All of those things are priorities and should be. The holidays are a busy time. People are over-extended, and we all have a difficult time making it to all of the potential engagements.

Much discussion went around the board trying to justify a party that may not even be well attended: our last several have been a waste of money and really poorly attended. Ideas were thrown around to instead do something community-minded and improve the city with something other than a party that gets lost amidst all the other celebrating of the season or have a party at another time of the year.

We had very little budget to work with because we had not collected everyone's dues. We could not afford to rent a location, and no one wanted to offer a space. The usual players who balance the majority of the neighborhood association's workload were all stretched thin with work, moving, job searches, family commitments and illness, and travel.


Question: "Are we having a party to make up for the one we didn't have"?

Answer: A subcommittee has been formed by the fabulous Debra Robles to work on planning a social event. They are meeting and we will get back to everuone on the decision that is made about a social engagement for the combined neighborhood associations.


Question: "Why did we ask those outside of Poplar Lawn to bring anything to the party, back when we originally were scheduled to have a holiday party? I have never heard of guests from other Neighborhood Associations bringing anything."

Answer: In the past, we have been asked to bring things to parties outside of our neighborhood. Additionally, outsiders have brought things to our parties before. When the newbies on the board (the lot of us) came here, that was how we were told it was done, and how we'd been doing it. Otherwise, we wouldn't have shlepped all those ham biscuits to othe neighborhoods' parties. (And the invitation to our last all-neighborhoods holiday party, the one at At The Globe, had the same request on the invitation. No one set us straight that time.) We've learned our lesson now.


Question: "Why aren't we meeting regularly? Why don't we meet in peoples houses like we used to?"

Answer: Our bylaws say every other month. If we have a meeting with city officials made available to the neighborhood, we count that as a meeting. We actually have met a fair amount, but sometimes those meetings are poorly attended. if you would like to host a meeting, let us know.


Question: "To whom do I pay my dues? Are my dues paid for this year? Why are our dues due in June instead of Janurary?"

Answer: Pay dues to our treasurer, Kathy Fields. Our fiscal year starts in the summer per our bylaws.


Question: "...where is HPLA? Is the association on hiatus, or has it just died altogether?"

Answer: It's still around, with a few people doing a few things when they can. We need your help, though. If you like what we do, help us. If you hate our guts and everything we do, please, please throw a coup and take it over.

posted by Mady

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Car break-in

Please read this account of an incident in Poplar Lawn that occurred February 27.

I was home early (3:00 PM) and unloading groceries from my car. I had made one quick trip into house, let the dog in the back yard and followed him to the driveway. He immediately started barking and when I got to my car, I saw a man walking down my driveway toward the street. I quickly looked in my car (which was unlocked - I know, I'm
stupid!) and saw that it had been gone through and items all about.

I called for him to stop, which he did, and asked him what he was doing in my yard. He said that he had stopped for a break and was walking down the street. I asked him what he had done with the things he had taken form my car ( I wasn't sure at this point what had been taken) and he said that he didn't take anything, but that Dave Harrison might have.

At this point I pulled out my cell phone and said I was going to call the police and let them get it straight. He then reached in his coat pocket and pulled out my XM radio receiver and another cell phone I own. He gave them to me and walked quickly across Fillmore to the park. In the middle of the park, another guy (the lookout?) called "Mike" to him and went over to see him. They both headed north on Sycamore. Later, after going through my car more thoroughly, I found that about $3.00 in change had been taken. I then called the police to
make a report. They sent an officer out and he walked the property with me.

Please let our neighbors know not to be as foolish (that's mild) as me. I honestly was gone from my car a total of five minutes in the middle of the day! I will never leave my car unlocked again, unless I can see it. By the way, the police officer encouraged me to report any and all
suspicious behavior, no matter how odd it may seem.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Booty Call Night at the Library?

We're all familiar with Friday for the Arts, but last Wednesday evening seemed to initiate a new event with which we were not familiar. Coming home with a friend around 6:30 or so we noticed a large group of young people hanging around the library, as well as the mysterious buildings next door. It seems more likely that they were attending some kind of function at one of those buildings since my friend, who lives on Adams, and I both noticed a couple making out heavily against a fence. A half hour later, my friend came by and told me he had called the police because the couple in question had advanced to having sex on the ground just beyond his backyard. The police didn't come. A few minutes later I observed a gold van parked on Adams between Marshall and Tulip Alley. As I approached it I found a couple engaged in oral sex in the front seat, while it was still daylight. Unwisely, I yelled something sarcastic and read out their license plate, which, by the way, was JEM 1518. It didn't phase them and so they continued. I called the police, who this time, were more responsive.

The man was not impressive, by the way. But had he been a true man, like Gov. Spitzer, he would have at least gotten a room, even if the local going rate is closer to $5 or a hit of crack.

I can't wait until next Wednesday!
-jeff A

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Time for the Historic Districts to Unite

As discussed at a recent HPLA meeting, it is high time for all the Historic Districts of Petersburg to unite as one. This unification is long overdue, for obvious reasons.

Each historic district shares the same concerns. They include, but are certainly not limited to:

The preservation of and proper restoration of historic buildings;
The eradication of group homes, drug houses, halfway houses, and any and all establishments that denigrate or detract from historic neighborhoods;
The proper attention to maintenance of streets, control of traffic flow and pedestrian safety;
Accountability, and attention to aesthetics by city crews, utility companies etc. toward any and all public work done within historic districts;
Proper maintenance, rule enforcement, and patrols of all city parks within historic districts;
Rerouting of traffic which currently destroys delicate buildings; the most obvious example of this benign neglect is the use of Old Street as a primary artery for 18-wheel trucks and worse!

The list goes on and on. Each neighborhood association can ask for these things separately and be ignored, or they can join forces as one and demand action through a show of strength.

The fact is, most people within the historic districts are here for that very reason. Some of us are here for no other reason. We are not here for the quality of life, the great schools or the proximity to the beach, or access to the freeway. We are here for the history of the place, the homes in which we have sunk tons of money and for which we now pay increased taxes. A pleasant side benefit has been the many wonderful neighbors we have met all of whom share many of the same interests. These friendships cross neighborhood lines and add strength to the argument for one overriding association. All of us are appalled at the degree to which the state, city officials, absentee landlords, and even many residents have allowed Petersburg to decay and deteriorate to sub-third-world standards in the last thirty years. It is intolerable. A forceful, unified group of taxpayers living within historic districts should now execute the power it deserves to hold.

Keep posted as this new and powerful organization takes root.
—jeff a

Tulip Alley Worse Than Ever

Despite the two apparent arrests mentioned earlier, the residents of Tulip Alley have re-emerged with a vengeance. Like cockroaches, two go away one day, and ten show up the next. The houses on Tulip Alley are overcrowded firetraps with successful, ongoing, entrenched drug businesses thriving within and without, all hours of the night and day. Sometimes, vagrants wander down there and walk away cursing loudly because, for the moment, the store is closed. When they return a few hours later, the store is open for business again. There are either 20 people living in the easternmost shack, or there is simply an ongoing, nonstop trade. Last I heard, the Alley was not zoned for commercial use, but then again, the laws here only exist for those who follow them. I am quite certain now that nothing will ever be done about this nuisance. We, who have invested heavily in the neighborhood, will continue to see our taxes raised and be subjected to nonstop traffic up and down the alley. The slumlord who owns these shacks should at least get a business license. Oh, i forgot, he is a preacher, and so doesn't pay taxes.
Despite all the newspaper hype about downtown Petersburg, which is merely hype and little more, Poplar Lawn is getting worse. Drug traffic has increased, loud, wandering gangs of kids have appeared, and with all this has come the noise pollution of loud mouthed-transients whose three-word vocabulary centers on using the F-word as often and as loudly as possible. The Public Defender's Office, which has no business in a residential neighborhood, invites true or would-be criminals to our nicest street daily—simply because of the landlord's greed.
So where are all the neighborhood activists? Where are the building inspectors? Where are the police who still fail to show up after being called at 2 AM? And, perhaps most important, where is HPLA? Is the association on hiatus or has it just died altogether? Together, perhaps we can fight these things. So the real question is: Has the malaise and indifference that has long been a Petersburg tradition now infected our neighborhood association as well?

—Jeff a