This blog includes news about City Hall, city schools and other 22401 news.Pamela Gould reports on City Hall. You can reach her at 540-735-1972 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or email@example.com.
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Last night’s City Council meeting dragged on past midnight. Here are a few highlights of what the group did in Tuesday’s waning hours:
- Renewed the city manager’s contract – The council took a unanimous vote to extend City Manager Phillip Rodenberg’s contract for two years, with the option of a two-year renewal after that. The vote followed a closed session where the council members evaluated Rodenberg’s performance.
- Eased downtown parking requirements (a little) – The council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance that basically allows city officials to waive up to 50 required parking spaces in the downtown area. The idea is to prevent small businesses from scrapping downtown plans because they can’t find enough available asphalt to satisfy the current zoning requirements for parking. Stay tuned on this issue, though, because the Planning Commission and the council are both trying to figure out a better approach to the downtown parking issue.
- Asked questions about the University of Mary Washington - Council members were asked to vote to authorize the University of Mary Washington Real Estate Foundation’s pursuit of tax-exempt bonds to refinance its purchase of the big house at William Street and College Avenue. The foundation is seeking the bonds from Stafford County and Staunton’s industrial development authorities, and the debt will have no impact on city finances. But some council members wondered whether, since it’s the real estate foundation and not the state-run university that owns the house, that foundation should have to follow more local regulations (like following zoning and parking rules and paying real estate taxes) than the university does. The answer, from City Attorney Kathleen Dooley, was that since the state university is the user of the property, it doesn’t fall under the city’s zoning laws. As for taxes, Assistant City Manager Beverly Cameron reported that the property, owned by that nonprofit real estate foundation, has already been removed from the tax rolls. In the end, only Councilman Marvin Dixon voted against authorizing the financing (which isn’t connected to the zoning and local tax issues). He said his vote reflected his concerns that the university is taking more of the city’s property off the tax rolls, and that when it buys something, the city usually gets no say in how that property gets used.
There was also an interesting discussion about the tourism and technology zones Economic Development Director Kevin Gullette plans to use to attract what he calls “catalyst businesses” to major city corridors. The council took the first of two votes required to approve these incentive zones last night. The incentives they allow are part of the package that helped bring Wegman’s food market to Celebrate Virginia (read Cathy Jett’s story about that here). I’m working on a story about these zones for the paper.