Monday, February 6, 2017

This Week Our Special Guest Speaker Will Be Roanoke City Councilman, John Garland.

Hi Everyone,

We’ve got a fantastic meeting lined up for this Tuesday. Our special guest speaker will be City Councilman John Garland.

Last time John was with us was during our City Council Debate. Most REI members voted for John Garland & Michelle Dykstra and John is coming to talk to us about what he has been doing to help us.

Historic preservation, historic rehabilitation, tax credits, economic development and code enforcement are going to be some of the topics that we will discuss.

I have had several conversations with John since he was voted in for council and since then we have seen many examples of how the city is extremely difficult to deal with. When we first started talking John explained to me how his personal experience working with the city has been very easy. But I think since then he has been given enough other perspectives that he may have changed his mind.

One of our friends who came out to our meeting once, Darryl Thompson, is currently getting attacked in court by the city for having beautiful antique amusement park rides on his land.

Just a few weeks ago a pizza shop was to open in the West End of Roanoke and the city jumped in the way and prevented it from happening. Corbin Prydwen, the person who is opening it, has always done very high end work and is largely responsible for the dramatic positive changes that have happened within the neighborhood over there. The highly qualified building inspectors also looked it over and were happy with the work as expected. They determined that everything was done safely and to code.

But the city decided to throw up a road block and complicate things requiring architectural drawings as well so they can look it back over for a while. They have stated that they needed to have those by law. I don’t know for sure if that is true as I have personally caught a few of them lying to me in an attempt to satisfy their objectives several times. Regardless, if it is the case that an architect is required by law, for all change of use of a building, even when no walls are moved, than they should have an architect on staff that will help people through the process to the degree of even holding their hand and doing the drawings themselves. Just like the Zoning Department will do with the complicated zoning appeals. They are very good about giving you a helping hand to get through it when needed. And they will write the entire appeal for you if they agree with what you’re doing.

This isn’t rocket science guys. It’s real easy to think out of the box, determine what types of problems exist and develop good positive solutions to fix them. But the city for so many years now has not been interested in going outside the boundaries that they have historically created for themselves. And it appears that the lower level management is incapable of change. Or they are being told by the upper management to hold their ground and circle the wagon. I don’t know.

Then for icing on the cake, just last week Grover Price’s Hope Center, a non profit that helps inner city children in NW Roanoke, had to shut down. They were being attacked by the city and threatened that they would chain the doors and shut them down. Chris Chittum, Roanoke City Planning Director, who is the top guy over all of the departments down there that pertain to zoning, permits, code, etc, replied to the news video below. He didn’t seem to know exactly why the Hope Center was being attacked so he guessed.

Have a look at this video. It’s pretty sad. And not just because the city did this to the children or a non profit. It’s sad that they would do that to ANYONE.

These are ONLY issues that I am personally aware of. I’m sure there have been several businesses per week that have had road blocks set up. Some of which decided that they will just do business elsewhere. Those that didn’t and had to attempt to push through it were the ones that already had too much invested in the city to easily or cost effectively back out. No wonder why so many people say Roanoke City Hates Business.

I’m told every week by someone that they will never buy another commercial / residential rental within the city limits. That they would rather spend their money in towns that value their investment dollars.

It’s real important for the city and neighborhood groups, some of which are doing the whining, to fully understand what happens to the value of property when they drive off investment dollars by nit picking businesses to the degree that they force them out. And attacking businesses is not the way you get the business to do what you want them to do. Obviously positive relationships are required.

Those of us who are buying these low income beater houses and fixing them up to make them nice places to live are an extreme treasure to the city. We are willing to spend our hard earned investment money within the city limits which in turn ends up raising the tax assessed value of every surrounding property including the one we fix up. Further lining the pockets of the city. We should be treated with utmost respect.

When they city runs us off the economic impact is tremendous. No wonder why we have been skimming across the bottom ever since the property values dropped from the recession. We never got that big return like everywhere else did. Several areas such as Tampa Florida are not only back to pre recession levels but they are much higher.

Fewer and fewer people having a desire to buy city property and then set themselves up to go through the attack by the city causes the values of all property to drop. And one would ask why people try to duck and dodge the permit process even though the property that they are working on they fully intend to fix up to code, without a permit. When investors are driven off and don’t want houses in a given area due to the problems associated with ownership, it creates a higher supply of those houses, which in turn causes the values of them to decrease as a result of the limited handful of people bidding on them. And when those values drop, so does the tax assessed value and the money that the city has to work with.

It’s a nasty circle. But it doesn’t have to be. The city does have the ability to fix the problems they have instead of trying to foolishly act like they are perfect and everything they do is right. Fortunately they still do have investors willing to stick their hand out and forgive them for what they have done in the past. Investors willing to jump on board and work together in a positive manor that will result in increased property values for all. But the city has to realize that they must listen to us and compromise is required. It’s not my way or the highway as it has always been with them. Otherwise change will never happen and nothing they do will work. ALL parties have to be willing participants.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we ALL believe in operating safe businesses. As landlords we obviously don't want to get sued. We also like to keep our tenants as it’s a pain to rent to someone and then a few months later have to clean the place back up and do it all over again. And no tenant is going to stay long in a house that is in bad shape. It’s real important to us to keep safe, clean and habitable environments for our residents.

But this isn’t something that I have to tell you. You already know that. I have to explain that time and time again to the city as for some crazy reason they seem to believe that if you complain about a rogue code enforcer going beyond what they legally are allowed to do than you must be a slumlord. The simple fact that they even think that is quite shocking and offensive.

As a former board member for Roanoke City Neighborhood Advocates, I have even heard people say REI of Virginia in it’s entirety is a slumlord group. All 850 people… Are you kidding me??? This only comes from a small handful of these sick minded people that want to blame everything on the landlord. The level of ignorance and hate out there is quite shocking. I have been to several of their very own homes that are riddled with code violations.

They don’t seem to realize that our houses get rental certificate inspections every 4 years. We also often get Section 8 inspections as well as insurance company inspections. My houses in the low income areas are the NICEST houses there largely due to all of these inspections.

The primary legitimate complaints that these people have are all very easily solvable and pertain to what the tenant does. Such as a tenant having outdoor storage. A tenant leaving an inoperable vehicle in the driveway with the tire off for a couple days because they aren’t wealthy enough to buy another one immediately. A tenant putting a couch on the porch because they feel that its perfectly acceptable to do so. A tenant not keeping the grass cut at exactly 10 inches and not a millimeter higher.

These issues mainly pertain to different socioeconomic status. They hate poor people and the way they live. It’s as simple as that. And they blame that hate on Landlords not doing anything about it to force these people via the lease to live the way they want them to live. As if they were in a neighborhood association. They think they are better than you at running a rental business even though they have never done it before and they have no idea about fair housing laws, what the judges do and don’t care about, etc.

I have been to most of the various neighborhood group meetings across the city. They most often consist of anywhere from 2 to 15 city employees on the clock including neighborhood police, code enforcement, a deputy, and on rare occasion a city councilman, etc. Several of them, such as code, or a neighborhood cop and a deputy are scheduled to be there at every single meeting. I have been to several where the city employees far outnumber the neighborhood association members.The typical group has from 2 to 15 total people in attendance who live in the neighborhood.  Several consist of no more than 2 to 3 people that get together once a month. A far cry from our massive group of heavily taxed citizens / business owners. I’ve found that in many cases these people are not an adequate representation of he neighborhood as they are hated by almost everyone in it. It’s not only the landlords that they complain about. They are busy bodies and they spend a great deal of their days turning in other owner occupied neighbors as well for any city infraction they can find.

The city also sends employees to regularly attend some of the other business groups such as the Williamson Rd Business Association and the Downtown Business Association. But they never decided that it was important to send regular people to the largest group of property owners in this region and likely the entire state. Even though we own on average 63% of the entire residential areas of the city. In some areas it is reported as much as 85%.

All of these problems that the city has are fixable to a thinker capable of developing solutions. But these types of insurmountable problems probably are best off solved by someone who has actual entrepreneurial business experience rather than the bureaucrat who has worked for someone or the government their whole lives. Those people are trapped in a world that makes them brain dead.

Fixing the problem requires listening and understanding that there is one. Not just listening to the squeaky wheel that is yelling and screaming but listening to all of those involved. Attacking small businesses and landlords will never be the solution. Throwing up road blocks won’t be either. One has to understand that when someone is opening a business there already are plenty of other things that they are thinking of and trying to figure out. The last thing they need is the city trying to make them beg to grant them the special privlagdge of being able to earn a living.

Yes, that’s right, I said it. Government get out of the way!

It’s going to be a fun meeting. Cancel your plans. Come on out and spend an evening with some good like minded people.

See you there!


Unknown on February 6, 2017 at 6:59 PM said...

Who wrote this?

Blah on February 6, 2017 at 8:44 PM said...

This author is exactly why I'm not part of REI despite owning many rental properties in Roanoke City.

Blah on February 6, 2017 at 8:47 PM said...

Dallas, of course. Everything he has ever written about anything always devolves into a massive anti-Roanoke rant.

Dallas ® on February 7, 2017 at 4:44 PM said...

Unknown and Blah. That figures that you hide your names. You two slumlords are clearly the reason for the blight.

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