I applaud Thad Williamson's assessment of the Echo Harbour controversy and the Downtown Master Plan (“Echo Chamber,” Back Page, April 29). He describes the developers' arguments for what they are: a thinly veiled and weakly argued attempt to have the city compromise the central principles of its downtown master plan so that they can cash in on a bet they made in buying this property.
As one of the many Richmonders whose investment in and hope for the city was intensified by participating in the master planning process, I hope the Planning Commission has the good sense to think long term about this and other attempts to replace the vision articulated in the master plan with bad compromises and cynical, pessimistic calls to be practical.
The phrase attributed to City Council President Kathy Graziano in the last Planning Commission hearing in response to the proposal to make the property a riverfront park was, “We can't take care of the green spaces we already have.” Such a statement demonstrates a failure of vision and leadership. If it is true that Richmond does not take good care of its existing green spaces, does that mean it cannot find ways to do so, and that it should never dare to think in ambitious terms about real changes in the quality of life in Richmond because it might mean rethinking and reprioritizing?
Too many of the individuals with influence over the Echo Harbour project and the master plan seem to forget that the plan is about defining a vision of the Richmond we would like to have years and decades down the road. We have defined (and City Council approved) the principles that will get us there. Let's stick to them.
Director of Community Development Rachel Flynn is the antithesis of the words “community” and “development.” Her bizarre public outburst at the April 20 Planning Commission meeting showed a disturbing absence of leadership and an embarrassing lack of self-control: As long as I'm in charge, there'll be no Echo Harbour development!
Perhaps she really believes she is in charge now that Wilder is gone. (At last check, the mayor and City Council were in charge.) Flynn's confrontational behavior is an artifact of the last mayor's administration, and needs to be replaced with positive and effective leadership that is more in tune with the current administration.