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Group Urges Smart Riverfront Development

Still, those who turned out are united in their view of the James. They envision it 10 years from now looking much like it does today: unencumbered, accessible and natural. Sure, some development, even lots of growth, is fine, they say — as long as it's planned and smart.

And that's why the group has organized recently.

On June 17 at 2 p.m., Richmond's planning commission is scheduled to meet to vote on new zoning ordinances that will be applied to potential construction along the river from 18th Street eastward into Henrico County.

The zoning designations under consideration are RF (for riverfront), RF1, RF2 and conditional use. RF is what most people refer to as the developer ordinance, meaning it gives the developer the greatest latitude to choose what to do with the property. This is the only designation that the citizen group adamantly opposes.

"We're not anti-business or anti-development," says Alexander Macaulay, an attorney with Scenic Virginia who is involved with the citizens' group. "What's under consideration will cover the entire riverfront," he says. "It's a matter of logical planning over illogical planning."

So far, two developments — Rockett's Landing and Rockett's Bluff — have been proposed in various forms to city officials.

It's too early to tell what the two very different proposals would bring to the riverside. And that's precisely why the group is concerned. It hopes to convince the planning commission to reject the RF designation. Then it aims to sway City Council.

"We're going to go all out to educate them," says Macaulay, about good examples of smart waterside growth like Richmond on the Thames, of all places. Mayor Rudy McCollum returns from the English sister city this week.

Maybe he'll have a new appreciation for how scenic views around the James should be preserved, Macaulay says. "We don't want it done in a negative way that will damage the river for generations to come." — Brandon Walters

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