Wednesday, June 23, 2010

REAL ESTATE - More Student Housing?

We have just witnessed the approval of another student housing project. This one is no where near JMU and is on land formerly zoned for industrial use. The developer got a variance to allow more units per building and construction will start soon. Most folks don't get it. Why does it seem that these projects are popping up faster than roadside taco stands?

The truth is that student housing apartments have passed taco stands for many years, in spite of the fact that JMU has had negative demand for off campus housing since 2005. So why do we need another huge student apartment project?
We don't, but lets look at what the major players have to gain to explain this phenomenon. First of all, most of our city officials (not Carolyn) have approved rezoning, variances and development plans on the short sighted belief that the increased tax base is a good thing. The second big player is the developer, who doesn't care about our staggering surplus because they have another plan. The third force at work in this equation are the students, who tend to want those apartments that are the biggest, best and newest. They always seem to gravitate to the hot new development, no matter where it is and no matter what it costs.

So here is how the scenario works. The city re-zones land and approves the new development. The developer leases 95% of the project to students. After a few years of high occupancy and good rental income, the entire project is sold to some isolated investment group. The new owners have no idea of the thousands of surplus units because their purchase is based on the brief financial performance of the project. Developer number one takes the money and runs while the new owner has but a few years before the project starts its downward spiral.

So why should we, as innocent bystanders, care about the student housing merry go round? Because we are the big losers in the long run. Most of the formerly popular student units eventually become some form of low income housing. That bedroom at Hunters Ridge, which once cost $400 per month, can probably be rented for $150. The condo at University Place once rented to 3 students for $900 a month now houses an extended family of 8, who pay $400. These old student rentals have become a magnet, drawing in low income residents from 40 miles away and further straining our school system, social services, health care and public safety. This burden far exceeds any property tax benefit and the rest of us are paying the bill.

So, when the new student housing paradise opens in 2011, be proud, because your taxes ultimately pick up the tab for this housing surplus. Maybe they will let us use the tanning beds or the hot tub . . . . .


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

< 6 Degrees - L. Brickhouse

Today I am introducing the woman in the right of this picture.

March of 1912 in Savannah, Georgia, the first organized meeting of this group was held consisting of 18 members. By 1920 there were approximately 70,000 members and by 2005 there were over 3.7 million. Started by Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low, Girl Scouting in the U.S. began. Several months after its inception girls were hiking in the woods in their uniform skirts, playing basketball on curtained courts and camping.

MEET: Liz Brickhouse, at the age of 64 she continues to be an ardent believer in community involvement. She is a Girl Scout leader for rising 5th graders, her troop is comprised of nine young ladies. Recently the group left Harrisonburg on a Friday night and headed out for their fourth camping trip of the school year, not to return until Sunday afternoon. This is not unusual for Liz to donate her entire weekends for the cause. Currently the troop is looking for a community project where there is a particular need for action to be taken. Completion of this project would give the troop the highest award possible while in Junior Girl Scouts. How many degrees separate you from Liz?

When I questioned Ms. Brickhouse about her passion she replied, "I wish I could clean up this oil spill. I get passionate about the environment. I also have a firm belief that everyone should have health care." You can glean a great deal of information from her concerning composting and organic gardening.

You can find Liz at the RMH Wellness Center on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:30am exercising in the pool with Philecta for their health. Dripping with an approachable demeanor and an embracing smile you will think you have been her best friend for years. Thank you Lizzy for having such a positive impact on our young women.

Friday, June 4, 2010

< 6 Degrees - P. Staton

Today I will be introducing the woman on the left of this picture and next week I will tell you about the woman on the right.

Apartheid was a legal racial segregation system enforced in South Africa between 1948-1994. The rights of the majority non-white inhabitants of this area were squelched by the minority rule of whites. Uprisings, protests and violence was prevalent before the death of apartheid. Can you imagine living in this country during this overwhelming upheaval?

MEET Philecta Clarke Staton. In 1993 she returned to the U.S. after having resided in Africa for 20 years, during the fall of Apartheid. In 2007 she retired from Genworth Financial and moved to Harrisonburg to be in close proximity to her children. Philecta has been involved in ministerial work for the majority of her 69 years. How many degrees separate you from Philecta?

She is enthusiastic about her work with JMU students through a college, church ministry which includes preparing a wonderful Sunday morning breakfast for the group. When I questioned her as to her passion, I could see a plethora of topics rolling through her thoughts but I reeled her in by only requesting one of two. Gardening was in the top 10 list as well as her dedication and advocacy for the Harrisonburg Farmer's Market. Philecta is also a freelance writer. She recently completed a book on ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) designed to help with lifestyle issues of this disease and other diseases that cause swallowing issues.

You can find this caring, benevolent woman swimming on Monday, Wednesday and Friday
at the RMH Wellness Center at the early hour of 5:30 am. It would be well worth your time to venture out in the dark some morning and come meet her.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Our BIG Garden

Ok, so lets have a refresher on what has been happening in the garden. The hard workers (HW = Steve, Rob, Carolyn and Sarah) successfully planted the garden and are now harvesting numerous bags full of wonderful, heirloom veggies.

If you remember, the Queen Garden Guard (QGG) has been halfheartedly devising plans to eliminate the pesky rabbits. First there was the attempt to scare them away by yelling at them while reclining in her front porch swing, sipping lemonade, avoiding the sun (and work) at all cost. When that approach failed she posted the "Rabbits Keep Out" signs, remember those? Well come to find out our rabbits don't read English. Next came the frog riding his bicycle. Can I tell you that many nights I see the rabbits munching on greens appearing to be in deep conversation with Mr. Frog. I honestly believe they are best of friends while our friendship with QGG is waning quickly.

Then came the foil pie plates. While they are a valid deterent according to some gardners because QGG thought they looked "tacky" she discreetly attached them to the fence whereby she nor the rabbits would be bristled by there appearance.

Not questioning the perilous work QGG had undertaken, we HW are now taking matters into our own hands. See pix below.

Yes we are installing a new, 20 gauge, galvanized, 1 inch mesh, menacing fence. Are you reading this QGG??? Where are you now, somewhere in the south of France in a mountaintop villa? Perhaps you will see this in person should you ever return home. By the way, I think your days are numbered.