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Council supports gay marriage, Floyd Avenue Bicycle Boulevard

A full house turned out to see City Council take on three high-interest items: City support of same-sex marriage, the Captain Buzzy’s SUP, and the Floyd Avenue Bicycle Boulevard.

Council voted 5-3-1 to approve an ordinance (PDF) which says Richmond will “to the extent now or hereafter permitted or required by law, recognizing same sex marriages that have lawfully occurred in other states and requiring the City to extend all of the benefits offered to the spouses of City employees in heterosexual marriages to the partners of City employees in same sex marriages that have lawfully occurred in other states.”

This largely symbolic gesture was debated among Council members as a discussion over the city’s ability to provide healthcare. Chris Hilbert (3rd) got to the moral impetus behind the ordinance, saying that “we as a governing body need to send a message. We in 2006 stained the Constitution of Virginia.”

Opponents of the ordinances made references to Hitler, Stalin, incest, faggots, and hypnotism, and said that homosexuals should be stoned to death. A few voices opposed the law as ineffective or presumptive, given the dependency on the General Assembly to first pass a law changing the state’s definition of spouse.

The 2006 amendment to the Virginia constitution that outlaws same-sex marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships and any state recognition of legal status for same-sex relationships won 57% of the vote statewide. It was opposed by 69.5% of the voters in Richmond. No individual precinct in the city supported the amendment.

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After months of back and forth, City Council tonight denied an compromise SUP allowing Captain Buzzy’s in Church Hill (PDF) to stay open one hour later and to be able to apply to offer beer and wine.

Opposition spoke against the “bait and switch” from the SUP which originally allowed the coffeeshop to open in the first place. A next door neighbor to Buzzy’s argued that “zoning is supposed to protect homeowners”. Amy Beem, another nearby neighbor, framed her opposition saying that an “SUP is a special favor and not a right.” Neighbors expressed concerns about parking, the behavior of patrons who have been drinking, and a possible negative impact on property values.

Howard Kelman, one of the owners of the Captain Buzzy’s building, described the opposition as a “small, volatile, well-connected” group of neighbors who have taken this “beyond the pale.” Business owner Bob Buffington said that he faced the “same severe resistance” when they first sought to open the coffee shop. Former CHA president Jon Ondrak called the changes sought at Buzzy’s “a natural outcome of the positive growth of the East End” over recent years.

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City Council voted to move forward with an early step of the $500,000 Floyd Avenue Bicycle Boulevard project. The next steps include putting together a design plan and getting public input and feedback.

“I see this going to multiple town hall meetings, I see this going to multiple civic association meetings,” Samuels said, to downplay fears that the process is being done “to” people.

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The following ordinances/resolutions were passed by City Council:

4. Ord. No. 2013-154 (Patrons: Mr. Agelasto, President Samuels and Mr. Hilbert) – To amend and reordain ch. 2, art. VI, div. 1 of the City Code by adding therein a new § 2-1120 for the purposes of, to the extent now or hereafter permitted or required by law, recognizing same sex marriages that have lawfully occurred in other states and requiring the City to extend all of the benefits offered to the spouses of City employees in heterosexual marriages to the partners of City employees in same sex marriages that have lawfully occurred in other states. Recommendation from Governmental Operations to forward to Monday, October 28, 2013 Council meeting with no recommendation.

29. Res. No. 2013-R189 (Patron: Mayor Jones) – To support a project to provide funding for the Floyd Avenue Bicycle Boulevard project and the City’s application in relation thereto to the Virginia Department of Transportation for $400,000 from the federal Transportation Alternatives Program.

5. Ord. No. 2013-171 (Patron: Mayor Jones, By Request) – To authorize the special use of the properties known as 309 Cowardin Avenue, 311 Cowardin Avenue, 313 Cowardin Avenue,th 313 1/3 Cowardin Avenue, 313 2/3 Cowardin Avenue, 315 Cowardin Avenue, 310 West 15 Street, 314 West 15th Street, 1514 McDonough Street, 1508 McDonough Street, 1506 McDonough Street, 1504 McDonough Street and 1502 McDonough Street for the purpose of retail use, upon certain terms and conditions. (As Amended)

7. Ord. No. 2013-206 (Patron: Mayor Jones) – To amend and reordain City Code § 26-457, concerning the hours within which the Nina F. Abady Festival Park is open to the public, for the purpose of changing the current hours of 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. of the following morning to sunrise to sunset each day of the year.

8. Ord. No. 2013-208 (Patron: President Samuels, By Request) – To amend Ord. No. 2013-156- 154, adopted Sept. 9, 2013, which authorized the special use of the property known as 2501 Monument Avenue for the purpose of a museum for architecture and design and a lodging unit, to impose as a condition on the special use of such property a 150-person attendance limit for all reception events.

11. Ord. No. 2013-218 (Patron: Mayor Jones) – To amend and reordain City Code § 14-15, concerning vacant building registration, for the purpose of reflecting amendments to Va. Code § 15.2-1127.

12. Ord. No. 2013-219 (Patrons: Ms. Graziano and Mr. Agelasto) – To amend and reordain City Code § 98-132, concerning partial tax exemptions for rehabilitated and replaced residential and multifamily structures, for the purpose of providing that residential real estate that has been substantially rehabilitated by replacement or by renovation and the construction of an addition for residential use may exceed the total square footage of the rehabilitated structure by no more than 100 percent.

13. Ord. No. 2013-220 (Patron: Mayor Jones)To amend the pay plan adopted by Ord. No. 93- 117-159 on May 24, 1993, to exclude the classifications of Communications Officer I, Communications Officer II, Assistant Communications Officer Supervisor and Communications Officer Supervisor from the classified service, to include the classifications of Communications Officer, Assistant Communications Officer Supervisor, Communications Officer Supervisor and Communications Officer Manager in the classified service and to include the classification of Senior Paralegal in the unclassified service for the purpose of establishing new classifications.

14. Res. No. 2013-R206 (Patron: Mayor Jones) – To support the application for an allocation of $10,000,000 through the Virginia Department of Transportation Revenue Sharing Program to provide maintenance and construction assistance to certain transportation projects.

15. Res. No. 2013-R207 (Patron: Mr. Agelasto) – To recognize the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities, its employees, Richmond residents and area mountain biking enthusiasts for their efforts towards the development and designation of the Richmond region as a Ride Center by the International Mountain Bicycling Association and to express support for planned enhancements to the mountain bike trails in Pocahontas State Park.

16. Res. No. 2013-R208 (Patrons: Mr. Agelasto, Mr. Baliles and President Samuels) – To request that Amtrak and the Virginia Department of Transportation provide roll-on/roll-off service for bicycles at Main Street Station and other train stations in the Richmond Metropolitan Area to accommodate additional interest in cycle tourism as well as participants of the 2014 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships and the 2015 Union Cycliste Internationale Road World Championships.

22. Ord. No. 2013-212 (Patron: Mayor Jones) – To authorize the Chief Administrative Officer to accept $2,000,000 from the Federal Transit Administration and to appropriate the increase to the Fiscal Year 2013-2014 Capital Budget by increasing estimated revenues and the amount appropriated to the Department Public Works’ Main Street Station Multi-Modal Transportation Center project in the Economic and Community Development category by $2,000,000 for the purpose of funding multimodal improvements on Franklin Street at Main Street Station.

23. Ord. No. 2013-213 (Patron: Mayor Jones) – To authorize the Chief Administrative Officer to accept $500,000 from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and to appropriate the increase to the Fiscal Year 2013-2014 Capital Budget by increasing estimated revenues and the amount appropriated to the Department of Public Works’ Main Street Station Multi-Modal Transportation Center project in the Economic and Community Development category by $500,000 for the purpose of funding multimodal improvements on Franklin Street at Main Street Station.

24. Ord. No. 2013-215 (Patron: Mayor Jones) – To authorize the Chief Administrative Officer, on behalf of the City of Richmond, to execute a Grant Agreement between the City of Richmond and the Federal Transit Administration for the purpose of receiving federal funding of $2,000,000 to fund multimodal improvements on Franklin Street at Main Street Station.

25. Ord. No. 2013-216 (Patron: Mayor Jones) – To authorize the Chief Administrative Officer, on behalf of the City of Richmond, to execute a Project Agreement for Use of Commonwealth Transportation Funds – Fiscal Year 2014 between the City of Richmond and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation for the purpose of receiving a grant of $500,000 to fund multimodal improvements on Franklin Street at Main Street Station.

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