Front Royal Town Manager: Matthew Tederick’s Peyton Places
I must be honest with you, the television series “Peyton Place” was years before my time. In fact, I did not know the series was based on a movie from the middle 50s until a few days ago.
But it is amazing what one can find these days with a few calls and very basic searches on Google, to include what the actual “Peyton Place” series was about – I don’t think I would have watched.
We get enough of the real “scandalous secrets” here in Front Royal. Look at the past year!
That is the case with this article “Matthew Tederick’s Peyton Places.” I say “Places” due to the multitude of potential connections between the address of 100 Peyton Street and Matthew Tederick, along with other connections between Matthew Tederick and other firms he represents in some form.
It is like a crime scene you see in a bad movie with a wall full of pictures and strings attempting to connect the dots to who done what.
For this case, everything below is double sourced based on calls to officials or from official websites. In some cases, supporting Internet data is included to substantiate official information, i.e., this could include company websites or people’s public websites as examples.
This is all publicly available information which anyone has access to if they wish to search – to include our own Town Council.
In late May 2019, Matthew Tederick was selected from a pool (not likely) of candidates by the Town Council to fill the empty Mayoral seat due to unforeseen circumstances which need not be addressed in this article. I am not condemning the Council for attempting to quickly remedy the vacancy; however, due diligence is always best conducted at the time of action and very difficult after the fact.
When anyone is selected to a position of this nature, elected or in this case “placed,” I would assume that individuals would be required to complete a mandatory Conflict of Interest (COI) and Ethics statement – a requirement by the State of Virginia.
First question I have of the Town Council or responsible party, did Matthew Tederick complete a statement for both positions and/or did he make a statement that the first COI document was still accurate when he became Acting Town Manager? You would think/hope so.
A COI declaration is very well covered in Virginia by the following “Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council STATE AND LOCAL STATEMENT OF ECONOMIC INTERESTS issued December 2018. There are examples available for anyone to review online as well.
These Conflict of Interest statements help to ensure disclosure of any potential conflict of interest to both parties, as well as documenting other items that may cause potential issues later on. In simple terms, it alerts both parties on where one should step carefully – or not step.
Under “Instructions” it states: “State and local officers and employees required to file pursuant to 2.2-3114, 2.2-3115 or 2.2-3116, or as designated by their local governing body are REQUIRED to complete and file the Statement of Economic Interests as a condition to assuming office, and then annually while serving as an officer or employee.”
My second question is rather simple, did Matthew Tederick accurately portray his total participation in the various firms he serves as a President, or in other roles, i.e., Registered Agent. Not sure, but I doubt he could recite today all the firms he serves in either of those capacities without a cheat sheet or the disclosure of other matters.
If the examples from the Internet are accurate, Matthew Tederick would be required to provide the following:
On the first page he is required to sign, he is required to identify the address for his business.
Schedule A: Disclose all business which you or a member of your immediate family is an officer or director and receives …
Schedule D: Business Interests and Rental Property. Note that Business Interests and Rental Property are likely separate tables.
Schedule E: Real Estate
Not having a copy of the document that Matthew Tederick should have completed when he became Interim Mayor in front of me – I hope the town had him complete one, as it appears they skipped many other common sense requirements and just ran full-speed over others for both the Interim Mayor and/or Interim Town Manager positions – puts me at a slight disadvantage.
A question I have – who is responsible within town management to ensure the accuracy of the material Matthew Tederick provided. I know it is not the public.
Why have a form submitted if no one bothers to check the accuracy of the information provided?
It would be very compelling for someone to look at what he may have included in that document, if completed, against the information provided below.
As a matter of fact, the LLC that Front Royal may be paying Matthew Tederick by (which he requested when he assumed the position of Acting Town Manager and still refuses to publicly state the name of the LLC) MUST be included as an LLC in that Conflict of Interest/Financial Disclosure statement. The reason it must be stated – LLC’s must pay for services to an LLC member or to a potential service provided activity which means he must have a position within that LLC. To be paid by an LLC, Matthew Tederick must be the owner, a partner or act as the Registered Agent – all positions that could be influenced by activities dealing with the Town of Front Royal. It would be also important to determine if the LLC is a wholly owned LLC or another form of an LLC, and his role in that LLC, something the Town SHOULD HAVE DONE PRIOR to any financial agreement with this LLC and Matthew Tederick.
An LLC is not a person – it is an entity that pays a member or a person for services. Hence, it would be interesting to identify his position/role in that LLC. Is he the sole owner or a partner? – It matters from an IRS perspective. I would say based on what I have collected, that it is a wholly owned LLC. Again, this is not a tax issue but rather a “did we contract out the current Acting Town Manager” position to an LLC? It’s rather simple. If so, then the LLC must be made public and documented on the COI, per the IRS agent I contacted.
Also, why hide the LLC? The LLC is not a bank or a financial institution. For the reason of this arrangement, I would say it is a wholly-owned LLC by Matthew Tederick – if so, again, why hide it?
Now, I will admit that sometimes people forget items, misspell words or just ignore items because it takes time to correct. So, one or two missteps could be accepted, but I would take my time to ensure it was accurate if I was completing this legal form.
However, if that is the case in most, or many, of the below, then I am just as concerned to his lack of attention to detail, as I would be to his honesty. Both are critical in either the Mayor or Town Manager’s position. Remember the below information is from official sites, available company information, etc.
To make it somewhat simple to follow, I have included a table that shows LLCs or Incorporated entities in the left column, the status of the firm today as stated by the official Virginia SSC filing office in the next column to include the Filing Number, the middle column identified the address and status along with the DUNS number if available, and the last two columns provide connections to his home address or to the 100 Peyton Street address to which he sold to Dollar House LLC (remember that name when you see the table) with that entity if it could be located. The last column identifies Matthew Tederick’s position with that firm. As many of the below do not have company websites, positions like President or Owner can be difficult to ascertain.
Note that the definition for a Registered Agent and what a DUNS number is provided immediately after the table due to its length, but one should not understate its importance as to how a State deals with an LLC or firm. All of this information is available for the general public to view.
Key phrases or specific words used for these searches included:
-Matthew A Tederick
-Tederick Front Royal
-100 Peyton Street
-21 Edgewood St.
-21 Edgewater St. (address used in 100 Peyton St. sale)
-And names of firms identified in my searches
-DUNS and (any firm identified, addresses identified or the name Tederick)
-SCC Filings Virginia
|COMPANY||VIRGINIA SEC FILING
ACTIVE/INACTIVE and SCC Filing Number
status from official Web Site
what is/was DUNS #
|ADDRESS USED||TEDERICK CONNECTION
(based on the internet)
|Dollar House LLC||Active
|100 Peyton||Matthew Tederick
|Gentle Knight Solutions LLC||Active
(Fees in Delq 2019)
|100 Peyton||Matthew Tederick
|Tederick Miller Investments LLC||Active
Shows as Tederick Miller Investments
|Shows as Miller Tederick as Out of Business
No Tederick Miller shown
|16 Chester||Matthew Tederick
|Information Intelligence & Operations LLC||Active
Also shows 21 Edgewood
|Victory Communications LLC||Active
|Blessing Gods Way LLC||Active
|Trinity Home Investments LLC||Active
|Media Bridge LLC||Active
|1839 Capital LLC||Active
|Not Listed||Alexandria VA||Matthew Tederick
Listed as President
|Redneck Political Alliance||Active
|Not Listed||Matthew Tederick
|GTS Direct LLC
(does lobbying strategies and voter modeling)
|Active||100 Peyton||Website states that
Wealth Management is
Registered Agent (which is
|Stronghold of Virginia LLC||Purged
|100 Peyton||Matthew Tederick
|Tederick Real Estate LLC||Active
|No matches||Shows 29 Edgemont by no such address – believed to be typo for 29 Edgewood||Matthew Tederick
|Child Care Property Developers LLC||Purged
Shows 100 Peyton St
|21 Edgewood||Matthew Tederick
|Wealth Management Inc||Active
|Not shown as Wealth Management Inc or LLC – shows link to Dominion Financial||100 Peyton||Matthew Tederick
|Dominion Financial Services LLC||A Website says
(See above under
|Rexx Group LLC||Auto Canx by State
|No matches||100 Peyton||Matthew Tederick
Or Patriots Political Alliance
|Old name as Patriots Alliance||Active
|Matthew Tederick||Not shown||Out of Business
Was 149704280 Alternate name LPL Financial Services
|Shenandoah Valley Leadership Pac, Inc., (Pri) DUNS #1||Purged by State
|Not listed||100 Peyton||Matthew Tederick
|Shenandoah Valley Leadership Pac, Inc., (Pri) DUNS #2||Purged by Sate
|Not Listed||Not listed||Matthew Tederick
|A/O NOV 2019|
What is a Registered Agent (RA) by legal terms?
“A Registered Agent is a responsible party who is located in the same state in which a business entity was established and who is designated to receive service of process notices, correspondence from that state’s Secretary of State and other official government notifications, usually tax forms and notice of law suits – on behalf of the corporation or LLC. The state where the business is registered needs to know it has a contact person for the business in the state during business hours (thus, PO Boxes are not acceptable for registered agents). If you don’t have a physical location in that state, the requirement is especially urgent that the business have a registered agent to accept document on the firm’s behalf.”
What is a DUNS Number?
“The DUNS Number is linked to your company’s business credit profile with D&B; which is used by lenders, suppliers and potential business partners to help determine if a company is creditworthy and/or financially stable. One important thing to note is your company is not issued a DUNS Number when you apply for an EIN.” An EIN number is what the IRS uses, as well as bank/financial institutions to show a business entity for tracking purposes.
I would say based on the statement of what a Registered Agent is responsible for, one could rationally make a statement that the RA acts as an agent for the LLC or firm and therefore would be considered a member of that entity for a specific reason. Again, I use the term a member of an entity for the following reason: If an individual is a member of LLC (wholly owned or partnership), one would assume that it should be included on any COI paperwork as a potential conflict of interest. That would include the employed Town Manager.
IF, Matthew Tederick now states that he was unaware of the fact he was still acting as a Registered Agent of an active firm as identified by the State, or that he thought the firm was no longer operational for a lack of a better term, then again my earlier comment regarding a total lack of attention to detail should concern all.
Is that the person this town needs in a position responsible for the management of millions of dollars on a weekly basis? I would say, be careful – who needs another missing or misplaced $17 million dollars unaccounted for?
Below is a screen capture of what the State of Virginia provides those doing searches on a firm’s status. It provides the firms name, entity number and if it is still active or not. For this example, I used the term “Tederick Real Estate”, since Tederick Real Estate owns the home adjacent to his home address.
With all the data provided above to include the definitions, let’s now take a look at just three examples, as there are numerous, that hopefully alert you, as it did me, as to why I do not believe Matthew Tederick is the right person leading the day-to-day activities of this fine town.
Those include 1839 Capital LLC, Dollar House LLC, and the address 100 Peyton Street located in Front Royal.
For our first example let’s look at 1839 Capital. After he agreed to become Interim Mayor, the firm 1839 Capital filed the documentation you see below. It shows a start date of July 2019 with Matthew Tederick as the President. The website for 1839 Capital also shows Matthew Tederick as President with a location of Alexandria. What specifically does the form state is the business expertise for this firm? A “Global Investment Firm” with emphasis on “Commercial Real Estate” per the submitted form and the website. As I stated in my first article published November 11th in the Royal Examiner. It was surprising that Matthew Tederick knew so little about how to deal with the Crooked Run West request when he stated in his 1839 Capital bio as President the following:
“Utilizing his governmental, real estate, and investment knowledge, Matthew Tederick developed a thriving business solving complex problems for national residential and commercial construction entitles … In many cases, Matthew Tederick led the entitlement team consisting of attorneys, engineers, and architects in order to accomplish client objectives. Matthew Tederick spearheaded over 35 projects ranging from single parcel to 1,500 acres, mixed use (residential, commercial, industrial, institutional) developments.”
I have heard that Matthew Tederick signed a statement regarding the fact he will devote full time and effort to the performance of the Town Manager’s duties only. Does that mean his other business-related activities are put on hold? I wonder what firms like 1839 Capital will do without their President.
For my second example let’s look at Dollar House LLC. Dollar House, per the VA SSC filing, started in January 2004 with Matthew Tederick as the Registered Agent using the address 100 Peyton St. I am not sure if he holds any additional positions within the LLC. Remember, the owner of an LLC may also serve as the Registered Agent if they are the sole individual associated with the LLC.
Although I could find information on Dollar House from official websites and one additional website named Bizapedia.com which confirmed Matthew Tederick as the Registered Agent, there is NO Dollar House LLC website which will allow the reader to find out any specifics as to its owner, etc.
Dollar House LLC per Warren County, shows that Dollar House owns two properties within the county. The first being 0 Peyton which was purchased from Matthew and Susan Tederick on June 25th with Dollar House using the address of 21 Edgewater St., and the second property, being adjacent to 0 Peyton St, being 100 Peyton St., which was also purchased June 25th from Matthew and Susan Tederick. Again, the address used by Dollar House is 21 Edgewater St.
A strange condescendence possibly, but the address provided for Dollar House in Front Royal is incorrect, as there is no 21 Edgewater St. in Front Royal. Besides numerous out of state addresses of the same, the only one in Virginia with that address is located in Chantilly. I would assume, without any hesitation, that the address should instead be 21 Edgewood St. in Front Royal.
Strange but that is Matthew Tederick’s home address as documented in several websites. So now it appears that 21 Edgewood St. is the home address for the LLC named Dollar House. That is too close to home (ha), and I wonder if Dollar House and his relationship with the LLC is documented in any Conflict of Interest statement to the Town of Front Royal? It would also be very interesting to see Matthew Tedericks’ real position, besides as a Registered Agent, with Dollar House LLC. Remember he was Interim Mayor prior to the sale, so both properties would have to be listed in the COI under his name since it was his name on the agreement and not a real estate firm, etc.
I wonder who Dollar House LLC, with an address of 21 Edgewood St., now works with to fill the apparently large empty lot known as 100 Peyton St. If Dollar House is indeed tied to Matthew Tederick these future earnings must also be reported on the Conflict of Interest document.
Now let’s look at our third and last example. That example is 100 Peyton St. We know that the property is now owned by Dollar House LLC and whatever relationship Matthew Tederick has with that firm, however, the address is used by numerous LLCs, firms, etc. If you look at the table I provided above, there are 13 that use that address that I did additional research on. In addition, I was able to identify several more that use that address just this morning. They included but are not limited to: Williamsheacock LLC and Kie Law PLC which have active DUNS numbers but show cancelled or converted by the Virginia SCC.
Of particular note from the table was Gentle Knight Solutions LLC. This LLC was established in 2014 and uses 100 Peyton Place (sorry) Street, as its business address with Matthew Tederick as its Registered Agent which agrees with the States SCC filing.
However, of interest was that in a local newspaper article dated May 29th of 2019, after Matthew Tederick was selected as the Interim Mayor, it states that Matthew Tederick also serves as the Vice President for Gentle Knight Solutions which was confirmed by a second website. The news article states that Gentle Knight Solutions “dabbles in Health Care” — that’s a strange term for what a firm does. But since Matthew Tederick was now the Interim Mayor, I wonder if he had listed Gentle Knight Solutions, for either his VP position or his RA position on the Conflict of Interest form he would hopefully fill out shortly. Possible he just quit the firm, but their website still shows him as VP. Possible he is working for free.
Remember he made the statement that he would not work outside business related activities while serving for the Town of Front Royal. Did all the firms to which he serves as a Registered Agent or in a senior position such as President or Vice President just go by the wayside – I doubt it. And did the Town of Front Royal document that he could not work on outside activities such as these in their Agreement?
Like in the movie “Peyton Place” or the television show, the ending is not kind. Let’s see what happens to the live “Tederick’s Peyton Places” show in Front Royal to see this as yet unscripted ending.
His record as a businessperson begs questions, as does the address 100 Peyton which he owned, and may still own under Dollar House LLC. But just as important is what did he list on his Conflict of Interest Statement with the Town of Front Royal? Was it filled with the whole truth or just a few examples of what he does? Words matter – as does transparency and the truth.
NOT SURE I WANT TO WATCH this show’s ending.
Maybell Smoot (1936 – 2023)
Maybell Smoot, 86, of Front Royal, Virginia, passed away on Friday, March 24, 2023, at the Blue Ridge Inpatient Care Center in Winchester.
A funeral service will be held on Tuesday, April 4, at 11:00 am at Maddox Funeral Home, with Pastor Danny Clegg officiating. Interment will follow in Panorama Memorial Gardens at Waterlick.
Mrs. Smoot was born September 13, 1936, in Shenandoah County, Virginia, the daughter of the late Floyd and Hazel Irene Racey Tucker.
She retired after many dedicated years as a Certified Nursing Assistant.
Surviving is a daughter, Linda Lively of Front Royal; two sons, Ronnie Smoot of Winchester and Ricky Smoot of Front Royal; nine grandchildren; 27 great-grandchildren; and four great-great-grandchildren.
Mrs. Smoot was married to the late James Ashby Smoot, who preceded her in death in 2011.
Pallbearers will be great-grandsons.
The family will receive friends at the funeral home on Tuesday, April 4, from 10:00 to 11:00 am.
Commentary: Vape Shop regulations – Discriminatory or Failure to Act?
I read in a recent local publication (NVDaily: “Front Royal Council Discusses Vape Shop Boom,” March 17th) that Front Royal is struggling to explain the proliferation of vape shops within the town limits. The current shop count as indicated by the source was a total of 11 retail outlets. Recent concern expressed by Mayor Cockrell as a result of an abundance of negative social media outpouring, compelled the mayor to address this issue in a recent Town Council work session. In attendance was Laura Kopishke, Director of Planning and Zoning for Front Royal. Kopishke is quoted as saying:
“We are not soliciting but we are also not discriminating against them either so vape stores fall under retail uses — they are selling a product,” Kopishke said. “We cannot discriminate against that product that they sell.”
Additionally, Council Member Amber Morris is also quoted as concurring with the opinion rendered by Kopishke by stating that:
“The problem that we ran into was the only thing we could do was tighten our zoning regulations because, as a pretty conservative council who also enjoys free enterprise, at what point do we start regulating businesses and … at what point do you say ‘we just don’t like your type of business’ and it’s discriminatory,” Morris said.
As a town property owner and layman in government affairs, I cannot accept these statements at face value. The Commonwealth of Virginia, based upon moral ground, quality of life, and in protecting the good of the Commonwealth, has and does restrict business activity that could be deemed as corruptive or detrimental to the moral turpitude of the community. You will not find gambling establishments, title loans, internet cafes, private liquor stores, houses of ill repute, Strip Clubs, bars (where food does not count for 51% of revenue) and recreational marijuana dispensaries — yet. Somehow, the state has found that restrictions of these establishments is not discriminatory.
Furthermore, the Town of Front Royal’s Zoning Chapter 171-1(A)(B) provides town leadership the authority to classify districts in order to “regulate, restrict, permit, prohibit and determine the following: The use of land, buildings, structures and other premises for agricultural, business, industrial, residential, floodplain and other specific uses”.
Upon review of the Town of Front Royal’s Zoning Code, the Community Business District (C-1), which encompasses most if not all of the commercial corridors through town, does indeed list retail establishment uses as By-Right. Of course, Vape Shops fall under this retail guideline. There are about 40-plus/minus uses that are approved without requiring a Special Use Permit, and then another 20 uses approved via Special Use permitting. What is interesting are the retail “exceptions” further explained in Section 175-39.C of the Zoning Code. Retail establishments are not permitted to engage in transactions that are: “inclusive of coal, wood, oil, and lumberyards, accessory uses, adult bookstores (stores engaged in the sale of magazines and other publications of sexually-oriented nature), massage parlors and stores engaged in the sale of sexual aids, devices and merchandise.” – (Amended 7-25-05, 7-28-08 and 6-22-15-Effective Upon Passage)
This seems odd. Under current Council’s and Administration’s logic, these exclusions would be discriminatory to entrepreneurs that desire to engage is such business activity. While some of these industries may seem unsavory and operating contrary to the common good, why can’t vape/tobacco/THC shops be inclusive/included on this list, or at the bare minimum be removed from the retail category? Why can’t council change their zoning ordinances to place Vape Shops under a C-1 Commercial category where a Special Use Permit can/must be sought? Or better yet, create a special zoning district called the Cannabis Business District (CBD—No Pun intended). This would give Council the leverage it needs to control the influx and eventually control the districts where marijuana would be permitted to be sold. Once Cannabis licenses are granted — and it is currently planned that the State issue just 400 retail licenses statewide to sell marijuana — it is my opinion that competitive forces will force non-cannabis licensed vape shop owners out of business.
I agree with statements by Morris suggesting that vape shops are simply establishing locational dominance to aid in their business activities if they apply and are awarded a recreational THC license. However, I do not agree with the fact that Front Royal’s hands are completely tied or even tied at all in dealing with this influx.
As new or newly legal products and technologies enter the market, the Town must stay ahead of this curve to plan for future impacts. I am afraid it may be too late for the 11 existing businesses, but now is the time to end the influx, better control it, and direct where you will allow the future Marijuana shops to operate. This is not discriminatory. — This is planning. You have the tools. Use them. People don’t plan to fail, but they do fail to plan.
By Gregory A. Harold
(Editor’s note: Harold is a former member of the re-formed FR-WC EDA Board of Directors.)
It’s not complicated
At the March 7, 2023, Board of Supervisors meeting, it was reported that homeowners of Warren County did a “good job” and “successfully” appealed over-assessments totaling $30.6M. And the knife twist: None of the under-assessed objected to their great good fortune.
A $30.6M error is not “a good job” by homeowners. It is the failure of the Board to ensure an accurate, uniform, consistent, and equitable valuation based on fact as required of the licensed mass assessor they contracted and oversee. The knee-jerk reaction to glaring inconsistency and inexplicable numeric discrepancies was to go to ground “on the advice of an attorney.”
Stop looking at the evidence!
It was easy to speak eloquently about the worrisome impact of a 40% increase in property assessments on demographics of a certain age, but where the rubber meets the road, “Your three minutes are up.” The video is available online. It is a must-see master class in spin and obfuscation.
Tax rates based on inconsistent, grossly inaccurate assessments can not be fair and impartial. It’s not complicated.
Editor note: There is a link to the video in the story below.
Real Estate re-assessment appeals numbers raise eyebrows at supervisors pre-meeting work session – EDA personnel surprise at regular meeting
Commentary: The Big Chill
Running the gauntlet of life
I’m reminded of a time when Graham Nash (of the musical band Crosby, Stills and Nash) visited Winchester Cathedral at Hampshire, England. He noticed a gravestone that caused him to ponder a bit and wrote down what eventually became lyrics to the song, ‘Winchester Cathedral,’
“I was standing on the grave of a soldier that died in 1799, and the date he died was a birthday, and I noticed it was mine. My head didn’t know just who I was, and I was spinning back in time.” I’ll stop there but suffice it to say this song will catch your attention. The grave at Graham’s feet was that of a young lieutenant killed in battle a couple hundred years before. This young officer had a long and promising life in front of him but collided with a bullet that changed all that. Essentially, the grave marker is all that remains of this person and countless others just like him – to include you and I one day.
This song’s tempo is rather slow but does get in a hurry now and again. My team of soldiers and I used to increase the volume during the high tempo parts of the song and speed down the streets of Kunduz and Kandahar to minimize the chances of getting shot. I kept thinking, I wonder if this officer had the same adventuresome life experiences that I had replete with romantic trysts, the sting of battle and other adrenaline filled excursions before he went down? No one alive today has any idea of that lieutenant’s life experiences, nor will they know any of mine. All that he experienced and knew and all the knowledge he accumulated died with him. I was quite sure I was going to end up just like him on several occasions in various conflict zones. A frequent musing went something like this, “Why didn’t I choose a different path in life – perhaps one down a more lead-free lane.”
I tried to be normal but the alternative lifestyle of being a normal person and driving back and forth to work amongst the masses was not appealing either, so what do you do? If you hold on too tight, you’ll have a dismal existence, so you may as well come to grips with your mortality and just go for it. It’s not the years in your life but the life in your years I keep telling myself. Everyone you know will cease to exist one day soon, so enjoy the ride while you can. That is the reality for all of us.
Getting back to our soldier at the Cathedral for a moment. Aside from a gravestone, there is no record that his family, or his friends ever existed or any memory of the sunny days or cool things they witnessed. One simply lives and dies, and the world turns, and it will continue to do so with no regard to how self-centered and concerned about the here and now that we may be.
Join me for a quick mind melt. For example, if you are 50 years old today, it is unlikely that anyone will speak your name 50 years from now, nor will they speak the name of anyone you associated with 75 years from now. Fifty years ago, is only 1973. Think about it for a minute. How often do you think about any of your relatives or friends that died over 50 years ago? First, you must be about 60 years old to even have known them at all. If their closest friends aren’t thinking about them – who is? It’s a rhetorical question. The year 1799 was 220 years ago. Countless generations of people have walked the earth before and after. One day 200 years from now, in the year 2223 someone will look at your gravestone and wonder the same. In short, it really comes down to “Out with the old and in with the new and what you do during your brief excursion on earth is largely up to you.”
As Stephen Jobs once said, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it, and that is how it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
Hunter S. Thompson sort of reflects the road I’ve taken, although my parents oriented me along a proper azimuth with a healthy dose of Sunday School during my developmental years. Nowadays, my friends tell me I have more lives than a cat and some say, “God must be watching over you.” So, I’ve got that going for me – which is nice. Many of the people around me were not so fortunate though. Death is always close. The end of “your run” is always just a foot away. Ponder that the next time you are traveling down Route 340 at night.
While in Afghanistan in 2011, the Taliban blew up the front gate of our compound and poured through the breach throwing grenades and shooting people. The initial explosion knocked out all the power and scattered body parts all over the place. I had been out running around the compound for physical training earlier that morning and was getting dressed when the explosion occurred. As I dropped down to the floor in the dark to find my eyeglasses, a stream of bullets stitched across the walls of my room. Had I been standing – I wouldn’t be writing this. That’s the difference in life and death. Most of it is chance. There’s an old saying, “I’d rather be lucky than good.” Often luck will save a man. It did that day.
In another instance, I missed the doomed ‘Lockerbie flight’ on 21 December 1988 because of delayed dry-cleaning in the little town of Swaebisch Gmuend, Germany. With nothing to wear on my two-week journey home, I changed my flight to the following day. Otherwise, my originally scheduled connecting flight from London Heathrow to JFK in New York was the flight that blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland.
In fact, my friends in Charlotte, NC saw my name amongst the list of dead in the USA Today paper on Christmas Eve and called my house to offer condolences. They were rather elated when I answered the phone. Countless families and acquaintances of those killed experienced a horrible Christmas in December 1988. The gauntlet of life is strewn with potholes and chance. Sometimes the ride is relatively easy and other times – it’s incredibly remarkable and sometimes it’s short. Sometimes your run gets interrupted prematurely and sometimes you can sustain life for 5 score.
One last story regarding the gauntlet of life. I was introduced to members of the Kaiserslautern Ski Club over Veterans Day weekend in the year 2000. We were all there to go skiing on a glacier in the little town of Kaprun, Austria – one of few places in Europe with skiing that early in the season. On Friday, the 10th of November I met a father and his son who were members of the ski club. We were playing water polo in the lodge pool that evening. They were celebrating his son’s birthday. His mother and other siblings were unable to come along. The following morning (November 11th), we were in a cue boarding the monorail-like train for an ascent into the mountain tunnel to the glacier at the top. At the last moment, my shoestring came untied and I stopped to tie it. That 10 second pause caused me to miss the train. They were the last ones on the train as it reached capacity, and I was forced to wait for a follow-on train.
I was the only one in my little group that didn’t get on that train. Within 10 minutes, 155 people on that train were dead. An unauthorized kerosene heater had leaked over time in the driver’s compartment and somehow caught fire after the train entered the mountain tunnel. Fire rapidly spread through the polyurethane-lined train. The skiers were trapped in the tunnel and were incinerated or died of smoke inhalation. Later that evening, I had the painful experience of informing the wife that her husband and son were killed in what became known as the Kaprun Ski Disaster. [Caption by; BBC News. Europe] For her family, that day will live in infamy and their family will never be the same. For me, after more than 20 years since Kaprun, I’m still navigating my way through the gauntlet of life hoping to arrive in the grave worn out and reveling in all the unreal experiences a full life has afforded me. But as alluded to earlier, no one will have any idea of those experiences fifty years from now. Just a tombstone with the remnants of a dead soldier below it. As the French say, C’est la vie…..(such is life)
Questions about recent assessments
When you hear, “It’s complicated,” in answer to your questions on the recent property reassessment, ask who walked the property, and check the DPOR website to see if they have a residential real estate appraiser’s license.
When I asked those questions, I got two different names; neither were licensed appraisers. The guy I met to appeal the assessment was not licensed either. That explained what I see as a convoluted mishmash of under and over-valued properties without basis, in fact. It has resulted in inequitable taxation and a database of inaccurate assessments used by mortgage and insurance companies.
Do not take my word for it. Anyone can access the database by Googling the Virginia Mass Appraisal website, finding the assessed value of just the building, and calculating the dollars per square foot of living space. Comparing that same number to the average $/sf for properties actually sold in the County, to neighbors with similar properties, and to our elected official’s homes was a real wake-up call. Assessors do not enter homes, so finished basements ought to increase, not decrease, the price per square foot that you’ve just found by this comparison method.
No need to trust my judgment. You can assign this as homework to your age-appropriate children. Or, you can pay your assigned property tax for another four years without question.
Commentary: Can carriage houses and granny flats ease the housing crisis?
Whether carriage houses, in-law suites, English basements, or granny flats, what all accessory dwelling units (ADUs) have in common – the reason their backers love them and why few folks think of them as a possible solution to the housing crisis – is that they blend in with the neighborhood.
A bill patroned by Del. Sally Hudson, D-Charlottesville, this year would have expanded permission to build such supplemental housing across the commonwealth, but the proposal was killed on a party-line vote in a Republican-controlled House subcommittee last month. If ADUs are as unobtrusive as their supporters say, then why won’t Virginia legislators make it easier to build them?
An ADU for who?
As defined according to Hudson’s HB 2100, an ADU is “an independent dwelling unit on a single-family dwelling lot with its own living, bathroom, and kitchen space. An ADU may be within or attached to a single-family dwelling or in a detached structure on a lot containing a single-family dwelling.” In short, no matter what form it takes, adding an ADU to a single-family parcel enables two households to live on a lot that would otherwise be home to just one.
Doubling housing density without significantly altering the neighborhood character can prove especially appealing in cities like Charlottesville, where demand is plentiful, and vacant lots are not. As retirees, tech professionals, and folks affiliated with the University of Virginia have poured into town over the last few decades, the housing supply has remained stagnant.
Unable to find a place to call home in Charlottesville, ever more people who work in the city are forced to live further out, causing congestion and long commutes. With an abundance of garages, barns, and carriage houses in the region, relatively quick upgrades to ADUs could yield big results for Hudson’s district.
“If you’re looking for ways to put more missing middle housing into really hot housing markets like ours, ADUs can be a great option,” she said. “Sometimes folks build them to have a rental income stream, to age in place, to help someone recovering from an injury or illness, or to house multiple generations on the same property.”
If it had passed, Hudson’s proposal would have set consistent standards for ADUs across the commonwealth on everything from setbacks to owner occupancy requirements, ending the current patchwork of rules and regulations that often make ADUs technically legal but practically unfeasible.
While critics often decry the Dillon Rule for hindering localities’ ability to tailor the public policy to their needs, in this instance, Hudson hoped to use its power to streamline ADUs standards and make it easier to build the additional housing her constituents require.
“This is an example where the local authority is sometimes used to stop homeowners and businesses from constructing ADUs which are good for their bottom line as well as our housing supply,” she said. “These are units that the building industry would love to be able to build for homeowners if the regulations would get out of the way of the people who want them.”
Localities lean no
Nothing is currently stopping localities in Virginia from streamlining ADU standards and adopting a more permissive approach to supplemental dwellings. In light of such existing authority, many of the commonwealth’s cities and counties viewed Hudson’s bill as a state-level overstep that would diminish their discretion over land use rules and regulations. That’s why Joe Lerch, director of local government policy for the Virginia Association of Counties, opposed the proposal.
“Many counties exercise their authority to allow for the inclusion of ADUs within their zoning ordinances,” Lerch wrote in an email. “In doing so, they determine the context of where ADUs can be reasonably accommodated to meet the needs of residents and homeowners. A one-size-fits-all mandate to authorize an ADU wherever a single-family dwelling exists excludes input from citizens and communities on how ADUs can fit within existing and proposed residential developments.”
Other groups, like the Coalition for Smarter Growth, support ADUs in principle but had concerns that a statewide override of localities’ permitting processes could inadvertently cause more sprawl.
“It’s important that affordable places to live are located closer to existing services, public transit, and jobs,” said Stewart Schwartz, the Coalition’s executive director. “More and more people who live farther out choke our transportation systems with car drivers, and that means a greater loss of farms and forests as well as more greenhouse gas emissions. There is an awful lot of demand to live in walkable, urban neighborhoods, but often there aren’t any options. ADUs are a good option.”
Such concerns may have easily been assuaged with more time and stronger stakeholder engagement. The vast majority of suburban sprawl comes from the expansion of single-family home subdivisions, not the infill construction which typifies ADUs.
“Based on the work that I have done, I think I would be aware of a lot of new greenfield ADUs being built, but I just haven’t heard of that happening,” said Emily Hamilton, a researcher with the Mercatus Institute, an economic markets research center at George Mason University. “For ADUs to lead to more sprawl than the status quo, they would have to be changing developers’ calculations on subdivisions, and that seems highly unlikely to me.”
“Not nearly enough housing”
In response to the opposition, Hudson ultimately proposed a substitute version of HB 2100 that watered down the bill to include no requirements on localities. Instead, the proposal would have formed a state-level advisory panel to merely offer guidance on how to encourage the development of ADUs across the commonwealth.
Even in California, where a slew of bills have made it easier for homeowners to build tens of thousands of new ADUs in recent years, attic apartments and carriage houses are not significant solutions to the housing crisis.
“It’s not nearly enough housing to meet the need,” explained Hamilton. “ADUs are simply a smart first step that gives homeowners more rights to put their homes to a slightly more marginally intensive use when it makes sense to them.”
Hudson had hoped that her calls to reduce regulations on homeowners and builders might garner her ADU bill bipartisan support, especially given Gov. Youngkin’s recent remarks railing against localities’ exclusionary land use rules.
“Bills like this are a direct response to the governor’s call for some cross-partisan work on housing affordability,” Hudson said. “Anybody who is listening to Virginians knows that cost of living tops the list of things keeping people up at night, and housing is the biggest slice of anybody’s paycheck. This is a very practical thing we can do to put more units on properties where the owners want them.”
by Wyatt Gordon, Virginia Mercury
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