Ordinance No. 2023-108
Special Use Permit for 910 Parrish Street
Roads closed due to sewer issues.
908 1/2 Parrish Street
The Empty Lot of 910 Parrish St.
(Construction is on 908 1/2 Parrish St.)
Typical homes on Parrish St.
DATE: April 16, 2023
TO: Ms. Alyson Oliver, Secretary of the Planning Commission
The Honorable Mayor of the City of Richmond
The Honorable Members of the City Council of Richmond
The City of Richmond Planning Commission
The City of Richmond Office of Economic Development and Planning
The Department of Planning and Development Review
FROM: Mr. S. Norwood Thornton and Concerned Residents of the Historic Westwood Community
RE: Ordinance No. 2023-108 - Special Use Permit for 910 Parrish Street
This correspondence is in opposition to the proposed approval of a special use permit to construct two, two-story single-family dwellings on the said property located at 910 Parrish Street. This property is located in the heart of the Westwood Community which was dedicated in August 2019, as a Historic community.
My family has owned property in the historic Westwood neighborhood since the late 1800s. “Parrish Street” was named after my grandmother’s family. Recently, we received notification for a Special Use Permit for a vacant lot that is adjacent to two of our properties, 906 Parrish Street and 908 Parrish Street.
The Historic Westwood Community was founded by freed slaves and free men and women in 1871 that desired to own property and homes of their own. This Historic Community was built on faith and resilience and is the only Black neighborhood in the First District. The initial homes built by my ancestors and others have a historic significance in the history of the City of Richmond and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Over the years, residents of the Historic Westwood Community have had an unsettling history with the City of Richmond. Sewer, running water, and other utilities were denied to the residents as the City tried to condemn the community calling it “unsafe and unhealthy.” The Westwood Residents had to frequently challenge the City to provide adequate utilities and the right to exist. As history repeats itself, we find ourselves once again in a fight to maintain the existence of our historic neighborhood. The Commonwealth of Virginia’s Historic designation for the community was acquired in 2019. Discussions are currently underway with the Department of Historic Preservation to include the Historic Westwood Community on the State’s National Register and on the Heritage Walking Trail within the City of Richmond.
The owner/developer requesting the Special Use Permit to build two homes on the lot located at 910 Parrish Street originally housed only one single dwelling. The Special Use Permit states that the ‘proposed density of 910 Parrish Street is two units within .12 acres or 16 units per acre.’ By making this Special Use request, the owner/developer is taking advantage of the permitting process. Building three two-story homes on this small parcel of land is an encroachment on my family’s homes. The proposed buildings would be too close together and adversely impact parking on the street. These three structures, *908 1/2(1 house) and 910 (2 houses) on the small lots will adversely impact drivability due to an increase in the number of cars on this narrow street. It will be detrimental to the safety, health, morale, and legacy of the Westwood Community. Furthermore, it will be a hazard for all emergency vehicles and school buses. Currently, sewer repairs are adversely impacting the community. The streets have been blocked off for months and neighbors have experienced an influx of sewer rats and rodents. (See photo “A” on vxpe.info/parrish)
Parrish Street has the most historic homes in the neighborhood. These homes have existed since the neighborhood’s inception. The proposed construction is not appropriate with the historic architecture of the Parrish Street homes and the Westwood Community in general due to the size of the structures and the requested variance setback requirements. The proposed dwellings will not reflect the character of the existing community.
Based on the above concerns, I passionately believe that the Richmond City Planning Commission needs to:
Reject Ordinance No. 2023-108 – Special Use Permit for 910 Parrish Street.
Have the Department of Historical Resources (DHR) review all future proposed new construction in the Historic Westwood Community.
Have Tim Roberts, Archaeologist for Community Outreach Coordination at DHR to review all future proposed new construction in the Historic Westwood Community. Although the construction of the new housing units is on private property, we believe that significant archaeological evidence that pertains to a successful formerly enslaved population may be lost during the development of the lot(s).
Consult with the Westwood Civic Association to review any and all future proposed new construction in the Historic Westwood Community.
Please confirm receipt of this email and let me know if you need additional information.
S. Norwood Thornton
*The property located at 908 1/2 Parrish Street has never had a structure on it and appeared to be a part of the 910 lot. The owner/developer is presently building a new massive structure on the very small lot of 908.5 Parrish Street (See photo “B” on vxpe.info/parrish). There are building code concerns with 908 1/2 Parrish Street that will be addressed in another letter.