No doubt you’ll see this in The Virginian-Pilot tomorrow but in a story posted today on PilotOnline, the Alexandria judge brought in to hear the case of the citizen’s petition to save Bay Oaks Park has ruled against the petitioners.
Alfred D. Swersky, a retired Alexandria judge assigned to handle the case, said he “reluctantly and resistantly” must invalidate the petitions on a technicality raised by the city officials.
Because the City Council action allowing the development of the land was made in four ordinances, the petition seeking to repeal them had to be in four parts as well.
The saga of Bay Oaks Park began in March 2005 when Council was presented with petitions bearing the signatures of 730 people who wanted to keep the land a park, instead of developing houses on it. Additional petitions were provided to the Council in June but in July, the Council voted to develop the property anyway. Thus began the drive to obtain 4,000 signatures. The Bay Oaks Park Committee obtained 5,376 signatures on the petition to revoke the Council’s rezoning of the land.
The real issue here is the right to referendum. Norfolk’s charter makes referendum virtually impossible, as this case, and others before it, have proven. And, under the Dillon Rule, in order to change the charter to allow a more reasonable right to referendum, the Norfolk City Council would have to request such a change.
Don’t our elected representatives have any responsibility to listen to us? What harm could have possibly come from allowing the referendum to be on the ballot and giving the people a chance to voice their opinion? In 2000, Council itself use a non-binding referendum to gauge public support for an elected mayor. Surely what’s good enough for them should be good enough for us.