The Monitor – November/December 2014

GASTON, SUSAN COLOR 2255 (2)Virginia Peninsula Association of REALTORS®
Monthly Public Policy Report

Local Issues

Like most localities in Hampton Roads, Hampton is working toward approval of its FEMA flood maps and floodplain development regulations. The Join the City of Hampton and FEMA for an opportunity to view the newly updated Flood Maps on January 13, 2015 from 4:00 PM until 8:00 PM at the Hampton Roads Convention Cetner. You (and/or your clients) will be able to find property on preliminary flood maps and learn about the anticipated flood risk, get answers to your questions from city and FEMA representatives and learn about flood insurance options from insurance specialists. Flood insurance quotes will not be available. In the event of inclement weather, the event will be hosted on January 20, 2015.

On December 3, CEO Jim Wetzel and Legislative Consultant Susan Gaston met with Planning Services Manager Keith Canady; Don Whipple, Chief City Planner; and Mike “Yaz” Yazkowsky, Economic Development Department Business Development Manager to discuss signage issues regarding the VPAR building. VPAR, on behalf of its tenants, is seeking amendments to the signage provisions of the Zoning Ordinance that will allow tenant names to be placed on the primary sign for the purpose of increased visibility. The process likely will take 60-90 days, but there appears to be support from the Economic Development Authority. More to come.

On November 12th, VPAR hosted a Rental Inspection Stakeholders meeting with Steve Shapiro, Deputy Director of Community Development; Phil Russell, Codes Compliance Manager; and the Rental Inspection Program inspectors to continue our ongoing discussions as to the progress of the program. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the program’s progress and status, assess its effectiveness and suggest methods to measure whether the original intended outcomes are being met. Collaborative efforts continue between VPAR and the City to develop a matrix of measurable achievements that will serve as benchmarks for the program.

Newport News
INTERESTED REALTORS® living in Newport News: Did you know that the City of Newport News has over 350 citizens on nearly 45 boards, commissions and committees? These citizen groups provide a wide variety of valuable technical, advisory, administrative, and judicial service to the City and its residents. Add to that the many regional boards and authorities that provide specific administrative direction to service provides on the Peninsula and in Hampton Roads in fields ranging from mental health and medical care to transportation, education and recreation, the list grows even larger.

At this time, the City is in need of volunteers willing to serve in these important positions. If you have an interest, please review the appointment process as follows and visit the City Clerk’s website for more details and for a Board Bank Application.

The Appointment Process
Appointments to the various boards, commissions and committees are made by the Newport News City Council on a quarterly basis. The length of term for the appointments varies from one to five years. The City Charter establishes a maximum length of service in that no member of a city board, commission or committee may serve for more than 10 years. Regional boards are in accordance with the Code of Virginia. To be appointed to a Newport News board, commission or committee, one must be a resident of the City, submit to a background check, be approved by a member of City Council and be approved by a simple majority vote of Council members. Generally, this voting process is accomplished by voice vote.

A citizen expresses an interest in serving on a board, commission or committee to the City Clerk or a Council member. To have an application mailed or faxed to you or to determine when vacancies occur on boards, commissions and committees, call the Office of the City Clerk at 757-926-8634. The citizen completes a Board Bank Application found at or downloads an application in a PDF format found at
The Comprehensive Plan Citizens Advisory Committee continues to meet, entering in December its one-year anniversary. Moving now into Phase II, data collection and analysis, the emphasis is on citizen involvement and input that will include focus groups and stakeholder interviews. Also key to this next phase is the development of a vision statement.

VPAR is part of that process and is the source of the first stakeholder group session held on October 21st, when the Association hosted the Planning Department and members of the CPCAC to conduct a visioning exercise with the membership. The turnout was very strong and the feedback was extraordinary. The City Planning Department has compiled all of the VPAR member ideas and suggestions and has submitted that information to the CPCAC.


VPAR continues to collaborate with Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) to improve transportation and transit systems on the Peninsula and throughout the region by soliciting feedback from the general public. CONNECT Hampton Roads (CHR) is a new initiative just started recently by HRT to kick start a conversation about what regional transportation options the public wants. Does the region want more buses running later, in more cities and longer into the weekends? What is the future role of light rail transit? How do bicycle paths and park and rides fit into the transportation mix? Are we imposing too much of a financial burden on cities under our current system?

With input from many regional stakeholders, including VPAR, HRT hopes to develop a
“blueprint” in early 2015. HRT has identified six major themes or ‘pillars’ around which that draft plan can be shaped. These pillars are gleaned from survey data, due diligence research into what other cities and regions throughout the United States are doing to plan and implement improved multimodal transportation, and from feedback from business, military, and community stakeholders.

Housing and public transits are important elements in our quality of life, and the two are very much aligned… so, REALTOR® input is very important to this process! Give your thoughts as to how to achieve the goal of a more connected community via transportation systems by going to


The 2015 General Assembly of Virginia convenes on January 14th for its 45-day “short” session. VAR, with input from local Associations and local Governmental Affairs Directors, is putting the final touches on its 2015 Legislative Package. Included in our initiatives for the Session will be:

Property/Condominium Owner Associations


  • Prohibition of fees not allowed under state code
  • Right of rescission exemption for auctioned properties to include newly constructed condos
  •  Prohibition on limiting or prohibiting rental units in POAs…just to name a few

Adding to the “buyer beware” list of disclosures that purchasers obtain a flood certification report on a prospective property purchase

Increasing REALTOR® safety and vulnerability by seeking legislation to add a separate felony charge to individuals who knowingly lure REALTORS® into unsafe circumstances that could lead to assault, rape, and even murder.

Storm Water Management Facility to be added to Property Disclosures

Technical amendments to the Virginia Residential Landlord-Tenant Act

Judicial Interpretations of property managers and family trusts

Consumer Recovery from the Real Estate Transaction Recovery Fund

MARK YOUR CALENDARS for the 2015 REALTOR® Day on the Hill Event! Scheduled this year for Wednesday, February 11th, VPAR members are encouraged to come to this long-standing advocacy day that puts you in from of your legislators, and gives you the opportunity to lobby for your industry! Speakers are being lined up, the room is reserved and the food has been ordered! Call VPAR to sign up to make sure we have you all set, and register for the one-day ticket for the VAR Get Active Conference/REALTOR® Day on the Hill at Lunch and the AMAZING Legislative Reception at The Jefferson are included. More details will be forthcoming.

Each week during the Session, be sure to look for the VPAR LEGISLATIVE LINE that will give you the latest news on VAR’s bills, other legislation we are tracking, the legislators, the state budget, the Administration… always is chock-full of info that will keep you up-to-date on the latest news out of Richmond. Look especially for Calls to Action so that you can weigh in on critical issues!

On December 16, 2014, the United States Senate adjourned Sine Die (Latin for “without another day”) at 11:25 p.m. This marks the formal end of the 113th Congress meaning any legislation not enacted must be reintroduced in the 114th Congress which will begin on January 6, 2015.

The end of the “Lame Duck” session had mixed results for REALTORS®. Shockingly, the United States Senate failed to renew the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA). This alarming failure to act before adjournment could stall commercial real estate development around the country. The Senate missed an opportunity to approve a six year reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act that passed the U.S House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill died when Senators were unable to reach a unanimous consent agreement which would have allowed the bill to proceed.

Despite this temporary set-back, REALTORS® will work closely with Congress in 2015 to swiftly reenact TRIA and provide much needed certainty to the commercial market.

Congress did enact a series of tax series of tax extensions. The “Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act” is included in the package approved by the U.S. House and Senate and is now headed to the President’s desk for signature into law.

In addition to the mortgage forgiveness provisions that will help distressed homeowners there are also provisions affecting commercial property investors who made transactions during 2014. The legislation also includes one-year extensions of the 15-year depreciation schedule for leasehold improvements and the deduction for improvements to energy efficient commercial buildings.

The effort to include the “Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act” was bipartisan and bicameral. Senators Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, and Dean Heller, R-NV, have supported the bill from day one. Congressmen Tom Reed, R-NY, and Charlie Rangel, D-NY, have also championed the provision throughout the process.

Should you have questions on these or other issues, or for additional details, please contact Susan Gaston, VPAR’s Legislative Consultant, at 757-871-1445 or at