HOLMBERG: Henrico County bush hogs resident’s wildlife habitat

Posted on: 12:31 am, November 5, 2013, by , updated on: 01:42pm, November 5, 2013

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) – For years, Jocelyn Senn worried about pesticide and fertilizer runoff into her well and algae-plagued pond overlooking the James River off Osborne Turnpike in far eastern Henrico County.

So when the six acres of longtime farmland just up the lane from her home came up for sale, she jumped on it.

“I bought it to stop the farming and turn it into a habitat because I feel like all of our wildlife is being squeezed out,” she said as she stood on her beloved acreage, much of it recently bush hogged by the county because it violated its tall-grass ordinance.

Her natural wildlife habitat was a long process that involved the state forestry department and the department of Games and Inland Fisheries, where she registered her acres with the Habitat at Home program. That got her a “certified wildlife habitat” sign from the National Wildlife Federation, which stated “this property provides the four basic habitat elements needed for wildlife to thrive: food, water, cover and places to raise young.”

She posted that on Osborne Turnpike, and kept a fairly wide strip of grass mowed between the road and her field orchestrated by Mother Nature.

This is a picturesque section of the county, widely used to bicyclists, sightseers and nature-lovers. Many residents have been fighting mightily planned housing developments that would transform this rural hideaway just 15 or 20 minutes from downtown.

The seasons came and went as Senn’s refuge grew. This summer it had wildflowers and lots of butterflies. It was taller than head high in places, with seedling trees gaining momentum among many species of weeds and other naturally occurring plants that hid wide varieties of birds, small mammals and other critters.

Senn admits it has looked a little raw at times. “I kind of look at it like a haircut. Sometimes when you get your hair cut, you know, it goes through that ugly stage, but then it gets pretty. It’s going to have that place where it’s not beautiful, but it will become a gorgeous forest.”

Not now, she pointed out. Nearly all the naturally occurring seedlings were mowed down.

She had correspondence from the forestry department about how to  “afforest” – establishing a forest – on her particular parcel. The first option listed: “The least expensive way to afforest this site is would be to allow tree species to naturally seed into the open area . . . “

Other quicker and surer options were planting loblolly evergreen seedlings and – much more expensively – hardwoods.

She chose the natural route. “It was the least expensive thing to do, and it was the best thing.”

But this piece of rural real estate isn’t under the control of the state forestry or game departments.

It’s in Henrico County and it was in violation of the 12-inch limit on grass and weeds. You can grow crops and trees, but not just let Mother Nature run wild on your land, explained Mark Strickler, Henrico’s director of Community Revitalization.

“Essentially, everybody would say that (who) doesn’t want to cut their grass –  that they’re just letting it go natural,” Strickler said.  That would effectively kill their ordinance.

He said they had communications with Senn about the property, telling her the best habitat plan that wouldn’t violate the ordinance would be for her to clear the land and plant the trees and shrubs she wanted for her  habitat. Strickler said they had been trying to get her to deal with the problem long before the bush hog arrived.

It’s unclear if Senn will be charged for the cost of the mowing, which was interrupted when she came home and confronted the contractor doing the cutting.

She still has two narrow strips of her habitat standing scarecrow-like above the scalped fields.

Senn is plenty upset. Not only was the property more healthy and attractive before the mowing, she said, it was done on the exact same day – October 30th – that the county hosted its “Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District annual landowner’s meeting” about “establishing native grass, shrub and wildflower plots for habitat management.”

“I got home and literally there were animals just running in every direction and just terrified their homes had all been destroyed,” she recalled.

“There was nothing I could do about it but just – literally – sit down on the ground and cry.”

70 comments

  • phillip says:

    This is depressing. Why on earth must some one give another person so much trouble and frustration is beyond my understanding. It is not his land, he does not own it nor pay taxes on it. You should be allowed to grow and have whatever you want on your own land and not have to deal with ignorance like that. The people responsable for this should be punished or sued. Leave the womans property alone and worry about more important matters for Christ’s sake she had something good going and people like that had to mess it up.

  • Lisa Cumbey says:

    Unbelievable. Henrico really messed up here. I understand their point about everyone saying they want a wildlife habitat to get out of maintaining their property, but this owner had legitimately gone through all the right steps to secure a protected habitat. We’ve learned a lot in the last decades about the toxic impact of fertilizers, insecticides and so forth on our environment and health. Henrico needs to get their maintenance ordinances in line with these times — where we’re not interested in scorched earth just to “appear” tidy. They should have to pay HER to put it back.

  • Natasha Berg says:

    I have been on this property and have enjoyed this natural habitat in action. Wild birds(some of them rarities) and animals everywhere. On one occasion a baby deer walked right past me. I was saddened to see that it was mowed down. What the travesty is, is that this property cannot be seen from the road or by the neighbors. So why does henrico county care what it looks like? Senseless.

  • Glen says:

    What Bull. Henrico County is so poor it needs you to vote a meals tax into existence, but it has time and money to bush hog a wildlife habitat. Shame on you Henrico. Voters, don’t give them the meals tax they so badly crave.

  • Jim Huebner says:

    It’s amazing that even with the efforts to allow nature to exist that it is not appreciated and even attacked by the county. It is odd that they can define a wild setting as bushes and trees that you plant. That makes no sense given the setting that I see in the background. Maybe in a sub-division but not there.

  • Nicole Anderson Ellis says:

    Henrico’s Dept. of Community Revitalization uses an argumentative fallacy – “the slippery slope” – in justifying this decision. There is a difference between someone neglecting to mow a lawn, and a responsible landowners actively working with the Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries and Dept. of Forestry to cultivate a native plant meadow and wildlife habitat that will benefit the community-at-large. This regulation needs to be rewritten to distinguish between the two.

  • Mike Harrell says:

    So, per Henrico County, the best way to establish native wildlife habitat is to mow down the natural vegetation and then replant the area with trees and shrubs that the county administrators like? That reminds me of housing developers who come into a wooded area, chop down all the trees to facilitate building, put in a few saplings when they’re finished, and then name the development “Thousand Oaks.” I hope Ms. Senn picks up this fight, and that people of all political persuasions join her in resisting what is clearly an overreach on the part of local government.

  • Jo Weller says:

    It’s a shame that the County thinks it can infringe on every property owner’s right to give natural beauty a chance to thrive. Why are they focused on Nature and not abandoned buildings that are condemned and inhabitable? The tax dollars should go toward tearing down buildings and digging up concrete to help the area become a beautiful habitat like Ms Senn’s lot.

  • K Heebner says:

    Here’s someone trying to make her corner of the planet more beautiful and sustainable. The world needs more property owners like this, as opposed to those who can’t wait to sell their land to the highest bid from a developer. Isolated acreage identified as a “certified wildlife habitat” is a far cry from an overgrown suburban lot. The hypocrisy and short-sightedness of the county is staggering. Shame!

  • Nicole Anderson Ellis says:

    The county’s representative defend its actions with an argumentative fallacy – the slippery slope. There is a discernible difference between someone who neglects their lawn and a responsible landowner who is working with the Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries and the Dept. of Forestry to cultivate valuable native plants and wildlife habitat. This regulation needs to be altered to differentiate between the two.

  • Gerry Laverty says:

    Natural is always better. Jack booted government thugs strike again.

  • Mike Harrell says:

    So, according to Henrico County, the best way to establish a natural habitat is to mow down the native vegetation on your property, and then plant trees and shrubs that you (and one presumes, the county) likes? That reminds me of housing developers who come into a wooded area, clear cut the trees to facilitate construction, then plant a tortured sapling in each yard, naming the place “Thousand Oaks.” I hope Ms. Senn will take up the fight, and that those who think local government has overstepped its bounds in this case will join her in it.

  • Jocelyn says:

    The ironic thing is at the same time the County of Henrico was destroying my property and my habitat, they were holding a meeting in Dory Park, minutes from my property, encouraging landowners to establish grass, shrub and wildflower plots for habitat management . THE EXACT THING I WAS DOING!

    Over the last two years I spoke to VA Forestry, VA Game and Inland Fisheries, Henrico Soil and Water Conservation, EPA and many more and they all agree, let the land reforest naturally. Unfortunately, they had no jurisdiction to help me fight Henrico Community Revitalization.

    This property is in a watershed and should be protected. “That area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water course and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community.” EPA.gov

    Our community must include animals, birds and inspects. If we don’t act, and stop this nonsense we will lose the Bobwhite Quail forever. Is this the legacy we want to leave our children? We have a nice lawn but nothing else. I personally thought my native plants and wildflowers were much more beautiful and interesting than a six acre patch of grass.

    Please do your part to protect the environment and encourage conservation. PLEASE speak for the birds and animals that don’t have a voice.

    Thank you WTVR for making this a public conversation.

  • Glen Allen says:

    Henrico County needs to think about getting properly educated field supervisor that know the difference between “tall” grass and natural wildlife habitats.

  • joe says:

    Mark Strickler, Henrico’s director of Community Revitalization, doesn’t seem to understand his job. This is an idiotic ordinance that, among other things, defines a weed as a weed. I think there’s a lawsuit in the offing here. I hope Ms. Senn goes after these guys with both barrels blazing, litigiously speaking, of course.

  • Teresa Patterson says:

    It is so unfortunate that a County government chooses not to recognize natural wildlife habitat as vital for sustainability in Henrico/RVA community! Thank you Ms. Senn for letting us all know about thi short sides view of policy enforcement.

  • Kelli Moss says:

    Please tell me how to reconcile these two messages coming from Henrico County: “You can grow crops and trees, but not just let Mother Nature run wild on your land,” explained Mark Strickler, Henrico’s director of Community Revitalization; and the mowing “was done on the exact same day – October 30th – that the county hosted its Henricopolis Soil and Water Conservation District annual landowner’s meeting about ‘establishing native grass, shrub and wildflower plots for habitat management.’” How better to establish this than to let them sow naturally on the acreage? Somebody needs some education, and it certainly is not Ms. Senn, whom I wholeheartedly support.

  • Tom Rubino says:

    “Citizens need green space – unless the county builds more parks, they must allow private green space to counter the losses to wildlife habitat, which are in epidemic proportions.” Tom Rubino

  • Howard says:

    When I saw this piece on the news last night, I actually thought I heard it incorrectly. The photography was stunning. Ms Senn should have been receiving an award for such careful management of her beautiful property. Instead, the county invaded her land, bushogged her native habitat that required no watering or fertilizing and that provided shelter and food for native animals and birdlife, and now demands that she pay for this rape of her meadow?
    Am I correct in assuming that she is encouraged to plant whatever trees and bushes she wants and to nuture them with whatever water and fertilizer needs they demand? How is this good for the county? What opposite universe is this?
    Isn’t reducing water consumption and limiting chemical runoff part of the plan for a healthier environment? Ms Senn lives on the James River. Praise her efforts, don’t fine them. Time to rethink this antequated one size fits all ordinance.

  • Kristin says:

    It would seem that checking with the state forestry department and the department of Games and Inland Fisheries before mowing down someone’s property would be a good policy to develop. Doing the right thing seems to be more difficult and expensive thanks to leaders like Mark Strickler leading the charge.

  • Holly Boniface says:

    Jocelyn Senn’s property is where Indians lived and walked! It is where Battles took place! It is just outside protected historic battle fields…and is now looking like a battle field! Why can’t Henrico county take a moment to drive on out, and take a look? Why can’t they look at the facts in this individual case? Are you too busy Henrico County to pay attention to your residences? The way the county blanketly answered this is very disturbing! There certainly are enough employees at the Henrico County Offices to handle this issue! I have never been in a county where they take up so much space with their municipal buildings for employees! What are these employees doing? I am sure that they are collecting a pay check …. Yes, Jocelyn’s and many other residences of Henrico County pay taxes that pay for all these people! Now they can ACT too busy to treat people like individuals! What is up with this type of mentality? How about one of the many Henrico County Employees Get in One of The Many Henrico County Vehicles and Get off their ever lovin Chairs on Parham Rd to look at this as an individual case to handle? I find it hard to really believe that the county expects an educated business owner like Ms Jocelyn Senn or any of US to buy the load of Hogg Wash that the county tried to sell when they described her property like all others in the county!

    Jocelyn Senn took steps to do what was right to follow the few guidelines out there so she could begin a sustainable environment and protect her property, her health and our Mother Earth! Henrico County, Why don’t you do what is right and get out of your office and Open Your Mind to what is needed in Henrico County and the World? Henrico County can be a place where the tax dollars are spent and the people who live off those Tax Dollars actually serve the public and the Environment! This Environment can and will serve more people if it is protected! This is a place that matters and Jocelyn followed the few rules that were available…Now it is your turn, Henrico County…Open your Eye! The singular Eye! You must only have one Eye because if you had more than One Eye, you surely could see that this is Common Sense to allow an environmentally thoughtful citizen Like Jocelyn to grow her land into a naturally sustainable environment without planting trees. Why not let it grow like so many have done before her…going back to The Native Americans that once lived on that same property? Why Not? Henrico County; Please put one foot in front of your other and open the door, get into one of your many vehicles, drive over and take off your blind fold! This property is not like any other! It is a real nice place with real nice plants that bring life to so many animal! Let Jocelyn Senn bring beauty and life to Henrico County!

    • Trey Irby says:

      You are so right Holly. Jocelyn Senns property, as with ours, was possibly owned at one time by my blood ancestors. You may have heard of them, Pocahontas and John Rolfe? Unfortunately fires in the court house back in the day destroyed the property records and I have no way of knowing for sure other than speculation made by scholars. I won’t even go into my revolutionary and civil war ancestors that could have possibly stepped foot on our properties. So anyone that may imply (not you) that I don’t care about this property or it’s environmental protection, please let me know of your interest in it’s history I’ll be happy to fill you in.

  • Eric Brakman says:

    I am horrified that the county can justify this act. My guess is that they’re not very interested in nature, but prefer the tax dollars that developments provide, despite the cost.

  • Michael J. Bock says:

    Henrico County has always been known for doing whatever the upper echelon of government officials wants to do, even at the cost of hurting nature and it is a shame. Even the city makes more effort to preserve parks and areas where wildlife has designated safe areas. I really feel for Ms. Senn and others who try to help what little remains to safeguard nature and maintain the best environments for these poor animals and vegetation that improves air quality. Henrico County only cares about making money and ignoring the efforts of the few good people that reside there that have the money to help safeguard what limited green space is left. If counties like Henrico prevail, Virginia will wind up with concrete touching concrete and what native wild life that is struggling to survive there will surely be extinct. Ms. Senn should be granted the right to do what Henrico should be doing on it’s own. Sorry to ramble on. but this needs immediate attention and appropriate action to restore what she was doing for the good, of not only the county, the wildlife that everyone ‘wants to help’ but gets lost under uncaring officials.

  • Todd Brady says:

    As Jocelyn Senn’s neighbor, I know well of her commitment to naturalizing the property in question for the good of the native wildlife and for it’s natural beauty. I watched for three years as the property was transformed from a barren, overfarmed rectangle of scorched earth to a fledgling forest teeming with every manner of flora and fauna in their natural habitat. Jocelyn is exactly the kind of person our few remaining natural areas need. She has always sought to coexist with the natural environment. Not to pave, sterilize and illuminate it as so many do. They move to the country and then quickly set about making it into a suburb with awkward trees, manmade lakes and terrified, disoriented animals dispossessed from their rightful homes.

  • Deanna says:

    It is a shame what Henrico County did to Ms. Senn’s land. She took the steps to register it as a wildlife refuge. It is indeed a beautiful and rural stretch of road and it should have been left alone.

  • Paige Hausburg says:

    This makes no sense to me. At the very least, Henrico County should have a conversation with Ms. Senn. She took the appropriate steps to make sure she was acting within the law and doing the right thing. The County owes her an apology.

  • mari wilkinson says:

    Is she ” allowed “: to install a six to eight foot fence? The neighbors and the county wouldn’t be able to see the growth.

  • Lisa Allen says:

    Unbelievable! The worst thing they should have done would be to fine someone, but to MOW IT DOWN?? I know how heart-breaking that must have been, but they don’t care. Shame on Henrico County!! That’s what happens when you let the government, local or otherwise, have so much control. It’s not their land…Just shame on them!

  • Jocelyn Senn says:

    Please email or write Tyrone Nelson, Supervisor, Varina District: varina@co.henrico.va.us and let Mr. Nelson know your thoughts.

  • Matt says:

    There needs to be some restraint on the part of local government.. and logic. This owner made all attempts at establishing her property as a natural habitat. Reforestation is a huge need, particularly in rural areas that are starting to be infringed upon by the the expanding city of Richmond.

  • It’s so sad how easy it is to document Henrico’s missteps in terms of conservation, watershed protection, *anything that is good for its community* regarding encouraging food security (think: backyard hens), proliferation and protection of natural resources… much less basic urban planning.

    When we fled Henrico we never looked back.
    Here, people see strips of leftover crops / piles of brush / meadow and KNOW we’re helping wildlife. (And even if they didn’t, would never think it was THEIR BUSINESS to trespass on OUR property.)

    Henrico should be ashamed, and forced to attend national learning workshops on these subjects so they can *do their job* and be up to date like everyone else professionally.

    I hope Henrico is forced to return her property to the state it was before Henrico destroyed it.

  • Tiffany says:

    This is the problem with cities where their governers and leaders think they know best when in all actuality they really don’t care about their wildlife, they want to expand the city, make it look pretty (hence the grass ordanence) honestly i do not see a problem with grass being too tall, this is just another way our leaders control our lives. I have seen so many horrible things happen dealing with police officers who think they know best, there were 2 police officers who shot a dog multiple times in the head and heres the kicker the dog was restrained and tied he was on his back tail tucked no aggressiveness to be seen and they just shot him and they chief of the department said that it was not a thought out thing when you can clearly see the officer speaking with the other the other officer then proceeded to grab a plastic bag soon after the dog was shot.
    Soon we will have no rights because most people do not see anything wrong with rules that may ruin other peoples lives. We need to stop worrying about already built cities and start worrying about our environment, before its too late.

  • Suzie says:

    Henrico County should pay to restore her land back to what it was before they so ignorantly mowed it down

  • Suzie says:

    E-mail the director of Community Revitalization at str66@co.henrico.va.us and let them know how you feel.

  • nbradleyjean says:

    I was so sorry to hear about this (I interned for Jocelyn this past summer). For this to happen to such a kind and giving woman is disgusting. You would think that respect for nature and wildlife could be more valued, but the corruption of our society has once again defeated Mother Nature. I hope that Jocelyn’s story can help change what’s happening to our land and improve the living conditions for the animals.

  • Jake says:

    We live about 2 miles from Ms. Senn. After hurricane Isabel we lost an acre worth of forest and we have largely allowed it to reforest naturally. Under the county code we are in violation and should clear all of the natrual successional growth and we were technically required to manage the replanting. That would have cost of tens of thousands, not to mention that by their argument we couldn’t allow the understory vegetation to reestablish, instead virtually requiring lawn that has to be maintained. Idiotic.

  • Gale says:

    A very sad story indeed. County of Henrico apparently has some people on the payroll who are just power hungry. This case should have been investigated fully before such drastic action was taken. The 12″ grass rule should just be for subdivisions and not for country roads. What a shame it was handled this way. It sounds like she was trying to do the right thing and didn’t get any credit for her efforts.

  • VA DGIF says:

    HENRICO NEEDS TO GET A CLUE and listen to the state!

    “The distinctive “Bob-White!” call of the quail is becoming just a memory for many rural Virginians. Quail populations in Virginia have declined 80% over the last 40 years. Along with the quail, many songbirds and other animals have also disappeared, due to the loss of the early successional habitat these animals need for food, shelter, and raising their young. Early successional habitat consisiting of native grasses, brushy weeds and wildflowers also attract useful pollinators like bees–a benefit to farmers. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is joining other state and federal agencies and groups to educate landowners about how they can get involved to help bring quail back to Virginia.” Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

  • Robbie Rhur says:

    There is only one thing to do – file a formal complaint to your supervisor and have the ordinance amended to only include subdivisions.Trust me, if enough people complain and support Ms Senn, things will change. Henrico has always been on the side of development rather than the beauty of a natural environment – sadly, this is true of most local governments.

  • Sue says:

    Henrico County has become too big for their britches. I think we need to bushhog some of these officials out of office. Henrico County’s own property this summer was WAY out of control in multiple locations. At the same time they were submitting notices to residents who were struggling to keep up with cutting grass because of all the rain. Strickler is an idiot as demonstrated by his poor “slippery slope” logic. Wasteful,extravagant, recklessly spending our tax dollar bureaucrats = Henrico County.

  • Trey Irby says:

    What a bunch of gullible people most of you are. This woman has conned all of you as well as Mark Holmberg. Seems to me the responsible thing would have been for Mr Holmberg to contact her neighbors so they could comment on how her beloved, rat infested, weed plagued “habitat” is effecting them. But then that would have made it an objective story, and thus a non issue. What’s that old saying, …..never let the whole truth get in the way of a good story?

    I wonder how many of you would be spouting off such nonsense if her property was right next door to you? It doesn’t just front a “country road”, it also fronts our private road (used by 5 houses) and a public subdivision road. There was also no mention that some of us can hardly get down “our” road because of all the crap hanging over it from her property.

    Before you continue to berate the County over something they have bent over backwards to resolve with Ms Senns, over nearly the last two years, I suggest you contact the county/state and ask them how many times Ms Senns has called them on her own neighbors for their grass being too tall. And don’t stop there, while you’re at it ask them how many times she (or a friend/associate/whatever) have called in to complain about most anything she can dream up. I know first hand, as I am one of them.

    If Ms Senns is such a “do-gooder” and so into creating “habitat” and a “wildlife refuse” for all these poor creatures and to better our world and community, etc., etc., why not ask her why she doesn’t allow the same to naturally occur over the 4 ac +/- field (manicured yard) between her house and the river? Now that would make me a believer.

    A bit hypocritical if you ask me and also causes me to pause and wonder what the real purpose of her creating such eye sore and potential health issue for her neighbors might be. I won’t go into it here, but there could very possibly be an ulterior motive.

    Ms Senns, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Please stop trying to hurt your neighbors while continuing to believe you don’t have to live by the same rules as you wish the rest of us to.

    Never ceases to amaze me how the media is so easily able to draw in the bleeding hearts of people too lazy to look into the facts before they open their mouths or hit their keyboards.

    Have a wonderful evening everyone.

    • mathias says:

      But, Trey–weren’t you the one who called the county on her in the first place?! As retaliation for her informing the county of all the illegal dumping into the James river that you did?! Talk about telling only what’s convenient for your narrative. We’re not naive–we all know what a jerk you are. Are the rats disturbing the condemned building you own adjacent to her property? You make it sound like you live there–you don’t. So hey, why don’t you shut up and stop using Strickler as your attack dog.

    • Voice of Reason says:

      Mr Irby sounds like a Grand Puba preaching in a gospel church. I don’t know this person but it seems that he harbors bad feelings toward Ms Senn. Mr Irby should step back and read what he wrote on Nov 6, he might understand that his arguments and comments are not smart and makes him look bad. Perhaps Mr Irby needs to get a clue about what is going on here; there was a natural grown habitat that was mowed down by a government employee who did it without permission or just cause. That is wrong!!!!! The government is invading the citizen it works for. If Mr Irby believes that there is some underlying plot afoot, then perhaps he needs therapy to work out his phobia.

  • DJ says:

    I would take them to court and get them to fully replace all the damage they have done

  • Laura says:

    This story parallels another Henrico debacle–the 12 On Your Side story a few weeks ago about a Quioccasin Road resident coping with a fire station constructed feet from her property on an elevated site so that the blazingly bright and glaring LED parking lot lights (all on all night regardless of activity) are even with her rooftop and flood her property and interior of her home. And that after the runoff from the construction site repeatedly flooded her backyard because the construction completely razed a natural, wooded area.

    I guess it is the Henrico County Way to show no regard or respect for what remains of its natural environment or for its residents and to recklessly apply absurd ordinances without any discernment.

  • Greg says:

    County government against it’s own legal citizens. Both lose, therefore government wins. Welcome to new Virginia. So sad.

  • Thanks for finally writing about >HOLMBERG: Henrico County bush
    hogs residents wildlife habitat | WTVR.com <Loved it!

  • Lane says:

    Is this yet another case of government overstepping its bounds? What in the world have we come to when a property owner can not control how her property is used? How have we come to a state where it is illegal to let property return to a NATURAL condition?
    Henrico’s government is beginning to resemble the sloppy inefficient and bungling example set by the City of Richmond. Surely there could have been one clear thinker in that maze of confusion, just one person who might have asked if the planned course of actions were merited or even warranted. But no, there was not even one such person.
    One wonders how this whole misadventure came to be. What government employee started his day by wondering how he might displace thousands of animals and lay ruin to an incredibly promising natural habitat which would have reduced ground poisons and helped preserve our natural aquifer.

  • Natalie Clark says:

    I lived next door to this property for about a year. To hear that the county bush hogged what was a beautiful piece of land filled with wildlife outrages me to the extreme. I remember seeing numerous wildlife on that property both in the day and at night. Who in in there right mind can say they have seen a baby dear with there mother up close and in the flesh, i have and it was the most amazing thing to see. So much wildlife has lost what they made a home because the county disapproved in what was being done. Yet they are the ones who hold meetings to improve the habitats for the wildlife that is running out of homes due to development but when someone takes it in their hands and tries to make a home for these animals they are met with constant bickering and hypocrisy. The county can not say they are all for helping the environment and wildlife when they can not even support a private citizen of the county who was doing their part in helping. It is outrages to think that the county could just come on someones property and bush hog there land without any notification that they are doing it. How could you dare fine someone for the mowing cost when you are the ones who sent the person out to do it, if anyone should be held responsible for any payments it should be the county of Henrico. I am sad and outraged to see that this happened to such a wonderful and kind hearted person who was putting the environment and nature before anything. Instead of building on the property, Jocelyn decided to leave it as be and let the wildlife have that property to build a home one. I support this 100 percent and i know that me and the rest of the people who see this will support Jocelyn and in hope to make things right where she can build that property up again for the wildlife to have it! Don’t stop the fight, keep fighting for all those animals and nature in general to have a home that is not taken up by housing developments or cooperate buildings! I raise my glass to people like Jocelyn Senn, those who want to make a difference and better the environment!

  • claudia thompson-deahl says:

    When are people going to get it? We have to bring nature back into our lives and it’s up to us to provide habitat for natures diversity.

  • Jenn says:

    It would seem to be that an official conservation easent on this property would certainly help furthe protect it. But the County is definitely mistaken. You can’t define a weed as a weed. A weed is a plant growin where it is not desired. In this case, it appears the field supervisor was the only one that didn’t desire them to be there because he wanted it landscaped. Of course he’s clearly not aware that community revitalization also means accommodating for storm meter run-off regulation. And other county departments will likely disagree with him when they have to deal with storm water run-off and water quality regulation compliance, among other things. A huge waste of tax-payer dollars indeed.

  • Mike Harrell says:

    To Mr. Irby’s post on Nov. 6 @5:25 I would say at least one other neighbor HAS voiced their opinion here. And it’s in support of Ms. Senn. “Rat infested?” “Health issues?” Let’s see the evidence. Until then I’ll continue to be one of the “gullible” ones who suspects, as you intimate, that what’s really behind your displeasure is not the unmowed field, but rather personal issues with Ms. Senn.

    • Dede Harper says:

      To Mike Harrell, your comments to Mr. Irby echoe my thoughts exactly! Rats tend to live where there is garbage to feed on….so where are his rats truly coming from? I agree he seems to have an issue with Ms Senn, not a natural habitat. Why would you live in a rural area if you want manicured properties? Henrico was totally out of line on this one.

    • Trey Irby says:

      Dear Mr. Harrell,

      You would be partly correct Sir. You see, I feel the same way as most of you. I don’t want the county, or anyone else for that matter, telling me what I can or can’t do with my own property. However, Ms Senns has a VERY LONG history of trying to tell me what I can and can’t do with my property. And how does she do that, in person, by phone? No, by complaining every chance she gets to the county, the state and whoever else she can get to listen. Then, if she doesn’t get the response she wants, I’m told she threatens to go to the media. So I guess what I’m doing here is giving her a little taste of her own medicine. Thing is, I’m not the hypocrite she appears to be.

      Her trivial complaints such as grass too tall, brush piles on my farm (great habitat btw), renovation debris, paint chipping, trying to keep me from building a new house on my property a mile up river from her, trying to keep me from protecting my river frontage and the James River from erosion (yeah, a true conservationist) and on and on have cost me thousands and thousands of dollars my family does not have.

      Why don’t you ask Ms Senns if she still plans on speaking against me rip rapping my shore line to protect the river from erosion, just as she has done on her property, at the hearing in a week or two? Because of her that is going to cost us a minimum of $1000.00 on top of the thousands she’s already cost us.

      Money that is being taken away from caring for our daughter that’s at home in a vegetative state, and has been for many years.

      Do I have a problem with this meddling, IMO, nutcase? You’re darn tootin’ I do.

      Should she have to live by the same rules she expects me to?

      Should the county enforce the exact same ordinances they have forced me to because of her complaints?

      Should she have to pay the county (actually, us as tax paying citizens) back for cutting her field after she refused to, the same as I have had to pay them back for work they did on my property, without my consent, because of her complaints?

      Whoever mentioned the county is poor and should be spending their resources on much more important things. I couldn’t agree more, but with county residents, such as Ms Senns, filing what appear to most of us as trivial complaints all the time, this is what you get. You can thank her and others for this. I’m simply trying to put a stop to it.

      In response to the proof you requested, I will supply that when Ms Senns supplies proof that the farming once associated with the property at issue here, could have EVER poisoned her well OR caused one strand of algae to grow in the pond referred to in this story. Total hogwash, Every bit of the runoff from her property runs onto my and another neighbors property, which is in the exact opposite direction of said well and pond. That’s a fact.

      Ms Senns could have probably easily supplied that proof by filming all the rats and snakes that were likely a heavy part of the population scurrying away half scared to death of what had just happened to their newly adopted home.

      Please, until y’all know ALL the facts, I would stop digging.

      I would much prefer Ms Senns come on here to dispute any of what I’ve said instead of having one of her friends, she may or may not have put up to it, “try” and state her case for her. It simply makes you look foolish.

      If Ms Senns TRULY wanted this property set aside permanently for the betterment of the world and all it’s little creatures, all she has to do is turn it into a conservation easement and I’m told she can let it go “natural” forever. But then that would mean she, nor anyone else, could ever develop it. Apparently she is not willing to do that, wonder why?

      And finally, yes, I actually hated the way that property looked before they cut it, which I still contend is the main reason she did it, to hurt her neighbors. My family and I used to love seeing the many families of dear out there eating soy beans. That is no more, and anyone claiming to have seen one out in the middle of that field recently either saw the tallest dear in the world or was hallucinating.

      Oh, and which property do you own on our road, Mr. Harrell? I’d love to meet you some time.

  • We have a few things around it and just extended our patio a year ago, like rose bushes, tulips and mums. We’d want to place a couple dogwood trees close to the patio but we do not know when it is feasible to achieve this or not. I truly do not want the deck tore up by roots from the trees later on. Are dogwood trees compatibile with being near to an outdoor and also would it not be more straightforward to go shopping for some dwarf dogwoods? What sort of ornamental trees are recommended around a patio?. Where can we get ideas about what other things to plant around an outdoor, such as for example bushes and so on. We were also thinking in the long run to place a little white wrough metal pasadena fence round the landscaped area and deck. Any sites I possibly could have a look at for a few good practical advice. Thanks for that answers..

  • Jocelyn Senn says:

    I would like to take a moment to respond to Trey Irby’s comments dated November 6, 2013 at 5:25 pm.

    Mr. Irby has it completely wrong on all counts and is no friend of Varina or the environment. Please see the short list:

    1. Many of my neighbors did weigh in on this issue – in favor of the habitat

    2. There are 5 houses on our private road. The one he owns, he has never lived in and has been condemned in the past and has been boarded up for years. A complete eye soar.

    3. The neighbor, who’s property adjoins mine, looks just like my meadow did. I have never called on a neighbors lawn for being over grown.

    4. The neighbors have a road maintenance agreement. When we fixed the road, Mr. Irby refused to contribute.

    5. He suggests you contact the state, please do. I talked to Virginia Forestry about growing a forest, and they recommend letting it grow naturally.

    6. Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries also advocate creating habitats for our dwindling quail population.

    7. Again, while the County of Henrico was destroying my property and my habitat, they were holding a meeting in Dory Park, minutes from my property, encouraging landowners to establish grass, shrub and wildflower plots for habitat management.

    8. If you are interested in attending a public hearing concerning Mr. Irby illegally dumping construction waste into the James River. The wetlands hearing is Nov 14 and is a public hearing.
    For more information:
    Contact – Habitat Management Division
    Virginia Marine Resources Commission
    2600 Washington Ave., 3rd Floor
    Newport News, VA 23607

    9. If you check the public record, Mr. Irby is currently “WANTED” by the Henrico Police Department for two counts of building code violations.

    10. Mr. Irby has a property up river from me, that is literally falling into the James River, creating an environmental and public safety issue, which he refuses to do anything about.

    11. I have no “ulterior motive” other than to protect the watershed.

    • Trey Irby says:

      Ms Senns, why did you “destroy” the “natural habitat” that existed on the property in which you built your new house and now your illegal “barn”. It was all natural habitat BEFORE you bought it. How do I know? Because I was there long before you and tried to buy it before you did but was told by the county it wasn’t buildable because it required a variance, it had no road public frontage, wouldn’t be able to get a septic permit OR a building permit because it was TOO CLOSE to the WATERSHED. IE, RPA, Chesapeake Bay Act, all that good stuff, ring a bell???

      You got a variance through loopholes yet fought me getting the exact same thing up the road and I don’t have close to the issues you did. Nor will I be destroying a “natural habitat”.

      Please, give us a break with your hypocrisy!

  • Scott Price says:

    Ms. Senn is trying to do the right thing for local wildlife and the general environment. I think it is outrageous that Henrico would spend our tax dollars to ruin her good works for no real reason. What a shame.

  • Frick Wagger says:

    I know MS. Senn to be an intelligent person. What the idiots in Henrico County understand about environmental issues never get’s past campaign contributions.

  • Dean Houghton says:

    I think Jocelyn’s efforts to protect a piece of our planet from the destructive results that many of it’s citizens inflict upon it is brilliant and worth noting. I only hope that there is someone in the local government that is smart enough to realize this and make changes so as to stop the harassment. My thoughts are with you Jocelyn and I hope you don’t get discouraged.

  • Trey Irby says:

    Dear Ms Senns,

    I’m sorry it took so long to respond but I was out of town at my youngest Daughter’s softball tournament.

    I am amazed at how your response showed up “time stamped” before my Nov 8th reply to Mr. Harrell but somehow didn’t show up in the list of comments before mine….oh well, nothing surprises me with you or the media these days.

    It is quite obvious, from your comments, you had read that post before your off topic reply yet you failed to respond to them, why is that? You say I am wrong on all counts yet you fail to provide even ONE example? What you do is redirect the subject at hand. This story isn’t about me, it’s about you and how you suffered the exact same consequences as those you’ve filed similar trivial complaints on. I never said contact the State about your neglected property, I said contact them about your previous complaints against neighbors. Get your facts straight. But do feel free to contact any of them for their 1st recommendations to you listed BEFORE just letting your property go to hell.

    Anyone ever suggest you run for office? You’d make an excellent politician ….in this day of not being accountable, BS, “it’s all about me” and screw the rest of you. I can see you now, “none of you will lose your current insurance if you want to keep it, I promise”. “My plan will save the average family $2500.00 per year on premiums, trust me”. You are a joke, one minute you are fighting big government to get your way and the next you are wanting more government to further your cause. Which is it Ms Senns? You can’t have it both ways.

    I wish you had responded directly to my accusations, as you know full well NONE of them are inaccurate. But unlike you, I will respond directly to you. You might want to quit digging afterwards as well, but feel free to continue, you’ll just need to borrow a pair of full waders and a tall ladder before it’s over.

    As you well know, my family actually owns TWO houses on our road and a total of approximately 26 acs of farm land. The one you mentioned (the eye sore) can only be seen if you come across your next door neighbor’s property to the left, then across the road and then across the 2 ac rental property next to us that’s inhabited by one of your complaining friends. Then you would have to peek through the trees/bushes to see it, as has been noticed on numerous occasions by my contractor doing the renovations on it before we move in. Oh, and it has never been condemned, so you lied once again.

    Why did you neglect to mention the one owned by my daughter that is handicapped and STILL in a vegetative state? Or are you just confused and stretching truths like you are well known for? You know the one I’m speaking of, the house and 4.5 ac pond front that’s for sale so we can raise funds for her care? The one you want to own but would prefer to steal by any means possible? You know, the one we purchased years ago when it was literally a JUNK YARD and CRACK HOUSE with no power, heat, water,or plumbing that we cleaned up so we could protect the value of our river front farm and as an investment for her. You mean the one that was already condemned and put up for a tax sale, that one? The one right next door to your “bad haircut” looking, rat and snake infested eyesore that anyone coming to look at her property or your next door neighbor’s house for sale has to pass right before they get there? You know, the one directly between and adjoining the subject property and your manicured riverfront estate? The one that, if you were able to acquire it, would make a nice development property because it would then run from Osborne to the River? That one?

    Yeah, Ms Senns is such a sweet, caring woman. Makes me want to puke!

    IMO, you are nothing more than a snake in the grass willing to do whatever it takes for your own personal gain. If you hurt a defenseless child that’s unable to look after or defend herself, even better apparently.

    If you are such an environmentalist and your only interest is making the world a better place for us and God’s creatures, why in the world did you/your pals call every agency known to man trying to stop it when I had already had our pond approved that will be an absolute haven for all wildlife and waterfowl? You, Ms Senns are the biggest hypocrite I have ever seen.

    Oh, and I hope you and all your friends do show up at the hearing so you can make a fool of yourselves again, just like you did at the last one where you wanted the county to tear down our Henrico, Co. “Historic” River Front Cottage and then not allow my wife and I to rebuild anywhere else on OUR property if it was torn down. For those interested, this would have effectively turned our prime riverfront property we had invested our life savings in, into a picnic area if she/they would have succeeded.

    YES!… let’s all come out and fight Mr. Irby wanting to protect the James River and his families property from erosion! He wants to rip rap his property with “construction waste” (in truth, broken up recycled concrete that’s used legally EVERY DAY for this exact same purpose, but “construction waste” sounds much better for her purposes). This is prosperous! He should have to remove it all (read, create more erosion) and then cut down and remove 25 or more BEAUTIFUL, LARGE, MATURE trees lining the park like river bank so he can do it the way the GOVERNMENT and I originally said it should be done so he doesn’t encroach on property he once owned before my river and air polluting POWER BOAT washed it into the river. Who cares that after a SEAS engineer and other environmentally sensitive, common sense, government employes agree the way Mr. Irby wants to do it makes the most sense. Who cares that VMRC has accepted Mr Irby’s plans. LETS FIGHT IT ANYWAY PEOPLE!

    If we win we can either force their daughter to be put in a home so I might be able to steal her property because it will cost a fortune to cut down and remove all those trees, not to mention the absurd cost of construction the way the government and I originally wanted him to do it,…. OR, if he chooses his daughter’s well being over spending all that money to protect the river and his property, at least he’ll have to remove the proven protection he already has in place and we can get back to ruining the James with all the erosion coming off his property every time I zoom by it IN MY MOTOR BOAT…..YAY, I win either way!

    Protect the watershed my @ss, (see above and my response to Mr Harrell).

    You, Ms Senns, are one real piece of work. I’m sure it will be a real pleasure once we finally move into our beloved farm and have to deal with you and your meddling pals on a daily basis.

    I just love how people move into an area/neighborhood, like you and your buds next door and up the street have, and then want to tell the long time residents/property owners how they should live and what they should and shouldn’t be doing with their own properties.

    Believe me when I say, you and your associates are NO friends of the,”mind your own business and I’ll mind mine” good people of Varina.

  • Marci LaBrie says:

    Mr. Irby…I travel that road you speak of in a tanker truck all the time. This truck requires 12′ vertical clearance and 11″ width clearance and I have no issues getting in and out of there. I’m not quite sure why you would have any in a standard sized vehicle. There most certainly isn’t any such overgrowth from Ms. Senn’s property into that road. Secondly, many people do choose to rip rap their shorelines to protect against erosion. They do so with natural rock of a prescribed size trucked in from local quarries. I know this because I have hauled tons of it for just that purpose to various waterfront locations around VA. Broken chunks of re-bar filled concrete laden with numerous chemicals and possibly mixed with fiberglass for durability are hardly the same thing. And finally while I’m sorry for your daughter’s condition…why on earth do you keep bringing it up in this conversation? Are you somehow implying Ms. Senn was the cause her situation as well…or were you going for the pity vote?

  • Paul R. Joens says:

    No due process.

  • Mike Harrell says:

    I think Mr. Irby has clearly demonstrated by his comments that his issue in not with the habitat, but rather with Ms. “Senns,” as he calls her, (intentionally misspelling her name.) My impression is that he is more concerned with getting back at his neighbor than he is with the health of the environment. I hope this issue has mobilized people to lobby for a saner approach to land management in Henrico County.

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