Well-planned growth is necessary

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Little, it seems, gets people as riled as discussing growth, especially in small communities where growth is viewed as a pariah, unwanted by those who were here first and generally dismissed by those who see any change as a negative.

The most recent case in point involves a project called The Villages of Southampton, which potentially could include hundreds of single-family homes, along with 256 quad-plexes set aside for senior citizens, a convalescent home and commercial, retail and office space along Camp Parkway just west of the Franklin line.

On Tuesday night, the proposal went before the Board of Supervisors — again — and the board tabled the matter — again.

Residents turned out in solid numbers and formed an even more solid bloc against any such growth, and the litany of greatest hits of protest was heard loud and clear.

Maintain the agriculture heritage of Southampton County. Don’t let “outsiders” line their pockets through selling homes to even more “outsiders.” At least one citizen broke out a reference to the much-feared outlying landing field as a way to try to oppose growth.

Navigating the Villages’ case, though, is like working through a honeycomb.

The developer, Newport News-based Hampton Roads Development, already has the right to build more than 400 single-family homes on the 432-acre site. Up to 700 homes could be built if an adjacent agricultural property is rezoned in keeping with its designation on the Future Land Use Map.

The question before county supervisors is whether to allow the commercial and multifamily aspects of the developer’s plan.

That’s where battle lines have been drawn.

Franklin District Supervisor Walter L. Young Jr. said on Tuesday, “I’m definitely not in favor of changing the comprehensive plan.”

Planning Commission Chairman Alan W. Edwards, who addressed the supervisors, said, “We all know growth is coming, but we want to make it smart growth.”

Still, the Planning Commission, in an earlier meeting, voted to recommend that the supervisors deny the developer’s request.

But the developer can legally build on the land. Plus, services — water and sewer, a new school, roads — are already accessible.

The marketplace will determine whether the builder can sell the commercial component.

The county needs a healthy dose of growth — what doesn’t grow, wilts. That’s true in farming, and that’s equally as true in society.

The board, after a series of procedural measures, voted unanimously to take no action for six months.

Ironically, the board must act within 12 months or the request will be deemed to have been automatically approved.

It shouldn’t come to that.

Supervisors can keep adequate control of growth in the county by taking action, not allowing inaction to make a decision for them.