Now is not the time for supervisors to do nothing about planning

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 20, 2008

To the Editor:

Taxpayers have been complaining for years about our do-nothing U.S. Congress not truly representing the concerns and wishes of the citizens. We do not want to see the Southampton County Board of Supervisors follow the same path. At the May 27 board meeting, we in attendance had the unique opportunity to see our local elected officials fail to put an issue to rest.

After our board spent taxpayers’ money to hire “experts” to develop a comprehensive plan, held several public hearings to get input from local county residents, and received recommendations from the planning commission, the board voted to approve the comprehensive plan known as “Vision 2020.” Now, approximately one year later, at the request of one developer, Hampton Roads Development, the board wants to change the current comprehensive plan.

The board failed to vote yes or no on this issue despite encouragement from the public to do so. At both the planning commission hearing and at the board meeting on May 27, the vast majority of the general public in attendance was heavily in favor of keeping the comprehensive plan as it is currently written without changing it. Our board members then proceeded to waffle and waiver, preach and pontificate, straddle the fence, second one motion and then vote against that same motion, and in general, confuse the public with a vote to table the request.

During the discussion after the public hearing was closed, one supervisor declared himself a “visionary,” which by implication means the rest of our county citizens must not have any vision and have our heads stuck in the sand. He stated the county was going to have tremendous growth. That is very different than the projection in the “2007 Hampton Roads Statistical Digest issue of the Virginia Business magazine” that shows a total population growth of 313 people by the year 2030.

Case law in Virginia has always supported the comprehensive plan, and changing it would put our county in a defensive position if we ever had to go to court with a developer. Also, it runs the risk of the county losing out on Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities’ efforts to keep historic status which will aid in fighting the OLF, a problem we now have because Virginia Beach City Council would not say “no” to developers.

In summation, it is fine that our supervisors have opinions on issues, but in the final analysis, the responsibility of the supervisors is to vote the will of the people they represent, not necessarily their own preference. We commend Supervisor Walter Young and Supervisor Moses Wyche who supported the decision to leave the comprehensive plan as it now stands. We are disappointed that a yes or no vote was not taken and the matter was tabled.

Does the public have all the facts? Has any commitment by the county been made to Hampton Roads Development? The citizens of Southampton County have the right to know the truth.

Ryland F. Beale Jr., Emerson Kitchen, Bruce Phillips, James H. Lee III, Hunter Darden III, W. David Edwards, Bill Hancock, Dennis M. Wlodyka, Felice Hancock, Clarke Fox, Larry Whitley, James W. Hart