Supervisors reject Darden Mill Road extension

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 26, 2008

COURTLAND—Citing concerns about how the change might impact the safety of Darden Mill Estates residents, Southampton County supervisors denied on Monday a request for permission to extend Darden Mill Road.

After hearing more than 20 speakers sound off against a developer’s plan to extend the road by 1,100 feet, the county’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to deny the subdivision variance that had been sought.

&uot;We could perhaps exacerbate a potentially bad situation&uot; by allowing the cul-de-sac to be extended, Berlin-Ivor District Supervisor Ronald M. West said after an emotional public comment period. &uot;Public safety counts; it’s of key importance to me.&uot;

During an hour and a half of public comment, residents of the community had raised concerns about the potential for disaster if 22 more homes were added on a narrow road that offers only one way in and out.

With the road blocked by one tree or vehicle, a fire in a home down the street could wreak havoc on the rest of the neighborhood, they warned.

Though the safety arguments seemed to have been the most influential ones Monday, the most fervent comments were those that described the residents’ connection to the character of their community.

&uot;It’s personal,&uot; Ash Cutchin told supervisors. &uot;It is our little neighborhood.&uot;

Speakers represented an unusual mix of Southampton natives and transplants, both trying to limit the growth of a neighborhood that has existed for only 30 years or so.

&uot;We like our lifestyle out there,&uot; said Richard Rogers, who lives at the end of the existing cul-de-sac on Darden Point Road. &uot;Maybe it’s selfish on our part to want to keep it that way.&uot;

Several other speakers also admitted to having a selfish point of view when considering the possibility of a developer opening up land at the end of their road for 22 more homes.

&uot;It is selfish,&uot; said Susan Everett, who had moved to Darden Mill from Virginia Beach. &uot;By adding all of this, I may as well go back to Virginia Beach.&uot;

&uot;It’s my part of heaven,&uot; William R. Johnson said of his property in the 55-home subdivision. He and his wife moved to Southampton from Portsmouth to retire in a peaceful place, he said.

Motioning to the crowd that had gathered to oppose the developer’s plans, he said, &uot;All these people back here, they want a decent place to live.&uot; If the proposal were approved, he added, &uot;Their quality of life is going to go to the dogs.&uot;

Ryland Beale, who sold the property that eventually became Darden Mill Estates and still owns land next door, told supervisors he was trying &uot;to defend what I’ve worked my whole life for&uot; and asked them to &uot;consider the feelings of the general public on Lakeside Drive and Darden Point.&uot;

The only speakers supporting the request were the developer, Darren Stauffer, and his attorney, William H. Riddick III.

&uot;Everybody would rather see things stay the way they’ve always been,&uot; Riddick acknowledged in his opening presentation. But he portrayed the request as the only way to allow his client to fully develop the land in keeping with its residential zoning.

Riddick also pointed out that none of the speakers who live on Darden Point Road would be there today if the residents of intersecting Lakeside Drive had been similarly opposed to development when Darden Point was built.

Though supervisors expressed sympathy for Stauffer, they said the fact that so many homes already located in the community would be impacted by the change made this situation different.