Farm Bureau board: Leave comprehensive plan intact

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 28, 2008

To the Editor:

Approximately one year ago, Southampton County revised its comprehensive plan in accordance with state mandates.

Professional planners were hired with taxpayer dollars to gather input from interested citizens from all segments of our community and draft a new comprehensive plan.

After many town hall meetings and tremendous time expended by our county employees, the Planning Commission passed onto our Board of Supervisors our new comprehensive plan, duly named Vision 2010.

Regardless of whether you live in the county, near Hunterdale or along Business 58 as it turns into Clay Street in Franklin, you should be aware of what is about to transpire at the property known as the Cutchins Farm near the new Riverdale Elementary School. Large developers have chosen this site to construct high-density home sites, apartment complexes and commercial properties.

Ever since Hunterdale Elementary School was built in the late 1960s, the community around it has grown constantly at a pace that was much expected by all and accepted by all. Because of this type of growth, Hunterdale Elementary School is seen by many parents to be the elementary school of choice for their child’s education.

If large developers are allowed to put high-density homes, apartment complexes and who knows what type of business in close proximity to our new school, we stand to become the victims of violence which we witness every day on the evening and late news from our existing neighbors and others throughout the country.

These types of developments will attract individuals to our community that have left their current neighborhoods for reasons we may not know about until it is too late.

Too many reasons exist to deny this type of development from increased services and security to increased taxes for everyone and not enough reasons to accept this type of growth at this time.

At the May Southampton County Board of Supervisors’ meeting much time was spent listening to the taxpayers of this county speak in opposition to changing our Comprehensive Plan for this development. Three individuals spoke in favor of the change, a homebuilder, a pastor of a church and a restaurant owner, all of whom would benefit from increased population.

Those who attended the meeting witnessed what had to be the most undemocratic and poorly decisive actions taken by a local government in quite some time. Despite the direction from legal counsel not to give up what legal foothold the county has with a comprehensive plan — plus the county administrator explaining that the proposed changes to the comprehensive plan would jeopardize what projects had already been planned for commercial growth on nearby properties — and the overwhelming testimony from citizens throughout the county to deny this change, only two of our Board of Supervisors voted to support the Planning Commission’s decision to deny this request.

Those in attendance that evening were further entertained by a couple of supervisors who proceeded to tell everyone what a fine person this developer was and how honorable his intent must be, leaving most of us to wonder if there must be a relationship between themselves and this developer. Another supervisor felt that more taxpayer dollars should be spent on a study to determine what impact this development would have on the current Comprehensive Plan.

And yet another supervisor proclaimed himself to be a visionary and told those in attendance that there &uot;heads were stuck in the sand.&uot; A couple of supervisors chose to do nothing at all.

As a county Farm Bureau organization, the Southampton County Farm Bureau strongly opposes this type of high-density housing development and most importantly opposes changing a comprehensive plan that was so masterfully designed by the citizens and administration of Southampton County.

We should not change our own vision of the future of this county to cater to the whims and wishes of any developer who may or may not have the best interest of this county and its taxpayers at heart and furthermore may or may not be here in the future to see this development completed or even care.

Southampton County Farm Bureau has always tried to look at all sides of a problem and find the middle ground where we can flourish and prosper. We also do not feel, as one supervisor did, that putting as many homes as possible in one development will take the pressure off our farmlands. We believe those individuals who are seeking a place in the county to build a home will not settle for a half an acre or less lot in a developed community.

Hopefully the restrictions we have implemented in the past will help protect our farmlands and rural aesthetics. Higher populations in these developments will put more tax pressure on our existing farmlands and homeowners alike.

The Southampton County Farm Bureau represents more than 2,000 families in this county. It is important for everyone to realize that this one development will financially impact citizens from all corners of Southampton County, from the Greensville County line down to North Carolina and east of Zuni.

Southampton County Farm Bureau knows that we must have growth to survive. We know that in 20 years our population will have increased.

It is our vision to be a county that has developed with nicer neighborhoods but not be numbered as highly as would high-density homes if they were allowed. We envision agriculture to still be the number one industry and our rural and scenic atmosphere to have not diminished.

The Southampton County Farm Bureau thanks the Board of Supervisors for recognizing the importance of agriculture to the county.

The past policies enacted by the Board of Supervisors, like Land Use taxation and the Land Use restrictions, forming of the Land Use task force and the planning commission will ultimately help preserve agriculture and the rural lifestyle that we are blessed to have.

The Southampton County Farm Bureau humbly requests that the Board of Supervisors deny the proposed changes to the comprehensive

plan and to restrict the density of homes allowed in this and future developments.

We urge the Board of Supervisors to accept from the developer his promised help with the sewer line to the new elementary school as well as updating the Courtland Treatment Plant.

We ask that each supervisor vote the way their constituents want and deny the proposed changes to the comprehensive plan.

We further urge everyone to call your supervisor and let your thoughts be heard. A special Board of Supervisors meeting has been set for Monday at 8:30 a.m. to vote on this one important matter.

What is your vision for Southampton County?

Editor’s note: This letter was read and approved by the Southampton County Farm Bureau Board of Directors and delivered to The Tidewater News for publication.