Name change for Carrington Drive sought

Published 10:12 am Saturday, April 4, 2015

The three surviving sons of longtime Southampton County resident John Walter David Brown, now deceased, will formally request that board of supervisors return the name of Carrington Drive to J. Walter Brown Lane.

It had been identified as such from 1903, when Brown built his family farm on the plot of land, until 1990, when the county officially adopted road names. Brown, along with his wife and 18 children, lived on the .8-mile road, and the farmland along the lane still remains in the family to this day.

“It bothers me that they didn’t ask not one of the five kids that were still living at the time what they thought the name should be,” said Brown’s son, Morris E. “It should have never been changed.”

The Brown’s farm was recognized as a Virginia Century Farm by Timothy M. Kaine, former governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Todd P. Haymore, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, in June 2008.

“They didn’t think about the heritage of that land, and it’s disrespectful.”

According to county administrator Michael Johnson, Section 15.2-2019 of the Code of Virginia authorizes localities to name streets, roads and alleys with such names, taking precedence over any other designation.

“Southampton County didn’t exercise its authority until it initiated an Enhanced 911 emergency response system in the late 1980s or early 1990s, which required street addresses for every occupied structure,” Johnson said. “Until that time, address outside of the incorporated towns were assigned by the local post offices, and weren’t very useful to anyone other than the rural letter carriers.”

Morris, along with his brothers Karl R. and Madison C., sent an informal request to board to have the name changed earlier this month, with hopes that it would be on the agenda at last month’s meeting. The appeal was not complete, however, because it did not comply with the process for consideration of street name changes specifically prescribed in Section 14-125 of the Southampton County Code.

In order to be reviewed by the board, the petition must contain the signatures of a majority of the landowners along the street in question. A $500 filling fee is also needed. Although it presented in excess of 600 signatures, the Browns’ initial petition did not solely feature residents along Carrington Drive.

With a process similar to rezoning matters, the revised petition and review fee will be submitted to the county’s subdivision agent, Beth Lewis, who then forwards the request to the county planning commission for public hearing and review. Following a recommendation from the planning commission, the board of supervisors will advertise and conduct a second public hearing before taking action on the request.

Johnson noted, however, that there have been no street name changes approved by the board of supervisors since the road names were initially adopted in July 1990. That month, the board officially gave names to 136 roadways, including Carrington Drive. Therefore, as Johnson said, the board has only recognized the lane in question as Carrington Drive.

“The adopted road names are considered an integral component of the county’s emergency response system, and name changes can be potentially confusing to emergency responders,” Johnson said in a letter to the Brown family. “With dozens of named private roads scattered across Southampton County, the board has previously chosen not to establish a precedent of changing road names.”

Although Morris E. Brown said that his family has been trying to get the name changed for several years with no luck, he said that he will pay the review fee in order to have the process begin as quickly as possible.