Open letter to the Southampton Board of Supervisors

Published 11:13 am Wednesday, June 29, 2016

To the Editor:

Regarding: Camp Parkway Rezoning

As a business owner in Southampton County and a resident of the City of Franklin, I have reviewed the proposal and listened carefully to the discussion regarding the rezoning request of the Camp Parkway parcel owned by Hampton Roads Development LLC. Most arguments, both pro and con, are compelling and valid. The decision about whether to approve this rezoning request is a difficult one for all involved, but I would like to encourage the Board of Supervisors to vote “no” for the proposal and CM-1 zoning designation that has been presented.

My stance is not an anti-progress or a NIMBY stance. I am acutely aware of the importance of “shovel-ready” capacity in Southampton County. It is my understanding; however, that the CM-1 designation is being sought primarily because it is the only classification available that allows for the light industrial uses sought by the developer.

There are other classifications that may be more appropriate and potentially more economically beneficial and aesthetically pleasing. There are other zoning classifications that will allow a mix of residential and commercial, as well as light industrial that could create multiple types of jobs. Unfortunately, these zoning classifications have not been adopted by Southampton County and could not be sought by the developer.

The reasons we do not have the zoning classifications available as tools to create well-planned developments in Southampton County are complex, but it is disappointing. How frustrating that we have come to this crossroad in our history, only to find that we are not ready or capable of fine tuning with the most appropriate zoning designation. Does that mean, however, that we have to allow inadequate rezoning of an entire parcel of future potential? Just because?

It is my hope that the Board of Supervisors will take the approach that patience will pay off. Before you vote for a zoning designation that could forever change the landscape and quality of life enjoyed by future generations of citizens, please remember that a ‘no’ vote simply says this is not the only choice and perhaps not the right choice for this entire parcel of 438.7 acres. A “no” vote today does not prevent other options for positive economic development along Camp Parkway. A “no” vote does not even prevent the possibility of the perfect industry locating on this parcel in the very near future. While not quite as clean and simple, the developer can still seek rezoning on a case by case basis if the opportunity arises.

FSEDI can guide prospects to this developer. A ‘no’ vote will buy the time necessary for you and our leaders to lay better groundwork for this as well as future developments.

What a ‘no’ vote will prevent is missing forever the opportunity for a very vibrant mix of uses in the existing neighborhood.

As the name implies, I envision Camp Parkway as a scenic route through Southampton County and a beautiful gateway into Franklin. As a gateway, it also serves as a bridge; a bridge between the common interests of two similar, yet dissimilar, governmental entities. I see this corridor as an opportunity to bridge the needs of both the City of Franklin and Southampton County for future generations as the westward push from the ports becomes inevitable.

In my personal opinion, if the Camp Parkway is to be developed in the best way possible, it would be with a mix of residences, condos/patio homes, small cafes, entertainment/sports venues, professional and/or governmental offices, as well as commercial enterprises along the road front and adjacent to the school. It would include walking/golf cart/bike trails that link students from Riverdale Elementary and residents of the surrounding neighborhood to the sidewalks in the city that could safely take them from home, school, scout shack or church to the YMCA, Cypress Cove Country Club, the Ruth Camp Campbell library, Southampton Memorial Hospital, PD Camp Community College, and local shopping. Light manufacturing and some warehousing would also seem appropriate in some areas of the property and is not precluded in a ‘mixed use’ designation. Keep in mind that even the expectation of the current plan is for a 30-year build out. so it is not inconceivable to envision such a prosperous and exciting outlook for our community in our future. Why settle for less?

For economic development to be truly successful, quality of life must be a primary consideration. We struggle today because we have not focused enough on the things that make people want to move to a community. We lose our young people to communities, both urban and rural, that celebrate beauty and honor history, communities that embrace and provide easy access to recreational and cultural opportunities, and communities that develop and enforce strong ordinances and incentives that protect and enhance these things. People will not move to our area for a job if they don’t like what they see when they visit or can’t envision a quality of life worth moving for.

It is the role of our government leaders to plan for orderly and manageable growth. It is your responsibility to balance the needs of economic development while ensuring the health, safety, and general wellbeing of citizens … a line taken straight from our Comprehensive Plan.

As a side note, this landowner made an investment in Franklin, and in turn, others have made investments. These types of investments are gambles and their risk is not yours or ours to assume. our decision should only be based on what you believe is in the true best interest of the citizens of our community. Based on existing resources this corridor will support vibrant economic growth of all descriptions.

Thank you for your time and thank you for your tireless service to Southampton County.

Lynne H. Rabil