Franklin man sues over Camp Parkway decision

Published 10:20 am Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Franklin man has brought suit against the Southampton County Board of Supervisors and its individual members in response to their rezoning of the hotly debated Camp Parkway project. Dr. Aurelius W. Brantley of Clay Street claims they acted arbitrarily and capriciously in amending the County’s comprehensive plan to allow manufacturing development in a residential section of that area.

What came before

At its May 12th public hearing, the Southampton County Planning Commission recommended 8-1 that the supervisors should deny the rezoning. But on July 5, the Board of Supervisors voted 6-1 to allow rezoning from A-2 (agriculture) and R-1 (residential) to CM-1 (conditional limited industrial); Dr. Alan Edwards for the Jerusalem District, who’s also on Planning, voted no at the July meeting.

While some people said they were in favor of enabling businesses to be established, others spoke against the matter, claiming it would damage the surrounding community with noise pollution and lower property values.

Including in the opposition was former Newsoms supervisor Glenn Updike, who said he thinks the board might have had an illegal vote in a past closed session. Specifically, that the board supported the project presented by Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. President and CEO, Amanda Jarrett.

Edwards stated, “There was a quasi-vote in this meeting. There was a consensus in the meeting and I was there.” He said on another day: “The improper activity I was referring to was [the FSEDI] asking the Board of Supervisors to support the project in closed session when we didn’t really know anything about it.”

County Attorney Richard Railey and Franklin District supervisor Barry Porter both denied any impropriety took place in closed session. That was further supported by supervisors Carl Faison and Bruce Phillips for Boykins and Capron districts, respectively.

Development’s origins

The suit, which was filed on Thursday by Lollar Law of Norfolk, first notes that 438.71 acres on Camp Parkway and Delaware Road in Southampton County are being affected by the board’s decision.

For background purposes in the suit, it’s stated that Hampton Roads Development Limited Liability Company bought the aforementioned property in 2004 for median density residential development. The County rezoned approximately 292 acres from agricultural to R-1 Residential District. The suit states that Brantley’s residence borders the HRD Property. After that purchase, the company raised the proposed density to range from 700 to 1,000 homes.

Soon after the national economy began to falter in 2008-2009, HRD wanted to include multi-family housing such as apartments or townhouses along with mixed commercial use. But, the company did not get that rezoning.

What the lawsuit alleges

The following is an excerpt from the suit, which claims that the closed session to which was referred took place on or about Feb. 23, 2015:

“Upon information and belief, the Chair then asked “How many of you would be in favor of this development?’”

“Upon information and belief, two Board Members, Glenn Updike and Dr. Alan Edwards stated that public input was needed.”

“Upon information and belief, a Board member said, ‘To hell with the public. We know what’s best for the County and we do not care what people say. I’m smarter than the people I represented,’ or words to that effect.”

“Upon information and belief, the Chair called for a vote, and then following that vote, said, ‘It’s a 5-2 vote to approve it [the rezoning of the HRD Property].’ Mr. Updike and Dr. Edwards chose not to support the proposal without public input, and by their voice decision, voted against the proposal.”

“Upon information and belief, the County’s attorney then said, ‘This can’t be a vote. It must be a consensus,’ or words to that effect.”

“Upon information and belief, the Board Members were then told they could not reveal their action to the public.”

Afterward, the suit continues, there was a reading of the certification resolution that “only public business matters lawfully exempted from open meeting requirements by Virginia law were discussed in the closed meeting … only such public matters were identified in the motion convening the closed meeting were heard, discussed and considered by the Southampton County Board of Supervisors.”

In conversation on Monday, Charles “Chuck” Lollar, who’s representing Brantley, confirmed that the current board and supervisors individually are named in the suit. Former supervisor Glenn Updike is not included, though he was in office in February 2015. The attorney said the suit pertains to “all supervisors in their official capacity. All need to be before the court.”

Based on Brantley’s understanding and belief, Lollar said, “Our position is that by violating the Freedom of Information Act, it demonstrates they acted arbitrarily.”

The attorney said that in some instances he cannot as yet tell who said what, such as the quote in which a board member allegedly stated in essence that the board knows better than the public.

“I’m relying on what my client has heard based on information and belief,” Lollar said.

Brantley himself was contacted by the newspaper about how he knows what happened in the aforementioned closed session, but he deferred all questions to his attorney.


“I am aware of it [the suit],” said Southampton County Administrator Michael Johnson, who added that he couldn’t comment on it. Chairman Dallas Jones from the Drewryville District also said he did not have any comment.

For the Berlin/Ivor District, vice chairman Ronald West, who said he was aware of the suit, said, “I think we were neither capricious nor arbitrary, and that board acted prudently based on the information provided. We had no surprises.”

Bruce Phillips said, “I look forward to this being resolved, and am not saying anything as long as there is something ongoing.”

Barry Porter said he had no other comment to make other than he believes the board “completely followed procedure,” and that the lawsuit “has no merit.”

Newsom’s representative Randolph Cook said, “Since it is a lawsuit, I don’t have any comments at this time.”

Railey said, “I have no comment at this juncture.”

When asked if he’ll be able to represent the board, Railey said, “It would be premature for me to say now.”