Supervisors should listen to Planning, constituents

Published 12:41 pm Saturday, October 8, 2016

We attended, as we have nearly all year 2016, the Southampton County Board of Supervisors Monthly Meeting for September. As most of you know, this meeting included the public hearing for the solar panel issue.  Normally, unless there is a topic that brings great debate, the meeting room at the Administration Building is fairly empty of people, and seats are available everywhere. This meeting was not the case. The room was filled to over-capacity — all seating was full, and people lined the walls, the rear of the room, the hallway; and it was to say the least, overcrowded and most assuredly probably not safe as regards maximum capacity fire code. This issue was stated upfront by a concerned citizen as well as a board member, and our  Southampton County Board of Supervisors sat as if we were viewing royalty which could not be moved, or cared less if we were too crowded for the room and/or in an unsafe condition. This was the initial signal of lack of concern and leadership.

As the hearing began, Dr. Alan Edwards pointed out that the minutes of the Planning Commission meeting had not been published; that the Board of Supervisors themselves had not even read them; the public had not had them made available as well; and until such time we could all become more informed and follow the proper protocol, the hearing should be rescheduled. At that point, another board member informed us that HE didn’t need the Planning Commission findings; that he had studied solar panels on his own for over six months. Now, with that statement, we should assume he was smarter than the entire educated Planning Commission —- and he basically was letting us know he was uneducated enough to tell us so. After much discussion and other suggestions were made, it was decided to proceed with the hearing; regardless what protocol was broken, the bottom line from the board came to be “We know more than the Planning Commission.” in all truthfulness and revelation, they had already told prospective recipients of agreed-upon solar contracts that the vote would not be an issue. That statement was made in the hallway that very night.

Speakers were given 5 minutes to speak; that is, unless you were a sales representative, sales attorney or consultant pushing your product or service, which might happen to be solar panels and/or energy. Some of them got up and spoke and we were told by Mr. Dominion Power that a decision was needed fairly quickly from the Board because “they” had a timeline. So the pressure was on from even the salespeople, regardless of the outcome, negative effects, and poor decisions made with lack of information to the citizens of Southampton County. Citizens, your friends and neighbors spoke against this issue for nearly six hours. Then there were those standing up, and some sitting among us, who live out of town and/or are going to get over $250,000 to take away productive farm land, and devalue theirs and others’ adjacent property, and didn’t mind how late you stayed or how crowded it was.

It should also be noted here that twice during the last 12 months, consultants hired by the County have come in with their required reports and recommendations, and the Board of Supervisors accepted them unanimously in both instances with few questions and little discussion. However, when our Planning Commission, whom they appointed, and the citizens funded their planning education, they have not even made an attempt to review their findings or entertain discussion, with the exception of Dr. Alan Edwards.

People, there is a severe disconnect from your Board of Supervisors and yourselves here in Southampton County. Twice in less than two months they have scheduled “Poorly Planned” meetings for our taxpayers and citizens. It is not appropriate to schedule a public hearing on July 5, during the largest vacation week of the year, and when an issue was so volatile. It is not appropriate to plan a meeting with the same volatility and schedule it in a meeting room that is half the size necessary to accommodate our citizens and then not agree to reschedule or move to another location. It is not even SMART, not to mention the fact that it’s unethical, and maybe even illegal, to not have the Planning Commission meeting minutes published and available; much less not provided for their input, and so that the Board of Supervisors may be able to “learn how” to make an appropriate decision. Most of us can’t make decisions without data, unless you are a computerized robot.

We must learn to discern how to make sound decisions. And not by nodding our head in agreement because we have made public statements that “I don’t care what my people think, I’m smarter than they are,” or “I don’t care what my people think; I’m voting for this anyway.” We, the citizens of Southampton County can tell you, if we can find a way, you won’t be voting the way you want to vote very long — especially if you can’t listen to your people, because your arrogant attitude is not that of a public servant, or your leadership skills those desired. You are a taxpayer, but you are also on our payroll and an elected citizen of Southampton County.

Needless to say, it is so disheartening to see firsthand the antics and behaviors that do not become our elected officials who are grasping at straws and are sold out to anyone and anything that may make a dollar, albeit it at a huge loss for the citizens who live here. It is more than discouraging and downright sad to watch arrogance and lack of respect when the Planning Commission is a point of reference to the Board.

In the previous meeting regarding the industrial zone, it was stated that one of the Planning Commission member’s position was threatened by a Board member should he vote “against” the industrial zoning issue.

That should not be tolerated, and is certainly not acceptable behavior for any Supervisory Board member.

It is grievous that we find ourselves in a position in this county where people in public positions are not respected; it all sounds so familiar these days. Please, either shape up or plan to move out.

You are on our payroll. Do your job and listen to your Planning Commission and your constituents.

WARREN A. AND LINDA D. SIMMONS live on a family farm in Courtland. They can be reached at