Clear case where county government has again miserably failed the citizens
Tracy Kubinec’s letter in the Oct. 26 edition concerning the Hollywood commercial development planned for the intersection of Route 235 and Sotterley Road was absolutely correct.
I followed the process as this project moved through the county’s approval system. After hearing testimony and seeing the proposed layout of the development, I was reasonably confident the developer’s plan would be modified and a reasonable alternative for the main entrance would be adopted. As the proposal moved through the various phases with many twists and turns, including lawsuits, it was interrupted as more and more details came to light showing why the proposed main entrance was not in the public interest.
Many residents spoke out and gave actual accounts of accidents that have occurred over the years at the that intersection. The dialogue reinforced my hopes that this ill-conceived plan would be changed, but a disturbing trend started to emerge. The agencies involved, both county and state, started finger-pointing and claiming it was not their responsibility to intervene.
Some opinions were modified when things were uncovered, such as the developer’s clear and deliberate misrepresentation of ownership of a portion of the property to enhance the chance of approval. One consistent theme during the entire process was that this plan was a disaster waiting to happen.
Early on, the former county attorney, George Sparling, made it emphatically clear that the “good of the public interest” was a legitimate reason to set aside regulations. During all the hearings, I did not hear one person speak in favor of the developer’s proposed main entrance other than the developer. The owners had no reason for concern, since they all live in Virginia.
On the other side of the equation, many residents pointed out numerous reasons, based on experience, showing why the proposed main entrance was definitely not in the public interest. This bad idea would not only affect the local residents, but anyone who visits the shopping center and anyone trying to visit Greenwell State Park, Sotterley or the Forest Landing boat ramp. It is a virtual certainty that accidents will continue to happen, and with the increase in traffic will occur more frequently, with greater possibility of injuries, or worse. History shows this stretch of road is dangerous as presently configured, and would only become more dangerous with the planned new entrance.
The attorney representing one of those who challenged the proposal reiterated that the public interest is sufficient to deny approval. Several members of the appeals board agreed it is a dangerous intersection, but they still voted for approval. Their logic was that all the minimum requirements were satisfied and that trumped the public interest.
This is a clear case where county government has miserably failed the citizens. They did change the signage and curbing to try to restrict the movement of trucks, which is a tacit recognition that this plan includes a high potential for accidents.
The county commissioners must be aware of what has transpired, but evidently chose not to get involved, which I see as another breach of public trust. I hope they remove the members of the appeals board, or at least not reappoint them when their terms expire. I feel anyone who voted for approval is morally responsible for any increase in accidents or injuries after this shopping center opens. Ultimately they will be held accountable for compromising the safety of the citizens and all taxpayers will eventually pay the price for their poor judgment since this mess will need to be revisited as statistics will dictate.
David A. Ryan,