Clear case where county govern­ment has again mis­er­ably failed the cit­i­zens

The Enterprise - - Community Forum -

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,

Hol­ly­wood

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