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Developers Vs Local Leaders: No Contest

J.S. Campbell

Posted on June 3, 2018 08:11

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I am sure that my area of Virginia is like countless areas around the country. Local leaders want “progress." Which, to them, means always reaching for the “carrot” dangled before their eyes by big-shot developers. They never seem to learn skepticism or foresight of the probability that the developer’s promises will be delivered as promised.

The historic area of Fredericksburg, Virginia is where I call home. This region, located midway between Washington DC and Richmond VA, has never seemed to figure out what it wants to be. A bedroom community of Washington, a world famous historic region known for Colonial and Civil War sites or maybe a home to industry? By trying for a bit of all three, the region has not excelled at anything.

There are thousands of commuters that live here that start and end each day with a miserable commute, one of the worst in the country. The region has not been able to attract any significant industry, the local hospital system remains as its top employer. The many historic sites have been allowed to be swallowed up by ever advancing strip malls, by developers and local leaders.

The local leaders were always enamored by developer’s big plans and promises. We were going to have a huge waterpark resort, a national slavery museum, minor league baseball, a unique world shopping destination, golf resorts and a Memphis style music and restaurant complex. Being located along a scenic river, environmentalists were concerned about the effects of a water park resort being placed next to the river. The developer and the local leaders trumpeted that the waterpark would be much better on the water supply and better environmentally for the river than apartments. Of course, none of the above promised developments ever happened. What did the developers end up building? Apartments!

Do local governments learn from neighboring areas? Not so much. The most recent developing debacle in Virginia is in Richmond County, home to an area known as Fones Cliffs. It’s a pristine area including cliffs overlooking the scenic Rappahannock River, with tall forest that is home to bald eagles and is also rich in Native American history. So, of course the leadership of Richmond County thought it was a wonderful idea to give the rezoning approval for developers to build a golf resort, lodge, restaurant, shops, and houses on an environmentally fragile cliff. Environmental groups fought the rezoning, but of course the county leaders wanted “progress” for their county. What could go wrong?

The original developer sold out to a new developer who promptly started illegally clearing trees without regard for runoff or erosion control. Then the area received heavy rainfall which breached a portion of the cliffs. Stop work orders were issued by the County, the developer’s original attorney has resigned for among other reasons, ethical considerations, and the new development company, Virginia True (run by New Yorkers), says it’s all just an honest mistake and that the project is on track. Yes, the leaders of Richmond County now want to try and correct the problems, but they, like so many others, never learn to be skeptical of developers promises in the first place. I wish that local leaders everywhere would learn that progress and improved quality of life seldom comes from paving over paradise to put up a parking lot.

J.S. Campbell

Posted on June 3, 2018 08:11

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