ISLE dies in 4-1 vote

Published 4:13 pm Thursday, July 23, 2015

By Diana McFarland

News editor

With an unexpected reversal by Windsor Supervisor Dee Dee Darden, the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors denied the controversial ISLE 2040 plan Thursday with a 4-1 vote.

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Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson cast the only dissenting vote, citing a lack of age “diversity” among the residents speaking out against the plan.

There were not enough younger people appearing to give their opinion, he said.

The Board received a standing ovation after the vote was taken.

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The ISLE 2040 plan, which called for expanding the Newport Development Service District and increasing residential density, has generated intense public attention since it was launched last fall.

“This whole ISLE 2040 thing has gotten ugly,” said Darden, adding that people who used to be friends are no longer so.

Darden remembered her frustration when she and others fought against bringing Walmart to Benn’s Grant.

Darden said she knows the residents in the Newport District are against ISLE 2040, and if she lived there, she would be against it too.

Board Chairman Rex Alphin, also considered a swing vote, said he understood the Newport District residents’ sense of place and therefore could not support the plan at this time.

“Those most opposed are those who stand to lose the most,” he said.

Of the 20 residents who spoke during the scheduled two public hearings on the land use and zoning ordinances changes that would have set ISLE 2040 in motion, not one was in favor of the plan as it stood.

Hardy District resident Herb DeGroft accused the Board of violating its public notices by combining the two public hearings and therefore, cutting the time residents could speak in half.

“I want my six minutes,” he said, and asked the county attorney Mark Popovich if the Board had violated its public notice.

Popovich did not answer.

Residents are given three minutes to speak, and if they speak for 10 or more residents, who must be present, they get five minutes.

Isle of Wight resident Bobby Edwards asked for the Board to resign and then provided a colorful characterization of the ISLE 2040 plan.

“It’s like the sky is falling with Martians coming.”

Windsor resident Dane Scott told the Board that the reason business doesn’t come to Isle of Wight is because they read how the county government treats people in the newspapers.

“You’re not listening to people,” he said.

Prior to the public hearing, Isle of Wight County Administrator Anne Seward warned of difficulties ahead if the plan wasn’t adopted, including an increase in traffic and property taxes and the threat of annexation by the town of Smithfield.

ISLE 2040 was conceived as a way to address several county issues, including the ongoing costs of the Norfolk water deal, a budget deficit, increasing real estate taxes, a lack of new businesses coming to the county and the desire to retain the county’s agricultural land.

ISLE 2040 was seen as a solution because, according to the plan, it would bring enough residential water customers to mitigate the costs of the Norfolk water deal, and the added population — ideally younger people — would entice businesses to locate in the county.

More businesses would mean more commercial tax revenue, which would expand the tax base and take the tax burden off residents who own real estate, according to county staff.

County staff also warned that more than 20,000 people were coming to Isle of Wight no matter what was done — based on population projections — and it was best to concentrate those new residents in one area of the county. {/mprestriction}