Letters to the editor – August 17th, 2016

Published 8:23 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Stop the insane trail

    Editor, Smithfield Times

    Molly Lundie expressed the reservations we all have on the millions we are or would spend for the unwanted or needed bike trail. The Clark Board gave us the Norfolk Water Deal, Stoup Property, Blackwater River Swamp Land, and Windsor Middle School that is, from what I understand, only 50 percent full, as well as the Taj Mahal Court Building. Surprise, surprise that here we have the bike trail costs.

    All of these combined costs, totaling $350 million, are passed on to the taxpayers. The county real estate tax has increased approximately 70 percent. The only large expense during my tenure on the board was $4 million for a badly needed new rescue squad building. I’m very proud of that vote and many thanks to Al Casteen and DeeDee Darden as well.

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    The solution is to stop making payments on the Norfolk Water Deal which will bring all parties to the table to renegotiate and reduce payments and real estate taxes, thus rewarding the citizens with a tax reduction that’s long overdue.


    Thanks to our new board for your service and a reminder that if you do this, the people’s voices will be heard and your efforts, I’m sure, would not be forgotten come re-election time — and, it’s the right thing to do.

    Buzz Bailey


Bike trail beneficial

    Editor, Smithfield Times

    The bike path will be positive impact on our community. The plan is continuously updated in order to show progress to VDOT, which has oversight. Citizens think that the county and town of Smithfield are paying for this project, but the project is primarily funded by Federal and State grant money managed by VDOT and can only be used for a VDOT approved pedestrian and bike pathway.

    The Nike Park and Battery Park Road segments are at 90 percent design complete and can move forward without segment 3, South Church Street. As a VDOT approved project the environmental impacts are reviewed and approved on a recurring basis so that at the start of construction and during construction the environmental impacts are accounted for. The South Church Street planning is identified as being less than 30 percent complete by VDOT. The Town Council passed a resolution to reallocate funds for a third lane on South Church Street towards the construction of the Park-to-Park Trail on South Church Street. Segment 3 is important for the town because it will connect Windsor Park to Nike Park with 12 developments containing 8000 households.

    Smithfield is building a ball field at one end of Town and the County is partnering with the town to build sidewalks to connect with downtown. Great Springs Road will have a sidewalk to get to Main Street and Main Street has a sidewalk to Smithfield Station and over the bridge to South Church Street. A bike and pedestrian network that connects from Westside Elementary School to Carrollton Nike Park, primarily funded by grant money is of great benefit to the community.

    Numerous individuals can been seen walking, running, and cycling in the Smithfield area on the streets, trials, and sidewalks that are currently available. Even the school’s cross country team has been seen training through the neighborhood on the same streets with vehicle traffic. The Park to Park trial would provide a safer alternative for these activities. The town and county should take advantage of the Federal and State Grant money as soon as possible before it is allocated to another community.

    Kevin Arden


Not an IW project

    Editor, Smithfield Times

    There are two points to make regarding the articles pertaining to the Park-to-Park Trail project in the Times. First, the Park-to-Park project, connecting Nike District Park to Windsor Castle Park and Downtown Smithfield, with a bikeable, walkable off road path, is an effort led by citizens, tracked and monitored by citizens, representing all Isle of Wight County districts, on the Bike and Pedestrian Committee, initiated and presented to the Board of Supervisors by the Chamber of Commerce and supported by the community. To portray the Trail project as a County project is incorrect. It is a community project that will benefit and improve the quality of life for the majority of citizens in the most populated part of our county.

    Secondly, when has it become laudable to encourage citizens to get paid more than what their land is worth for a project that will benefit their community? When the County purchased the Stoupe property for $1 million, the Times encouraged all to protest the county paying twice the assessed value of the property. The Times stated the Edwards were offered $3,100, the tax assessed value of their property. The Daily Press quotes the Edwards’ lawyer as saying the County offered the Edwards $16,000 — more than 5 times the assessed value of their land. But the county is portrayed as taking advantage of them. The Edwardses refused to settle and went into litigation and were awarded $99,000. That is more than 30 times the assessed value of the one and a half acres the County is trying to pay them for easement for the Trail.

    This Trail was identified 20 years ago as the location to provide the most benefit to our community. It has taken a tremendous amount of effort and work from citizens, town and county leadership and staff to secure grant funding needed to complete the project. I am thankful for their vision and leadership.

    Leah Dempsey


Meetings may be recorded

    Editor, Smithfield Times

    County residents who speak at the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors Meeting, who meet with the Isle of Wight Tax Reassessment Review after the county updates, or converse by email with county officials or any other county business need to be aware that their visit may be recorded on camera and the conversation can become public record. The county can pull these recordings and records and use the material “out of context” against them in court without their prior knowledge. Their lawyers will charge the county for the use of these materials.

    Be sure when meeting with county personnel to ask: “Is this meeting/conversation recorded and how, and are the discussions public records? Then proceed using your own judgment.

    Mary Ann D. Edwards


A crowded schedule

    Editor, Smithfield Times

    In last week’s Smithfield Times, there was an article concerning Christian Outreach shifting its Souper Saturday event to the third Saturday in October, away from sharing the event with Town and Country Days.

    At the end of October 2015, The Smithfield Ruritan Club agreed to shift its annual Vintage Car Show from the second Saturday in October [Town and Country Days] to the third Saturday in October and shift its venue to the Smithfield Center Parking Lot, a venue it used several years ago for its Annual Car Show.

    The reason for the shift in date and venue was the outstanding marketing performed by the Isle of Wight County Tourism office that made the Town and Country Event so popular with the Hampton Roads public that there was little, if any, excess parking for event participants. The historic area of Smithfield was becoming over-crowded with several major events being held on the same day and in close proximity to one another: Hog Jog, Souper Saturday, Farmer’s Market and the Smithfield Ruritan Club Vintage Car Show.

    While it is true that the Smithfield Ruritan Club’s Car Show attracted fewer cars that anticipated in 2013, 2014 and 2015, it is also true that on the second Saturday in October of those three years, we all experienced rainy and inclement weather, which prohibited vintage car owners from attending and getting their cars wet. Unfortunately, an outdoor event falls victim to the weather — an act of God, if you will.

    This year’s Vintage Car Show will be held from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. in the Smithfield Center Parking Lot on Oct. 15. Hot Dogs, Beverages and Chips will sell for $1 each and Ringo’s Donuts will be featured as well. Vendors are welcome. Proceeds will benefit COP and Mission of Hope.

    Nan York
    2016 Car Show Chair


Gracefully aging ham

    Editor, Smithfield Times

    Congratulations and recognition are due our local museum staff. We have celebrated our “Ham Capital of the World” title for many years now, and on Sunday, a local daily newspaper included the town in a list of five regional food “Capitals.”

    While the Ham Capital title has been around for a long time, the stabilization and preservation of our iconic “Pet Ham” is the result of efforts by our professional staff. Building on the dedication of previous Isle of Wight County Museum director Dinah Everett, curator Tracey Neikirk and director Jennifer England have succeeded in popularizing what may be the world’s most famous single food item. Can anyone think of a more famous?

    The now 114-year-old, and still aging gracefully, P.D. Gwaltney-cured ham is gaining worldwide recognition through the museum’s popular annual “PanHam” contest and the 24/7 “HamCam” by which visitors can make their own video “selfies” in the presence of the local vintage food product that Robert Ripley and Sir Hugh Beaver (Guinness World Records) made famous.

    Also, when you visit the museum, don’t forget to see “the world’s oldest peanut.” The staff is still working on documenting this title since the closest competition appears to be some food remnants found in an Egyptian tomb. But those are certainly not “Virginia” peanuts!

    Albert Burckard


Evading the public will

    Editor, Smithfield Times

    The Town’s Planning & Zoning Administrator announced last week that a public MAPEX will be conducted on Aug. 30 to address Future Land Use designations and zoning criteria for farmlands within the Town’s limits. Ostensibly, this drill is needed to support the delayed five-year update to the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, and will amend results a citizens’ survey that supported finalization of the 2009 Comp Plan.

    Under questioning from the Planning Commission, the administrator acknowledged that the only substantial parcel of farmland requiring assessment is the Pierceville Farm, which is nowhere mentioned in his draft staff report. What he does mention is a recommended change to “Medium Density Residential” zoning for those farmland properties approved for re-classification from “Community Conservation.” Thus, with a few strokes of the pen to the new Comp Plan, a four-lane highway to intensive development is to be offered to potential builders at Pierceville. Washed away would the current safeguards in the current plan and supporting town ordinances that have been thoroughly critiqued and debated these past 18 months.

    Lost on the planning official and his bosses appear to be several facts. More than 300 downtown home and business owners signed petitions declaring opposition to Pierceville’s over-development. Both Planning Commission and Town Council have recently rejected the change to Pierceville’s future land-use. A viable, and profitable, Colonial Working Farm concept has been developed and fund-raising efforts are underway to implement an organic farm and to restore the Pierce home and barns. In addition, the most recent MAPEX event was hosted last year by the County to lobby for “Isle 2040” approval, and attendees roundly criticized the process and its jury-rigged statistical results.

    This MAPEX has yet to be announced in other public forums, and is lacking wholly in explanation-of-purpose, process definition, information capture-plan, and statistical-analysis metrics. This event is little more than a conduit to evade the public will for historical preservation of Pierceville.

    Mark Gay
    Executive Director
    Preserve Smithfield Inc.