Letters to The Editor – January 10th, 2018
Published 7:33 pm Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Does the county care?
Editor, Smithfield Times
With all the discussions recently about whether “Isle Cares” or not, and whether or not citizen comments should be curtailed at the planning commission meeting, I think it is time I told you one of my personal experiences at the Isle of Wight Planning Commission.
A few years ago, everything started with our family being warned in writing by the county zoning inspector and zoning director that it is illegal for us to camp out occasionally on our family farm without a $1,350 permit. This followed a complaint about my disabled hunting friend doing just that during hunting season a few times. I was told I had the right to address the planning commission with my rebuttal. I wanted to suggest a change to the existing, overly restrictive ordinance. I believed in honoring private property rights!
I announced my intention to attend the next commission meeting (which was not at all crowded), waited my turn to speak, and rose to make my citizen comments. I had just started when the chairman interrupted me and asked that I wait until the new business section of the meeting to make my comments. I dutifully returned to my seat and waited again.
Eventually, my issue came up on the agenda, and the planning commission began discussion about what had happened over the camping issue. They then proceeded to vote on the issue, and the outcome was against making any change to the existing ordinance. As they turned to the next agenda item, I stood up and spoke up to ask, what had just happened? I stated that I was invited here to speak, waited my turn, for some reason was asked to sit again and wait some more, and was then ignored!
Reluctantly, the chairman then invited me to the podium to make my remarks, albeit in vain, for the issue had already been decided, without any input by me!
This was how they treated this citizen when my turn came to be heard in my home county.
Joseph R. Ferguson Jr.