Deck stacked for developers

Published 5:36 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

Given the current climate of overdevelopment in Isle of Wight County and having been privy to insider practices, I wish to let people know how our current approval process works against the public interest.

When an approved contractor, especially one represented by the former planning director, begins the approval process, he is scheduled for strategy sessions with the planning department to decide how to best sell his project to the Board of Supervisors. They instruct him how to exploit loopholes and select the right buzzwords to create a palatable presentation.

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After past losses by developers, the BOS recently had the planning department rewrite the comprehensive plan to make it more conducive to development. So-called “citizen involvement” was orchestrated to give the desired results.

If the developer’s plan is expected to draw public opposition, the presentations by county staff and developer are scheduled for a work session of the Planning Commission at which no public input is allowed. Only after weaknesses in the presentation have been tweaked does it go forward to a public hearing at a regular session of the PC.

The presentations can then be modified again before going to a work session of the BOS, where, again, the public may not speak. Then the presentations can again be modified before being given at a public hearing during a regular session of the BOS.

At the public hearing, any member of the BOS can table the proposal for any or no reason. This allows staff and developers to again modify their proposals for presentation at a future BOS meeting at which, according to easily changeable BOS bylaws, the public may not speak. If the public has discovered pertinent information this may be submitted in writing to the BOS, who have been known to share this information with the developer so he can again modify his presentation without any rebuttal from the public or other experts.

No doubt staff and the BOS will spin my account. I’d  welcome the opportunity to publicly debate this issue with any single member of BOS or staff.


Richard Gillerlain