Planners pick on the little guy

Published 6:39 pm Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

Earlier this year I wrote a letter (“Deck stacked for developers,” Aug. 19) detailing how Isle of Wight stacks the deck in favor of outside developers of large housing projects. Recently at a meeting of the Isle of Wight Planning Commission, I was reminded of the stark difference in the treatment afforded local small businessmen and individuals.

First, the locals are greeted by the Planning Department with misinformation and limited information. After they submit their application, suddenly more requirements are added. They are not told of options that would make their project acceptable.

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Answers to questions are delayed, increasing wait time and expense to the applicant. During these delays, the Planning Department is often rewriting ordinances that would increase expense and hinder or prohibit the project entirely. These coming changes are not shared with the applicant.

During presentations to the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, the Planning Department adds requirements, and faults the applicant for not providing information that is not actually required by the application. They apply rules inconsistently. They have incorrectly cited inadequacies without visiting the site. At the conclusion of these presentations, a recommendation is given for approval or denial.

At the public hearing the applicant is invited to speak before opening the floor for citizens’ comments. At the conclusion of the public hearing members of the PC discuss the application. During this time members may ask the applicant or Planning Department member to come forward to answer specific questions for clarification. Unfortunately, contrary to parliamentary procedure, the planning director is allowed to interrupt and rebut at will. This same privilege is denied to the applicant. Developers are allowed to rebut.

At the conclusion of the PC discussion the chairman will call for a motion. If the motion is for approval the PC member may also propose conditions. At a recent PC meeting the director once again ignored parliamentary procedure and introduced rules unknown to the PC, reducing their ability to properly frame the motion.


Richard Gillerlain