Letter – Rountree failed citizens, town
Published 4:38 pm Tuesday, October 10, 2023
Editor, The Smithfield Times:
I have always counted on our town leadership to ensure good, objective decision-making was taking place related to protecting or improving our quality of life, planned and appropriate growth, and fiscal responsibility. Watching the processes associated with the Grange development application over the past five months, however, has broken that illusion.
In May 2023, when the application came before the Planning Commission for the first time, there were references to the development being changed and adjusted since December 2021. As it turns out, the Board of Supervisors and the Town Council held a joint meeting on Dec. 22, 2021, in which only staff and the supervisors and council members were included. According to the meeting minutes (on the county website but not available on the town website), the developer introduced the project at that time. On Jan. 4, 2022 (13 days later) Town Council voted to negotiate with the county to allow up to 3 million taxpayer dollars to be allocated to the development. In October 2022, after a closed session, when citizens had left an open meeting, the council again voted to approve funding for the development. Renee Rountree made the motions for both.
The May Planning Commission meetings seemed staged in support of the development. The development application came before Town Council on Aug. 1, 2023; this was the first time council members heard citizen concerns. Yet three of the Town Council members seemed ready to quickly approve the development with very little discussion. Mrs. Rountree again made the motion to approve the rezoning.
There has been a lack of transparency throughout this whole process and so many of us sense that too much is being discussed and decided on behind closed doors. We deserve Town Council members who serve and support us – the citizens and our town – not their own interests or the developer.