Letter – Growth task force is flawed

Published 6:01 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

A Growth Management Task Force (GTF) seems appealing for the fastest-growing county in Hampton Roads and seventh fastest growing in Virginia; 4,044 new residences have been approved in Isle of Wight and not built.  

However, thorough review of the proposal and newly elected Supervisor Renee Rountree’s presentation to the Planning Commission reveal that this effort would run counter to what the county and towns need to formulate meaningful plans for managed growth.  

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First, the proposal is flawed:  

  • The “mission” is a task: “Identify & create a comprehensive listing of specifically costs, needs, benefits & the impact of various growth rates within the county on projected growth.”
  • Tasks identified are ill composed; most are tasks for professional planners requiring detailed research and analysis.
  • Recommendations include, “Ask expert to perform a high-level systems analysis on the existing growth management system, focus on system pathologies, reporting to Supervisor Rountree.”

Secondly, the proposal coming from Rountree — the one-term Town Council member who in 25 months was THE most aggressive proponent of over 1,100 new residential units in Smithfield — seems both ironic and disingenuous.  


  • Immediately made the motion to approve 812-unit Mallory Estate development, after many citizens requested further vetting, referring to developer John Napolitano affectionately as “John.” 
  • Deemed citizens asking for adequate vetting of the 304-unit Grange development “cancel culture.” 
  • Purposefully negated specific citizen concerns regarding the Grange, one by one, during a work session when no public comment was allowed.
  • Demonstrated no respect for citizen concerns about unprecedented development in Smithfield.

Lastly, the county Planning Commission is prepared and knowledgeable — picked by supervisors who understand and appreciate their role. This is in sharp contrast to the town PC, which blessed the Grange with little or no vetting.  

The IW Planning Department has seasoned planning professionals who prepare detailed analysis and recommendations to the PC after vetting and working through issues with applicants.  

I fully support an unbiased, comprehensive analysis of the true impact of development in IW and creation of a well-conceived plan for managed growth. This will support local government’s ability to understand, mitigate negative consequences of, and require funding associated with, the impact of development.  

If approved, the creation of this GTF, a group of handpicked citizens with no training in planning, that will require an inordinate amount of professional staff time, will obfuscate real work on development of a growth management plan that is desperately needed.    


Leah Walker