Editorial – Bryan speaks the truth on growth

Published 8:13 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Charles Bryan is hardly a no-growth radical.

The immediate past chairman of the Smithfield Planning Commission was an unapologetic advocate of Joe Luter IV’s plan to double the home count in Smithfield’s Historic District with the Grange at 10Main mixed-use project. He also supported the 800-plus-home Mallory Pointe subdivision under construction off Battery Park Road.

So when Charles Bryan joins us in sounding the alarm bells about uncontrolled residential growth in Smithfield, perhaps the growth machine, and the appointed and elected officials who are fueling it, will pay attention.  

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Bryan’s comments at the March meeting of the Smithfield Planning Commission merit the wide audience being given them here.

In the context of repeating his concern about the commission’s recent rewriting of the town zoning ordinance to accommodate a single developer wanting to put homes behind the Royal Farms convenience store on South Church Street, Bryan gave a passionate, compelling call to action for his colleagues.

Bryan said he saw the new text amendment as exponentially increasing the town’s density, adding that it seemed like the Planning Commission was more inclined to accommodate developers than to protect the town’s character, its citizens and their well-being. 

Preach on, Mr. Bryan.

He wasn’t finished.

He pointed out that the commission had been warned about the dire possibility of public schools being over capacity and they were aware of the effects of growth on roads and emergency services, but he did not see any evidence by the commission of adjusting its path forward to protect the town’s character. 

He said citizens should be made aware of the Planning Commission’s vision for Smithfield’s future, noting the board had been making decisions, but not explaining why those decisions had been made. 

Perhaps former Town Councilwoman and current Isle of Wight Supervisor Renee Rountree’s growth task force will begin to help shape a strategy that town and county leaders have failed to articulate. The effect, perhaps unintentional, has been a “come one, come all” message to out-of-town developers, who are chomping at the bit to turn rural Western Tidewater into suburban Hampton Roads. Exhibit A is North Suffolk. Exhibit B is Carrollton.

Isle of Wight’s Planning Commission has recently shown the gumption to stand up and be counted when developers’ plans run counter to the community’s best interest.

It’s time for Isle of Wight supervisors and Smithfield’s elected and appointed leadership to do the same.