Editorial – More houses on the way

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Just when we thought the Smithfield and Isle of Wight growth machine might idle for a bit and give our small-town, peaceful, anti-suburban way of life a last gasp, three Isle of Wight County supervisors kicked it into an even higher gear.

Five months after a narrow majority of the Smithfield Town Council voted to plop nearly 300 residences on the edge of the historic district, William McCarty, Rudolph Jefferson and Renee Rountree said, “Hold my beer.” The three gave Isle of Wight’s Planning Commission the metaphorical middle finger last week by voting to add 600-plus more homes to Benns Church Boulevard.

Planning Commission members had found the Sweetgrass project so distasteful that they voted 6-2 in December to recommend supervisors reject it. Last week’s vote by McCarty, Jefferson and Rountree raises the question of why the board’s appointed planning commissioners should even bother to vet projects if three supervisors are going to do what they want regardless. (It should be noted that Supervisors Joel Acree and Don Rosie have been reliable backers of the Planning Commission and opponents of the rapid growth for which Isle of Wight is woefully unprepared.) 

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Rountree, who singlehandedly has voted for 1,500-plus more homes in just over three years of elected service in two jurisdictions, seemingly had seen the error of her ways a few months back when she told her colleagues on the Board of Supervisors that a moratorium on new housing approvals was needed while the community figured out how to manage what elected leadership had wrought.

Her concern had its limits. Rountree herself made the motion late in the night on May 16, with most constituents already in bed, to approve the 615-home Sweetgrass development.

That “growth task force” that Rountree advocated to help the community understand the impacts of rapid residential development? Four months later, its members haven’t even been appointed. Given the Board of Supervisors’ blatant disregard for its own Planning Commission, why would any smart, interested person even commit time to the lost cause of managed growth?

Isle of Wight already is one of Virginia’s 10 fastest-growing localities, before the first home is sold at Mallory Pointe and before dirt has even moved for Sweetgrass and the Grange at 10Main. Folks are feeling the stress every time they drive Route 10 or 17 during morning and evening commute hours.

It’s telling to us that one of county supervisors’ top infrastructure priorities — a roundabout on Turner Drive — will help accommodate even more housing across Benns Church from Sweetgrass. 

So much for hitting the pause button on residential development. Here in northern Isle of Wight, we’re just getting started.