Editorial – Whose side are supervisors on? Vote will tell

Published 6:12 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Perhaps never has a single decision so effectively given elected officials the chance to stand with the citizens they represent, as opposed to unelected staff, regional economic developers and out-of-town moneyed interests.

Barring another tabling, Isle of Wight County supervisors will make that decision on June 13 in the form of the so-called Tidewater Logistics Center, a fancy name for a gigantic warehouse complex that would be jammed right up against a residential neighborhood and the Windsor town limits.

Neighbors don’t want it. The Windsor Town Council doesn’t want it. The Windsor Planning Commission doesn’t want it. The Isle of Wight Planning Commission, by a wide margin, urged supervisors to reject it.

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That leaves the Board of Supervisors, should it plow ahead with approval, as squarely on the side of the Port of Virginia, the unelected Isle of Wight Economic Development Authority, which has been working for years to put warehouses on the property, and county staff, who, audaciously, have encouraged supervisors to ignore their own Planning Commission. 

The region’s economy has a problem that Isle of Wight has been asked to help fix. Neighboring Suffolk, whose prime Route 58 corridor is covered with warehouses and the 18-wheelers that take goods in and out, apparently isn’t building them fast enough to store all of the stuff flowing into the Port of Virginia. Route 460 is the next target, with Windsor in the crosshairs.

Warehouses and residential construction are lazy ways to grow an economy. Isle of Wight’s proximity to metropolitan Hampton Roads makes those low-hanging fruit. That’s not to say that the staff members charged with executing the strategy are themselves lazy. But the county, whose economic vision should be set and communicated by its elected leadership, needs to shoot higher. 

We’re old enough to remember when Gov. Bob McDonnell pegged Windsor as a possible site for an automobile plant or steel plant. If you’re going to disrupt peaceful, small-town life in Windsor as we know it, at least make it count with something that generates meaningful, high-paying jobs and transforms the county’s tax base. Warehouses, despite the rosy projections of those looking to build them, generally don’t do that. 

County supervisors surely won’t sacrifice Windsor’s quality of life for a warehouse complex and the truck traffic it will cause. We urge them to stand behind their Planning Commission and say no to the Tidewater Logistics Center.