Editorial: Leaving its mark
The Gloucester Board of Supervisors, in the first six months with three new members who promised new economies, has left no doubt as to the conservative nature of its majority. The board is taking a hard look at how the county has been operating in recent years, and making some significant changes. Good or bad?
Even before budget negotiations started, board members said they would entertain no suggestion of a tax increase. They kept their word.
There’s a push to eliminate the highway corridor overlay district, with the perceived corollary, in some members’ opinions, that it’s bad for business.
We think trashing HCOD is a bad idea and that the zoning concept is a good thing for Gloucester as, going forward, it helps to ensure orderly development along Route 17. Before zoning came to the county in 1984, “orderly” was the last word that could be applied to Gloucester’s growth.
When the HCOD was enacted in 1998, a big recession and a small recession ago, the county’s planning staff explained it was designed “for traffic safety and efficiency, landscaping and buffering, and aesthetic and architectural control.” Route 17 is the open door to Gloucester. It behooves the board to do all it can to present a clean face to the world. Amendments are proposed; we ask the board to amend, not end, the HCOD.
The board has just denied matching funds to a project that would bring a well and sewerage to Woodville Park. A grant of $500,000 was available. The board turned down the grant because the county would have been required to match it in funds and in-kind services. While $1 million to drill a well and build bathrooms seems a lot, the project would also include building a concession stand and the expense of running a sewer line to the park. Perhaps it would come to $1 million; perhaps not.
We wonder if a blanket “no” was the best answer. Perhaps the board could look for a better solution, although it’s unlikely another $500,000 grant will be available soon. This is a park with soccer fields and many people using it. Public spaces are much, much more attractive, and bring more people to the community, when they have proper infrastructure.
Finally, the board has done what it probably should have done many years ago, in reducing the size of the county’s planning commission from 13 to seven members. Mathews County did this in the 1980s; the commission frequently could not meet as scheduled because it lacked a quorum.
With its new size, the Gloucester Planning Commission has lost a tremendous amount of experience. The duties have suddenly ended for three members who were up for reappointment. They include Mark Holthaus, commission member since June 2010; Mark Strawn, member since December 2004; and Kenneth Richardson, a member since March 1992 and second in seniority to Thomas Arnold.
These are outstanding citizens who have worked diligently for many years, especially Mr. Richardson with his 22 years, for the public good. We thank them all for their service.