If voters had their way, there'd be less development in county

In a true democracy, citizens vote on a wide variety of issues directly; the majority decides the outcome. But, the United States has never been a true democracy, it is a representative democracy. Our elected officials are supposed to represent our interests, but it is frequently debatable whose interests they represent.

In previous letters I outlined the problems inherent in over-development. Developers really don’t care if their properties are successful, they just build them. The corporate owners of these properties keep the rents high, so there are innumerable vacancies throughout the area.

Corporations get big tax write offs, so, there is not a lot of motivation to lower rents. For the rents they do get, they go to headquarters in other states, which contribute little to our local economy.

Let’s take a look at the current James City County Comprehensive Plan. Most voters routinely oppose excessive development and prefer to keep green space and agricultural lands versus building yet another strip mall or housing development.

JCC has a stated goal to protect agricultural land in the upper county, but the reality is far different.

There is a lot of mixed-use development slated for land currently zoned agricultural. A case in point is the apartment complex proposed at Oakland Farms which many voters oppose. Under current zoning laws, the development is not allowed, but under the Comprehensive Plan, it is allowed.

Do you like the farmland around Anderson’s Corner? No dice, it is slated for low density residential.

How about Colonial Heritage’s agreement to keep the old Boy Scout Camp on Jolly Pond Road as green space? Nope, big construction going on there.

You can’t trust that once a development agreement has been reached, the county won’t roll and take the money and allow more development.

Recently, the Pottery announced yet another plan to develop its property. Of course, that means another road, and more property rent for them. A lot of people would agree, that the current Pottery lacks a viable business plan and the only thing keeping them afloat is the income from their rental properties. The Pottery has severely declined since it was one of the area’s major draws. The current Pottery has no credibility in proposing development, and the proposed development does not serve the citizens’ interests, just theirs.

New Town and High Street murdered innumerable local businesses in the upper county. I can tell you from living in Toano, the upper county is where businesses go to die. Developing Route 60, Toano and the Pottery land just adds to the problem.

Any new retail cannibalizes existing retail spaces, and has done so for several years. James City does not have the population or economics to support what it has, let alone support more.

Over-development is a death spiral. The more you build, the more infrastructure and services are needed. More schools, more police, more civil servants, more of everything to support it. When the developments do not pan out, you are left with urban sprawl, crime and higher taxes to pick up the economic slack from the vacancies.

It is doubtful that the county really cares about voter input, just like Thomas K. “Tommy” Norment did not care about it for his “Tommy” tax. Political self-interest commonly takes priority over what the people want or actually need. The county wants the development money. Tax and spend.

It is a shame that we do not live in a true democracy. Our leaders would have to be responsive and responsible. Development at any cost would not happen. Taxes would be by the consent of the people, not initiated through the influence of special interests. Let’s at least have a genuine say over the development that happens in the county.

Grimes is a longtime Toano resident.

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