Citizens speak out about comp plan

It looked as those in favor of Chesterfield County’s new draft countywide comprehensive  plan stayed home last Wednesday when the Board of Supervisors listened to comments  during a public hearing.

Over 30 citizens took to the podium to express their opinion of the draft plan that has cost more than a $1 million to produce and has taken three years to wind its way to Chesterfield’s Board of Supervisors. Only a few speakers expressed total support of the draft plan. One speaker focused on transportation; mostly public transportation routes.

The Home Builders Association of Richmond also agreed with the public transportation section of the plan as well as other parts of the planning document.

Jefferson Davis Association President Sterry McGee said his group was concerned that during the summer last year that “some 80 percent of the emphasis on revitalization was swept away.”

Many of the speakers expressed their concern for the plan because of their opinion that the comprehensive plan is part of a wider effort called Agenda 21.

Agenda 21 is an action plan of the United Nations related to sustainable development and was an outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in 1992. It is a comprehensive blueprint of action to be taken in every area in which humans directly affect the environment.

Area Tea Party groups have begun to speak out on their opposition to sustainable development, environment and property rights.

Darin Gardener from the Dale District said he didn’t understand why the county had to go outside the county for a study to tell us how to live our lives for the next 50 years.

“This tells me that this county did not have the confidence in its own planning department and citizens, to come up with a plan to carry this county forward for the next five decades,” Gardner said. “No matter how much this county and it’s planners deny it, this plan is Agenda 21.”

In 2008, Chesterfield’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to hire the Renaissance Group to facilitate a countywide comprehensive plan. Only one of those members is now absent from the board.

Ralph Carter, a member of the Chester Patriots used a chart to compare the tenets of the Constitution to that of sustainability.

“Americas role under the Constitution is we are the beacon of freedom,” Carter said. “But under sustainability, we are the source of planetary degradation.”

A representative from one area group strongly disagreed with the Tea Party’s representation.

“While some have decided to get into the plan at the last minute, I have been involved from the first go... and have kept up ever since,” said Steve Mose, president of the Gateway Association referring to the involvement of the Tea Party groups. He said, “I don’t know why the United Nations is being mentioned... this has been the work of citizens of the county.”

While there was an organized effort by area Tea Party groups to bring their message to the board, some speakers offered alternative reasons for the board to deny or redo the new comprehensive plan

“I’m adamantly opposed to this comprehensive plan.” said George Emerson, a local developer. “When you look at the basic items of what this plan says, it will take 20 more planners to go through it and tell us all the items we’re going to have to comply with.” Emerson said that property rights in Chesterfield have been stepped on for years. But when you look at the environmental engineering part of this plan, it says that the waterways should be preserved for the use and enjoyment of the public. But when you look at your plan it looks at the riverfront as manufacturing.

Emerson also addressed affordable housing saying that the idea of young people being able to “buy a new house has become a thing of the past.”

Dan Gecker, chairman of the Board of Supervisors said that the vote on the plan would be deferred until the board’s afternoon session on Feb. 8. Gecker said they would start the work session earlier than normal at 1 p.m.

“We do truly care about what the public thinks and want to include the public in the decision-making process,” Gecker said. “We are not going to take a vote on the plan tonight, I think everyone understands that.”

Gecker said that the board would decide whether the plan would be adopted as is, in part or be remanded in its entirety  back to the planning commission.

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