The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Monday, April 17, 2006

ALL SMILES WITH PRINCE EDWARD BOARD


BOARD OF SUPERVISORS MAKE
A SUDDEN COURSE REVERSAL ON PLANNING COMMISSION POLICY!

A GESTURE OF GOOD WILL?

OR…

POLITICAL NECESSITY?


Readers of the Iconoclast perhaps recall that we have been following developments for the past year or so down in Prince Edward County involving Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission. See related articles.

The Iconoclast is now pleased to report that the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors seems to be all smiles now that it has reversed its earlier inexplicable and disastrously unpopular policies to exclude fair representation on the Prince Edward County Planning Commission.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to ask the most obvious question: Why did Chairman William “Buckie” Fore and Vice Chairman Howard Simpson “flip-flop” on their previous policy positions?

Was this surprise course reversal a gesture of good will? Or was it political necessity in an effort to get out from under a cloud of continuing public criticism? Was it the impending “train wreck” the Iconoclast predicted in early January of this year?

Recent news reports in both The Farmville Herald and the Richmond Times Dispatch confirm that the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors approved last week a new official policy that will create a Planning Commission with ten members total, including three members who are county residents living in the Town of Farmville. Essentially, this new plan makes possible that all citizens of Prince Edward County are now eligible to be considered for appointment to the Planning Commission.

This is an important change in policy…essentially a complete course reversal… considering that Chairman William “Buckie” Fore and four other Supervisors (Howard Simpson, Bobby Jones, Charles McKay and James Moore) have fought so hard since this past November to exclude all Farmville residents, roughly one third of the entire County population, from eligibility to serve on the Planning Commission.

It all started back in the summer of 2005 when citizens facing a controversial zoning proposal began complaining of a dysfunctional planning process and allegations that the Planning Commission was stagnant, mismanaged, unfairly organized. The underlying concern was that the Planning Commission, dominated by a Chairman and Vice Chairman facing unresolved ethics questions, was essentially “rubber stamping” lucrative zoning deals for favored developers, land speculators and realtors.

Over the past seven months, this story has taken more twists and turns than a plate full of spaghetti.

Starting in November with a questionable study committee finding that nothing was wrong and no change was needed, the Chairman Fore’s majority coalition of five Supervisors dug in their heals to keep the status quo in place.

By December, a new committee recommendation was approved by the same five supervisors, effectively excluding one third of the County’s population from representation on the County Planning Commission.

How could the Board embrace such an unfair and illogical public policy?

Sources close to the unfolding story have hypothesized that it all boils down to a “control” issue with Chairman Fore and others who have enjoyed unchallenged control of the County’s Planning Commission and its ability to approve land use deals for nearly two decades.

This theory seems to be confirmed by the composition of the study committee that was dominated by individuals who had long term "turf interests" to protect with the existing Planning Commission including long time Chairman William Porterfield, Supervisor Bobby Jones (both serving on the Planning Commission for nearly two decades), and Planning Director Jonathan Pickett.

We would be remiss if we failed to note that not everybody was smiling so enthusiastically about the new policy.

Supervisor Bobby Jones, who chaired the special study committee that formulated the two previous questionable and ill-fated policies was critical of Chairman Fore and Vice Chairman Simpson for the sudden course reversal that essentially reversed all of the committee's recommendations.

In addition to his critical views of the Chairman and Vice Chairman’s unilateral actions, Supervisor Jones was outspoken in his belief that the right to serve on the County Planning Commission should somehow be tied to how much real estate an individual owns and how much in taxes they pay.

While Supervisor Jones’ quaint and feudalistic attitude about land ownership and political rights may enjoy sympathy in some quarters, most Americans reject this inappropriately elitist concept and instead embrace the principles of American democracy as outlined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Not surprisingly, Supervisor Bobby Jones was the only member of the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors voting against the new policy that would allow three of ten seats on the County Planning Commission to go to Farmville residents. In other words Supervisor Jones is still outspoken and unapologetic in his opposition to fair representation on the Planning Commission.

The seven to one vote approving the new policy represents a dramatic change of heart by the four Board members who have heretofore resisted change. Chairman William “Buckie” Fore, Vice Chairman Howard Simpson, and Supervisors Charles McKay and James Moore, now belatedly join Supervisors Sally Gilfillan, Pattie Cooper-Jones, and Lacy Ward in a new policy that offers at least the potential of fair representation on the County Planning Commission.

But does this policy reversal mean that the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors can put to rest, once and for all, citizen concerns about the “stagnant and dysfunctional” Planning Commission “rubber stamping” lucrative zoning deals for favored developers, land speculators and realtors?

That ideal remains to be seen.

The new policy is a step in the right direction by making possible fair representation on the Planning Commission. However, only two new seats will be filled in the coming months. The remaining eight seats will continue to be held by incumbents, some of whom have held their seats for nearly two decades. Will the two new appointments make any difference?

Nor does the new policy guarantee that needed reform of the Planning Commission will follow. Meaningful reform can only occur if there is a sincere acknowledgement that reform is needed. The record of official resistance and delay over the past seven months is cause for skepticism and a cautious wait and see approach.

Basic questions remain...

Are the wide smiles on the faces of members of the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors sincere, reflecting a commitment to needed reform? Or are they just an illusion concealing ulterior motives?

Is Supervisor Bobby Jones actually the only one who is honestly speaking his mind and expressing his true feelings about fair representation on the Planning Commission? It is something to wonder about.

Only time will tell.


RELATED ARTICLES:

BAD DAY FOR DEMOCRACY IN THE HEART OF VIRGINIA
REAL ESTATE 101: A SIMPLE GUIDE TO BECOMING (VERY) RICH!
THE DUNN DEAL: A FAMILY AFFAIR?
CHAIRMAN FORE'S TRAIN IN VAIN
OUT TO LUNCH
ON ISSUES OF HUMAN EQUALITY COMPROMISE IS NOT AN OPTION

8 Comments:

  • At 4/18/2006 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think the board is trying to do the right thing. But,they got off to a bad start with the committee. That was like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.

     
  • At 4/18/2006 3:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is great, but Buckie in Company will still be able to hand pick you will serve on the board, so what's really gained?

     
  • At 4/19/2006 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It appears that the editor Farmville Herald in a recent editorial is trying to spin this recent development-includng County residents from the Town of Farmville on the PC - in a fashion that makes Simpson and Fore look as if they should be nominated for a nobel piece prize! How funny!

    Let's be honest. The ONLY reason that Fore and Simpson are going along with this is because refusing not to do something will further erode the citizens of the County confidence and trust in these two men. I guess even they, can see the writing on the wall!

    Please do not attempt to confuse this recent "change of heart" with actually statesmanship, because it is not. Because any practical and reponsive (and sane maybe) elected official would have never put him/herself in this situation to begin with, and as the last post points out, King Fore still reserves the right to deciede who will sit on the PC from the Town.
    And let me guess this person(s) will agree with Bucking et. al., on every issue!

    Democracy in PE, got to love it!

     
  • At 4/19/2006 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ken Woodley, in his editorial on this matter wrote:

    Fore and Simpson deserve tremendous credit for having the strength of character to enable them to reconsider their previous position and very publicly reverse course. Weaker individuals would have stubbornly stuck to their guns, no matter where they were aimed.
    _________________________________

    What a joke, now let's remember that Buckie Fore is employed as the Business Manager of the Herald. So of course Ken is going to try to make Fore and Simpson look like the next coming of Ghandi.

    I especially like this bit from Kenny Boy: "Weaker individuals would have stubbornly stuck to their guns, no matter where they were aimed."

    How about this Ken: "smarter individuals who are more concerned with the wellfare of the general public as opposed to their own narrow special interest would have never attempted to usurp democracy in Prince Edward in the first place"

    I agree with the last post, the Herald is attempting to smooth over this matter and make those who have made fools of themselves in the past look like model statesmen now.

    And we wonder why groups of good old boys and girls have been running this County with no accountability for decades? So remember Mr. Woodley, "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem"

     
  • At 4/20/2006 11:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Politicians don't always do the right thing for the right reasons. But when they do the right thing for what ever reason, we should consider that a good thing. The key to keeping the politicians on the right track is to make sure they know people are watching. Believe me, people are watching these guys on the PE Board now.

     
  • At 4/21/2006 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Is that really true about Fore? Does he really work for the Herald? I thought he was retired.

     
  • At 5/10/2006 1:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If I were to guess, Bobby Jones is probably telling it like it really is. He may sincerely have some difficulty in seeing the need for long overdue change. Change is scary for some people. Bobby is not necessairly being a bad person just because he is reluctant to change. This may be just who he is.Why not give Bobby some credit. He is just being honest. The others are just your typical politicians who say whatever they feel sounds good at the moment.

     
  • At 6/30/2006 3:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Bobby is the "window to their sole" showing what kind of problems they really have. I agree, he is just being honest. Thankfully we know by now he should not be on the Board of Supervisors any more.

     

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