Would be solar-farmer Max Quillen’s recent column is an important read. Noted is the Supervisors’ aggressive strategy of unnecessary development, billed to the taxpayers, and accomplished by stripping rights from those who deserve better.
Higher taxes, diminishment of rights, dissembling responses, putting the wants of the well-connected ahead of long standing needs of a patient people, are not what serves this county best.
Taxes are an easy example of this board being callous to the real issues confronting their constituents. In 2018 taxes rose 9% by rate. This year the taxes rose another 9% on value. These increases combine for a 19% of additional funding for government. This while the people, who do not have the luxury of setting their own income, are squeezed more and more.
Nationally, workers’ pay rose only 6.7% over the last two years. Social Security benefits increased just 4.8% combined for 2018 and 2019. Taxes up 19%, income up 6%, puts the blame on Supervisors for a growing concern of having “more month than money.”
As for property rights; Quillen is not alone in worrying about the direction of government, at all levels. But his experience clearly demonstrates how the influential have standing over average citizens. How else to explain one energy producer, Dominion, having the right to take an unwilling seller’s land at a government set value; while another energy producer and willing property owner cannot freely negotiate a price for passive land leasing?
“Gosplan” was the name of the Soviet Union’s central planning agency that led to its collapse. Today’s “central planning” comes from the General Assembly and the Board of Supervisors. Silly me to think it is not that big of an improvement in going from bureaucrats to politicians, when determining who is best equipped to decide the use of someone else’s property.
As far as “dissembling,” consider the response from the Board to the solar farmers’ request for reconsideration of the 4-3 denial. The chairman in answering made it seem as if it were out of his hands, that the code required the year’s wait. Not so. Any of the four supervisors, which included Garber, who had voted to deny the application, could ask for a recall of the question.
Our people deserve better. The honest, forthright answer is this: “No board member, including me, has changed their mind so we will not revisit your request.”
On use of our money, how many county residents think the best spending of our taken funds is to enable those with so much, to get more? The $7.5 million sewer project planned for Lyndhurst developers, and the $2.5 million Weyers Cave water tank project, proposed for a friend of the Board, do little for the rest of us. (But as “pork barrel” initiatives they do take on the aura of agriculture which we favor.)
So in funding these wants, what are the needs left unattended? There are many but allow me to focus on just one: dirt roads.
The role of an engaged government should include helping home owners get the most out of their property. This means providing serviceable roads. The effort to pave some 300 miles of County dirt roads has sputtered in recent years. State funding reductions, inattention by the Board (me included), and misguidance by VDOT, have conspired to significantly impair progress.
In the first three years (2002-2004) of a state initiative, Rural Rustic Roads, 36 dirt roads were paved. The 45 miles of work were accomplished at a cost of $68,400 per mile. In the last 3 documented years (2014-2016) only 10 projects were completed at a cost of $276,981 for each of the mere 7.57 miles.
If the board has any desire to reconnect with the people; I offer the following thoughts. The taxes need to be returned to $.58. The two pet projects costing $10 million need to be formally axed. The continued use of farmland in passive productivity is a call for the farmers who own it, not the supervisors who covet it. And the dirt roads need to be paved.
With the roads, the board needs to ignore the pestering of the already fortunate and instead focus on those who have patiently waited for the day they can put the wash outside to dry. So put together a project team to do them all, as originally conceived by Rural Rustic legislation, and fund them as the need they are, and not the fringe consideration they have become.
The Board is headed in the wrong direction, it is time for a course correction.