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COMP PLAN TAKES POLITICAL TONE
Spotsylvania Planning Commission adopts new vision that sounds like a Republican Party platform

Date published: 10/9/2012

BY JEFF BRANSCOME

A new politically charged vision statement for Spotsylvania County's development plan has at least one public official seeing red.

The statement--essentially just a preamble to the county's Comprehensive Plan--was drafted by Planning Commission members Scott Mellott and Robert Stuber, both of whom have led the county GOP.

Though it carries no legal weight, the new vision boasts the tone of a state of the union address. It pledges that Spotsylvania will build on the "principles of our founding fathers to provide freedom and prosperity through limited government, low taxes and pro-business policies for the 21st century."

"That's just my political philosophy," said Mellott, who became chairman of the Spotsylvania Republican Committee in August.

Planning Commission members--the majority of whom were appointed this year by conservatives on the Board of Supervisors--adopted the vision statement last month with little discussion. It will be in Chapter 1 of the county's Comprehensive Plan, which is a blueprint for future growth.

However, Planning Commission member Cristine Lynch says she's concerned that it doesn't promote quality of life like the previous statement did.

County residents want top-notch schools, parks and roads, she noted, and growth could overwhelm those services without an emphasis on quality of life.

"Without quality of life in that statement, it's just supporting economic development for no reason other than it's good for business," said Lynch, who cast the only vote against the new vision statement.

Stuber, chairman of the Planning Commission, said members would not revisit the new statement, despite a request from Lynch to do so.

Lynch has complained that she didn't receive the proposed statement until the meeting at which it was approved.

Stuber said that Supervisors Chairwoman Ann Heidig, a Republican who appointed him, told him she thought the new statement looked good.

"If anything, the people I hear from appreciate the fact that it does take into account our historic location and our adherence to the founding fathers," Stuber said. In addition to promises of low taxes and limited government, the vision says Spotsylvania will remember and respect its place in the nation's history.

Mellott said he put a lot of thought into the vision. It promotes "freedom and prosperity," which he said allows people to "determine their own quality of life."

Stuber said that low taxes also improve quality of life. The Board of Supervisors sets tax rates.

Planning Director Wanda Parrish said the new vision statement is technically still a draft since the entire Comprehensive Plan has yet to be voted on by the Planning Commission and supervisors. The plan is scheduled to be approved next year after public hearings.

Spotsylvania's Comprehensive Plan--approved every five years--addresses land-use issues, public facilities, transportation, and natural and historic resources. The state mandates the plans to "best promote the health, safety, morals, order, convenience, prosperity and general welfare" of residents.

Lynch said she's disappointed the Planning Commission won't reconsider the vision statement. The previous one served the county well, she said.

"I am fine with a pro-business environment, but not to where business is the only priority," she said.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
Email: jbranscome@freelancestar.com


Proposed statement:

"Spotsylvania families will enjoy a community that remembers and respects its place in our nation's history and builds on the principles of our founding fathers to provide freedom and prosperity through limited government, low taxes and pro-business policies for the 21st century."

Previous statement:

"Spotsylvania County will be a leading Virginia community in quality of living and a leader in the region in sustained economic development."

The Spotsylvania County Planning Commission has appointed advisory committees to review aspects of the Comprehensive Plan. The public facilities committee meets Thursday at 7 p.m. in the third-floor conference room at 9019 Old Battlefield Blvd.

The land-use committee meets next Monday at the same time and place. All meetings are open to the public.