Apartment vote lacked transparency, impugned town’s reputation

Published 2:43 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A large contingent of people were in attendance for the first part of the July 13 Farmville Town Council meeting — unlike most town meetings where no one attends.

Ten people signed up to speak, with all but two speaking in opposition to the then proposed 100-unit apartment complex, and in particular, the exit roadway onto South Main Street. Two speakers expressed disappointment that things didn’t seem to be like they always were in friendly Farmville with this dissension over development and all.

Then the question was asked: “Is this meeting being recorded?” The answer from Mayor David Whitus was an emphatic “No.”

After a closed session came presentations by Whitus and Ward A Councilman Greg Cole referencing supposed “mob mentality” at the June 24 meeting on Cabell’s Court and reiterating this was not about rezoning (that was never in question).

A petition with 260-plus signatures opposing the apartment complex in this location had previously been sent to all council members and was given to the clerk of council without any comment to be buried in the minutes.

Then the “piece de resistance” — limited discussion and vote on conditional use permit for Farmville Associates LLC.

After a prepared motion was read by Ward B Councilwoman Sally Thompson outlining “conditions” — trees, fences, lights, etc. — the roadway was mentioned. A right-turn only was stipulated if original deeded right-of-way behind the bank was used, or, move the road onto town property recently purchased from Mrs. Willa Wood, without any restrictions for turns — developer’s choice.

Council voted 5-2 to approve with At-Large Councilmen Tom Pairet and Dan Dwyer voting no. There were no assurances given that the road through the Walmart property would be built. The Tractor Supply exit was denied.

Not long ago, when a man gave his word, a handshake would seal the deal. Then the written contract evolved. Apparently in Farmville, a deed of purchase with stipulations and a letter of agreement are not worth the paper they are written on.

Town Manager Gerald Spates and council members gave their word that Wood’s acre would only include a pond — not a road.

Are apartment buildings so all important as to impugn the good faith and reputation of the entire town? The developer knew when he bought the land that the right-of-way was located directly behind Benchmark Bank. What right has he to expect town officials to double back on their promise to Wood the way they did?

How can the council and Spates, look the Wood family in the eye after going back on their word about the one acre?

Shame on Spates for leading the council down this path. Shame on the five council members for falling for it and voting in favor of the project.

If they did this while all the public was watching, then one wonders what they are doing behind closed doors.

This will not be forgotten.

CAROL FAUCI lives in Farmville. Her email address is horseshoes@ aol.com.