Abingdon, VA."The time has passed when we're going to accept a big box."
A Tennessee developer ran into a WAL of questions last week in the community of Abingdon, Virginia. According to an account in the Washington County News representatives from Abingdon J T Partners, LLC of Knoxville, Tenn.,
appeared before the town's Planning Comnmission to present a "preliminary, preliminary" plat that subdivides 30 acres of commercial property into 10 sections off exit 14 of Interstate 81. The remaining section of land is zoned residential. But commisioners found the presentation too vague. "Why are we looking at this when we don't have any information or anything to vote on tonight?" one Planning Commissioner asked. Commission member Ed Morgan, who also sits on the Town Council, which will make the final decision, told the developer he had a "strong series of concerns" about their plan and the impact it would have on a very bad traffic flow at Exit 14. Morgan said he wanted strong controls and design standards over any large project. "I would not be committed at all to possibly approve a plat that did not have design standard as part of it," Morgan said. "When I was elected to council, I was concerned about sprawl. Abingdon is one of the few towns in Southwest Virginia that is experiencing any growth at all. We need to manage that growth in a smart way," Morgan said. The County News said Morgan drew a large cheer from the crowd when he said: "If you're willing to accept a big box,then they're going to give you a big box. And I think the time has passed when we're going to accept a big box,"
When pressed by residents to reveal who the tenants were, the developer stated "I'm not going to lie to you that Wal-Mart is very interested in being in Abingdon." The Planning Commission told unpset neighbors that all their job was to do was to recommend or not recommend the division of the property. "Our job here is to decide if we can divide it up into lots. The property is already
What you can do: Residents in Abingdon should understand that the Planning Commission has the power to reject a project -- even on commercially zoned land -- if the project has adverse impacts on the community, such as worsening congestion at Exit 14. Just because land has the proper zoning underneeth it does not remove the Planning Commission's proper role to ensure that the scale and design of the project meets the health, safety and welfare of residents. We have documented a number of cases where local authorities have denied a project on commercial land because it created significant adverse impacts that could not be mitigated. The issue here is not where the subdivision lines are drawn, but whether the project's size and location result in acceptable impacts.