The proposed Boyers Crossing development at the intersection of Port Republic and Boyers roads has received coverage in this publication and other media over the past few months. Developers wish to combine residential, retail and storage units on a parcel of land that was included in Rockingham County’s Stone Spring Urban Development Area (UDA) Plan adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2020.
Using citizen input, the plan describes the vision for how areas adjacent to Sentara RMH Medical Center and this intersection should be developed to accommodate reasonable growth of retail, office and residential spaces interlaced with open spaces and walking paths. The plan took into consideration how various types of development will impact safe travel surrounding the hospital and ongoing localized flooding in the residential areas adjacent to Boyers Crossing, on Shen Lake Drive (connecting Port Republic Road with Cross Keys Road), and the contamination of Lake Shenandoah. Existing ongoing flooding and contamination problems resulted in our supervisors establishing the Lake Shenandoah Stormwater Control Authority in late 2019.
Responsible planning benefits everyone involved — communities, residents and developers. It creates communities that are pleasant to live and work in by regulating and incenting development. Responsible planning allows gives us roads, schools, recreational and emergency services that are well thought out and coordinated as opposed to haphazard planning accompanied by “unanticipated consequences” such as high accident intersections, flooding and emergency expenditures for schools and other public facilities.
Rockingham County has a history of and commitment to planning for development. I was a citizen participant in one of our long range plans over a decade ago. I recognize the value of combining subject matter experts’ talent with citizens’ opinions and expertise to create viable, valuable planning documents. When these plans are followed, the results are mostly good. Developers can then work within the letter and spirit of the plans to develop land profitably and for the benefit of the county’s citizens.
Sadly, things do not always happen the way we wish they would. Sometimes assumptions don’t pan out as was the case with the Lake Shenandoah flooding and rainwater runoff problems that were created as developers followed the guidance outlined in Rockingham County’s long range plan. What the experts and citizens anticipated would be a good development strategy ended up creating problems through nobody’s fault. Supervisors “solved” these problems by establishing the Lake Shenandoah Stormwater Control Authority, authorizing it to borrow up to $2.58 million. As borrowing began, local property owners were assessed fees that are now paid along with their property taxes every six months. This assessment is technically not a tax. County supervisors chose not to seek voters’ authority before imposing this ongoing fee that has no fixed expiration date.
One thing worse than unfortunate consequences such as this are when intentional errors are made. The proposed Boyers Crossing is an example of an intentional error. If supervisors recklessly concede to developers’ wishes that are inconsistent with the adopted 2020 UDA plan it’s reasonable to expect: 1) increased flooding and rainwater runoff problems in areas where they’re already occurring; 2) traffic problems on both Port Republic and Boyers roads as cars and trucks make U-turns to access Boyers Crossing’s retail and storage unit spaces and residences; and 3) additional traffic on Boyers Road, which has already been identified as hazardous and a high accident area with the recent large influx of traffic from its Preston Lake and Taylor Springs Road intersections. No proffers have been offered by the developers to mitigate any of these problems. One can only assume that these burdens will pass to county taxpayers in the forms of taxes or more assessments. Hopefully, we don’t adopt the NOVA model and impose roadway tolls.
All county residents should be concerned with what is happening in the area surrounding RMH and Lake Shenandoah. It could be an omen for things to come in Bridgewater, Broadway, Dayton and in neighborhoods throughout the county.
Are you anxious for another authority assessing fees without taxpayer input? Are you prepared for more accidents and traffic tie-ups on the roads to your homes, schools and workplaces? Are you prepared to fund more schools and public service facilities because of unplanned growth? If not, then please join your fellow residents in urging Rockingham’s supervisors to respect the plans developed by our fellow citizens and approved by our board. Tell them to reject the urge to bow to developers’ demands, and instead wait for and encourage developers who are willing to invest and develop in concert with the county’s plans and best interests. Contact your supervisor; attend the public meeting today and urge supervisors to “Respect the Plan”
Harry Reif lives in Rockingham.