Will the county fall victim to another land grab?

By Susan Gibbs

TJPDC Executive Director Stephen W. Williams

The last time Greene County residents stood in the way of a major plan to redistribute them to preserve vital resources and retain the natural habitat they were depicted as squatters, illiterate, immoral and backward — as hillbillies who slept on corn stalks, their children needing their heads smeared with lard and turpentine to kill lice.

Back then the issue was the creation of Shenandoah National Park.

This time the issue is the implementation of “sustainable” or “smart growth” ideals.

Those who oppose those ideals – which also call for human distribution to preserve vital resources and retain the natural habitat — are being depicted as radicals; paranoids who believe that a United Nations plot for world domination will lead to agents of totalitarianism coming to crush us, not with tanks and guns but with electric meters and bike paths.

Stephen W. Williams, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), which is responsible for the implementation of sustainability in Greene, has referred to the objections of opponents as “noise” to be tuned out.

Allow me to explain.

In an editorial titled “TJPDC Institutional Arrogance Exposed” published late last year, Neil Williamson, president and executive director of the Free Enterprise Forum, reported overhearing Williams make that remark. At the time, Williamson wrote, Williams was addressing a delegation about TJPDC’s Many Communities One Plan project, which was, in October 2010, the recipient of a three-year $999,000 federal grant.

The grant, dubbed the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and calls for the development of a regional sustainability implementation plan.

The TJPDC region includes, in addition to Greene, the City of Charlottesville, and the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson.

According to awardee information prepared by the National Association of Regional Councils, available for public viewing at http://www.ewgateway.org/hudgrant/HUDSusComsInfo.pdf, that plan will build on the region’s 1998 Sustainability Accords to integrate strategies for land use, transportation, housing, economic development, air and water quality, and energy use.

TJPDC’s 1998 Sustainability Accords (http://www.tjpdc.org/pdf/rep_comm_epiBrochure.pdf) contain 11 objectives that include: the distribution of the human population in ways that restrict access to vital resources while retaining natural habitats, farms and forestland; and the promotion of appropriate scale for land uses.

It also calls for the actual implementation of the goals set forth in the Accords. That implementation is to be achieved through the development of “common land use in keeping with the transportation vision for the Charlottesville/Albemarle region (http://www.tjpdc.org/pdf/RTA/Vision%20Item%203.pdf); integration of sustainability strategies into comprehensive plans and the long-range transportation plan; code and ordinance sustainability recommendations; and, a plan for behavior change processes.”

The resulting Charlottesville Region Sustainability Implementation Plan, which can be viewed at http://www.tjpdc.org/pdf/Charlottesville%20Region%20Sustainability%20Implementation%20Plan.pdf, calls for full regional implementation in the Metropolitan Planning Organization Area (MPO).

The wording of the above is a bit confusing because at the moment, the only localities in the region participating in the MPO are the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County – but that may be about to change.

At the July 10 regularly scheduled meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors Andrea Wilkinson, a Ruckersville resident and citizen liaison to TJPDC, told supervisors that TJPDC is inviting Greene County to “have the urban sections of Greene join the (MPO) … to cover Ruckersville and possibly Twin Lakes. (See TJPDC Metropolitan Planning Organization eyes Ruckersville, Twin Lakes on this Web site)

Wilkinson further informed supervisors it is not clear if Greene would be taken into the MPO as a voting member if they chose to accept TJPDC’s invitation. She also referenced a recent TJPDC meeting on the subject that she, along with Greene County Zoning Administrator Bart Svoboda and Greene County Planner Stephanie Golon had attended – but which, for whatever reasons, neither Chairman of the Greene County Board of Supervisors Buggs Peyton, nor Supervisor Eddie Deane, who is the Greene County Board of Supervisors’ liaison to TJPDC, attended.

Wilkinson also said that another meeting, which “they really should attend” is being held on July 25 to discuss the possibility of Greene’s entrance into the MPO, and that they had until September to reach a decision.

What exactly will participation in the MPO mean for Ruckersville and (possibly) Twin Lakes?

Eye on Greene doesn’t know, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to tune out the noise.

What is known is that TJPDC’s Council was formed a year after the Presidents Council for Sustainable Development was created, via executive order, by President Bill Clinton in the first year of his administration. It is also known that that council was created a year after President George H.W. Bush pledged United States support for the United Nations global agenda for the 21st century – which touts “sustainable development” as a means to prevent human beings from destroying the Earth’s ecosystem and is appropriately titled “Agenda 21”.

Eye on Greene also knows that, according to reports, Gary Lawrence, an advisor to the Clinton-Gore administration said, “Participating in a U.N. advocated planning process would very likely bring out many of the conspiracy-fixated groups and individuals in our society. This segment of our society who fear ‘one-world government’ and a UN invasion of the United States through which our individual freedom would be stripped away would actively work to defeat any elected official who joined the ‘conspiracy’ by undertaking [Agenda 21]. So we call our process something else, such as comprehensive planning, growth management or smart growth.”

Since then other terms were adopted to describe the same – or very similar – objectives.

In addition to “Sustainability” and “Smart Growth”, the terms  “New Urbanism”, New Community Design”, “Traditional Neighborhood Development”, “Resource Stewardship”, “Land Preservation”, “Preventing urban sprawl”, “Conserving Open Space”, Creating Sense of Place”, Development Best Practices”, “Preservation Development”, “Triple Bottom Line Accounting – People, Planet, Profit”, and “The Three Pillars – Human, Natural and Created Capital” have been  — or are being – linked to Agenda 21.

Opponents of sustainability objectives have argued – and are arguing – that they call for the world-wide inventory and control of all land, all water, all minerals, all plants, all animals, all construction, all means of production, all information, and all human beings and that they are, in effect, socialistic.

Unfortunately, those hostilities have reached a fever pitch at both the regional and at the local level.

It was on Election Day last year that Williamson overheard Williams using the word “noise” to describe opposition to TJPDC’s plans for implementation of sustainability, and, also unfortunately, that word was not the only derogative term overheard at the time.

According to Williamson’s editorial, titled “TJPDC Institutional Arrogance Exposed” available for viewing at http://freeenterpriseforum.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/tjpdc-institutional-arrogance-exposed/, Williams insulted public officials for acting like “space aliens” and said there is an “unfortunate trend” where the region is like “100 warring tribes not concerned about the good of the community at all.”

Insults aside, two things are for sure: the term “sustainable” and several of its variants have already been written into some important county documents; and, participation in TJPDC’s MPO should be carefully studied and discussed before TJPDC’s invitation is either accepted or declined.

The question of whether or not portions of Greene County will be absorbed into TJPDC’s MPO is scheduled to be discussed at the Board of Supervisor’s next regularly scheduled meeting, to be held Tuesday, July 24 in the meeting room of the County Administration Building on Celt Road in Stanardsville.

Eye on Greene respectfully encourages supervisors to delay any decision until September.

It further encourages supervisors to hold at least one public hearing before then so citizens will have the opportunity to hear, in an organized fashion, about the factual and potential pros and cons of participation, to ask rational questions in a civilized manner, and respectfully voice their informed opinions.

Posted in: Editorials

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