As the continued battle for the life and future of Northampton County continues to be played out over the update to the county’s comprehensive plan, across the bay in Chesapeake, a scenario that could be our future, is taking place right now. It pits developers against residents who want to hold on to the the last remaining vestiges of open space and farmland left in southern Chesapeake.
CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Thousands of acres of farmland are closer to becoming the home of a “mega-site’ that proponents debate could help bring jobs to Hampton Roads.
On Tuesday, Chesapeake City Council voted 6-3 to amend its 2035 Comprehensive Plan to change the purpose of 1,420 acres of farmland near the North Carolina state line from “agricultural/open space” to “commercial, industrial or a similar non-residential designation.”
While the move doesn’t officially rezone the property, it does allow owners of the Frank T. Williams Farms property to begin to market it for a potential Coastal Virginia Commerce Park.
Over the summer, Kevin Cosgrove, representing the Hampton Roads Chamber and Chesapeake’s Economic Development agency, proclaimed the “shovel ready” piece of property will help Chesapeake and the region to diversify its economy.
The lack of “shovel ready” properties was pointed to marquee issue when 10 On Your Side highlighted the region’s business climate struggles.
Prior to the vote on Tuesday, Cosgrove again stood in front of council again to endorse the move.
“I don’t have to explain to you the current economic development consequences in this city, you know them,” Cosgrove said. “Norfolk Southern just left … this is the best opportunity we have to get back into the economic development game.”
However many community members didn’t see it that way at all.
“This proposal is a direct attack on Southern Chesapeake,” said resident David Schleeper. He joined many concerned about increased traffic and environmental impacts on the longtime rural community.
“At the rate we are going there is not going to be anything left,” said Kimberley Hoke, with the group Stop Developing Southern Chesapeake.
Following the meeting, Mayor Rick West looked to calm fears, noting nothing is a done deal.
“This was simply a move to say we’re going to play, it doesn’t mean that we we have a game, it doesn’t mean that we have an offer, it just means that we are open for business,” West said.
Last month the Chesapeake Planning Commission unanimously endorsed the land designation change with stipulations that it won’t be used for “cargo container storage and repair, automobile auctions, salvage yards, solid waste facilities/landfills.”
The site remains farmed at the current time.