On December 14, 2016 a meeting requested by Royal Farms with VDOT and County staff took place to discuss proposed revisions to the Kiptopeke Royal Farms store in Kiptopeke, Virginia, for the purpose of coming to an agreement with VDOT and Northampton County on the entrance alterations required as a result of the adjacent property owner refusing to cooperate with an easement to construct the previously approved joint entrance on the north end of the Royal Farms site.
The following persons were in attendance:
- Melissa Kellam, Northampton County Zoning Administrator
- Spencer Murray, Chairman Northampton County Board of Supervisors
- John Andrzejewski, Northampton County Acting Administrator
- Bill Parr, Northampton County Joint Industrial Development Authority
- Jason Fowler, VDOT Land Use Engineer, Hampton Roads
- Dale Pusey, VDOT Land Use Engineer, Accomac
- Jack Whisted, Royal Farms
- Jeff Harman, Becker Morgan Group, Inc.
During this meeting, nine items of agreement were reached that related to site access and safety. According to VDOT, these agreements were consistent with the Route 13 Safety Study. It included the elimination of the center entrance, the construction of a curbed lane to be constructed between north and south entrances and other improvements and concessions to be paid for by Royal Farms.
While the proposed changes have not been formally approved by VDOT, a subsequent meeting (public) requested by Supervisor Hogg held at Kiptopeke Elementary led many to believe that the skids have already been greased for rubber stamping. However, citizens at the meeting voiced serious concerns about the proposed changes; mainly that northbound traffic exiting the store will have to make a U-turn at Cedar Road. The question is whether tractor trailers and others pulling boats or RVs will be able to make the turn without having to back up into traffic that is traveling northbound at speeds well over 60mph.
Noticeably missing from the list of attendees from the first meeting was District 1 Supervisor Granville Hogg. Given that the Royal Farms project is taking place in District 1, Hogg’s absence was conspicuous. While Hogg has been voicing concerns about the safety of the Royal Farms location, his not being invited to discuss the project questions whether the County is moving unilaterally to push something through that has not been properly vetted through the public. It also challenges Northampton County’s commitment to an open government policy.
Also, whether this part of the State Code has been followed here is in question:
State law also requires certain proposed land use re-zonings (§§ 15.2-2286, 15.2-2297, 15.22298,
or 15.2-2303) or changes in local comprehensive plans (§§ 15.2-2223, 15.2-2228 or 15.22229)
to be state-reviewed and considered for their traffic impacts (§ 15.2-2222.1) prior to their
adoption by the local governing body. Prior to submittal for adoption by the local governing
body, a local planning commission shall submit a proposed plan or amendment to VDOT for
review and comment if the rezoning, comprehensive plan or amendment will substantially affect
transportation on state-controlled highways as defined by VDOT regulations (Virginia
Administrative Code: 24 VAC 30-155).
The Mirror contacted acting County Administrator John Andrzejewski about Hogg’s absence from the meeting, “Royal Farms requested the meeting with VDOT and County staff to discuss proposed revisions to their Kiptopeke Royal Farms store. Royal Farms issued the invites and frankly I don’t know whether Supervisor Hogg was invited or not.”
It is doubtful that Mr. Whistead’s invitation was meant to be that exclusive. It would seem logical and prudent that County representatives would have asked to have an invitation extended to the District 1 Supervisor. It should be noted that developer Bill Parr was present representing JIDA.
The dominant theme in Northampton County is economic development. Whether County officials are willing to enter a Faustian bargain to accomplish this is the concern. The Route 642 Harbor Access Road scandal shines a light on what appears to be a closed off, disconnected government operation (Town and County) that seems to be more motivated by the desires of entities behind the curtain, and is willing to bend the rules (or break Law No. 27) to enhance the balance sheets of the County’s top 1%, even at the expense of the taxpayer’s dollars and safety.