The Ghost of Megasite

It looks to me that Augusta County leaders didn’t learn the lessons from the furor over the 2006 megasite proposal. Or maybe they did. The Planning Commission voted Tuesday night to recommend approval of a rezoning request related to a proposed 135-acre, 1 million-square-foot commercial and retail project off Va. 262 just across the boundary line from Staunton that is being talked about as the host site for a cinema, several large retail stores and restaurants.

Details of the project were only made public a day earlier, on Monday, leading to comments from residents at the Planning Commission meeting to the effect that the project and its consideration seemed rushed and that the general community wasn’t being given enough time to digest what is being presented.

This is in stark contrast to how the megasite controversy played out in ’06, though of course the reason the critics were able to get their hands around that one early was that details of what was being proposed had been leaked against the wishes of the parties privy to the discussions regarding the possibility that Toyota might be interested in locating at the site in the Weyers Cave area.

Without a leak in this case, the general public had all of a day to muse on what a million-square-foot development at the Va. 262-Interstate 81 interchange would mean for that area.

I’m one who has been on the record unequivocally that the megasite that was talked about in 2006 was a good idea in my mind, and I still think that way, and I’ve been critical of the way that process was mismanaged, i my opinion, with the observation that we may have scared off potential suitors of a megadeal nature for years into the future.

The fine line to these cases is evident in the process that is being played out now. With the Planning Commission vote this week, the Board of Supervisors will get its say on the 262-81 project in two weeks, which is hardly enough time for even people like me who are predisposed to supporting big-business projects like the kind that we’re talking about here to get to a comfort level on the particulars given that there are just so many particulars.

My recommendation on this would be for the Board to table its consideration of the rezoning matter associated with the project until June to give residents ample opportunity to ask questions, get answers and make up their minds.

Otherwise, this is going to come across as a rush job, and then we’d have to ask, in the economy that we’re in right now, what the big hurry is.

 

– Story by Chris Graham


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