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Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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More C-500 forum information

One question asked of the candidates at last night’s Committee of 500 forum is why has it taken so long to get the new Comprehensive Plan finished?

Supervisors tabled the affordable housing and open space elements earlier this year. The affordable housing element was far less controversial than the open space element, which brought out the property rights groups.

Supervisor Hap Connors has asked the county staff to “dust off” the affordable housing element for review again.

But Layton Fairchild, one of the candidates in the Berkeley District, said current supervisors should have never tabled the affordable housing element if it was so important. It’s election-time political rhetoric, he said.

Of all things, two candidates were pretty vocal about County Administrator Randy Wheeler’s 23-percent pay raise. Mark Dorsey, who is challenging Connors, used an analogy of being the leader of soldiers in the Army (Dorsey served in the military). He said he’d be “publicly embarrassed” to accept a raise that large knowing his troops don’t get nearly that large of a raise. School teachers don’t get that kind of raise, he said.

“That is one area where I would have controlled spending,” Dorsey said. Committee of 500 Chairwoman Chris Folger cut Dorsey off and told him to actually answer the question of how he’d support education.

Gary Bullis said the raise was “excessive.” He then said school funding has increased far more than enrollment.

“You could make the argument we have a management problem instead of a budget problem,” Bullis said.

Dorsey also said there is poor communication between the School superintendent and the County Administrator, and he used the Massaponax Church Road improvements near the under-construction elementary school as an example. Those road improvements that everyone expected–straightening the road–won’t be done when the school opens. They won’t be done for two years.

Emmitt Marshall said you cannot guage school funding on enrollment because you teach students over many years.

The Berkeley District candidates were asked how they’d keep their district rural. Fairchild said he’d like to revisit the zoning rule that only allows one home per 10 acres with a subdivision. He said there are poor people in his district who don’t own 10 acres. They would like to leave property to children, he said.

“How is this helping everybody?” Fairchild said. He wants to revisit the zoning law.

Marshall, who has 28 years of service on the county board, pointed out that the county has an exemption that allows a parent to subdivide one home per 2 acres for a child or grandchild. But the one-home per 10-acres is one way that helps keep the district rural, Marshall said.

Marshall and Bullis said the county needs to use the Purchase of Development Rights program, which uses taxpayer money to buy development rights for open space. The county government has this program in place, but no one has taken advantage of it. A few people have said the reason the program isn’t used is because the county government hasn’t offered a fair price for the development rights.

Fairchild also said the Thornburg area would have been a more ideal spot for HCA’s regional medical center. Currently, the hospital is going near Massasponax, an area by U.S. 1 and 17 and I-95, that has major traffic gridlock. Marshall said if the county board pursued a Thornburg site, he doubts the hospital would have ever been built. He didn’t want to take that chance, he said.   

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