We haven’t had much on South Boston’s new Comprehensive Plan proposal which impacts the Riverdale corridor leading into the town, but we do want to publish this letter from Andy Rice. We’ll have more on this plan proposal and the potential impacts in the next few days. Let’s take a look at what Andy has to say…
The Honorable Carroll Thackston, Mayor
2705 North Main Street
South Boston, Virginia 24592
Dear Mayor Thackston:
The town’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan is seriously flawed and must be revised before your council adopts it. The plan’s vision for Riverdale is not conducive to the town’s long range prosperity and it has no support in the community. Riverdale landowners, Riverdale business owners, and citizens from all over Halifax County have spoken out against it while no one outside of the Planning Commission, the Town Manager, or Hill Studios has publicly spoken to support it. Our founding fathers envisioned a government that served the people, but that edict has somehow been forgotten in the development of this Comprehensive Plan.
Encouraging existing businesses to vacate the town, whether they relocate in the County or simply cease to exist, is a terrible message to send to anyone contemplating going into business in South Boston. Removing these businesses and cleaning up the area is being touted as a way to attract new businesses and industries to the area. The beauty of a wetlands park is supposed to attract them, but isn’t it possible that they may question why the area with the highest traffic count in the county is devoid of any retail establishments?
How much revenue do the Riverdale merchants generate for South Boston via the myriad of taxes they pay? If they relocate to the county or close their doors, the town’s tax base will shrink and it will shift more tax burden on every citizen and remaining business in South Boston. How many of us can afford that?
The Riverdale business owners have tried to be included in the plan revisions, spending hours with town officials trying to work out a compromise. However, none of their suggestions have shown up in the long term plan. As a fellow business owner, it is alarming to see others treated this way and it is frightening to think that the town may turn their attention to other areas. Who decides what is ugly and what is attractive? Is that one of the responsibilities of government or should we let people do as they please as long as their properties meet the current code?
Building a wetlands park will only serve to overextend the town’s maintenance department. When the Dan floods and washes away the proposed benches, trails, and plantings, it will be up to the town to repair and replace these things. It could also overextend the police department by creating a large area that would have to be patrolled on foot. I cannot imagine why something so broad would be put into a plan when our entire nation’s economy is uncertain. Balancing budgets, both government and personal, is going to be difficult for at least the next several years and this park is an expense that we cannot afford.
Everyone understands the issue with Riverdale’s appearance. I am confident that by working with landowners, a solution can be reached that does not include removing merchants and turning the area into a wetlands park. If the town would install new sidewalks, provide street lights; and remove the overhead utilities while the land owners clean up and improve the appearance of their businesses, it would make the area seem new, fresh, and clean.
In conclusion, I am asking you and the council to reject the 2030 Comprehensive Plan until it is revised to show the existing Riverdale businesses are left alone to continue employing people, and contributing to South Boston and Halifax County’s economies.. The Plan, as it is currently written, is not right for South Boston now or in the future. The road to economic growth is not paved with the removal of existing businesses.
“Build it and they will come” was an interesting concept for the Hollywood movie Field of Dreams, but it would prove to be yet another expensive blunder for our beloved community.