Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Livability initiative draws ire in Pulaski County
The Pulaski County Board of Supervisors meeting teemed with emotion over the project.
DUBLIN -- Communists. Socialists. Clowns.
Hundreds turned out for the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors meeting Monday night to discuss the New River Valley Livability Initiative that at times became charged with emotion, from cheers to jeers to name-calling.
The initiative uses a $1 million federal grant to plan for sustainability needs in the New River Valley to develop plans for housing, energy use, cultural heritage, economic and job development. Local governments and groups have banded together for the study, including Pulaski County.
"This project is not about bringing the United Nations to the New River Valley," said Kevin Byrd, executive director of the New River Valley Planning District Commission. "This is a very local plan."
The project is not about forcing people to live in certain areas, called sustainability hubs, or eroding personal property rights or local government's rights, as thought by some, Byrd said.
However, Byrd's words did little to assuage many of those gathered. In a public hearing that lasted more than two hours, 27 people spoke, with six in favor of the initiative, 20 against and one who thanked the board for holding the hearing but did not express an opinion for or against the initiative. In anticipation of a large crowd, the meeting was held in the Pulaski County High School Little Theater instead of the county administration building.
Concerns ranged from the loss of private property to the implementation of socialism or communism.
"You keep talking about grants like it's free money, but it's our money," said Debbie Mohay, an opponent of the initiative.
Monday was Mohay's third meeting questioning the board on the livability grant, but she has not received a satisfactory answer, she said.
"You know this yourself, you don't get something for nothing," Mohay said, followed by a chorus of "amens" and a standing ovation.
Emotions ran higher as the night went on, with displeasure on full display.
The assertion by members of the board of supervisors and Byrd that the studies are nonbinding did little to relieve fear.
"It always begins with nonbinding agreements," Mike Honaker said. "This whole program is not America, it is social engineering."
"It will ruin this country," said Suzanne Walk, who compared the initiative with the removal of Jews from their homes during the Holocaust.
But there were some who found positive things to say about the initiative.
Rebecca Sheckler, a Draper resident, encouraged those in attendance to learn more about the initiative before denouncing it, and some groans could be heard when she announced her support.
"I will work with the local livability initiative in any way I can to help,"
Richard Guthrie, a member of the Pulaski County Planning Commission, said there is no way to make everyone happy.
"Most people like to have control over their own property with no interference of anyone else, but they don't want a junkyard across the street, so zoning presents a problem," Guthrie said. "We have to find a middle ground to live in the total freedom we would like to have as opposed to total freedom we don't want to have."
Although urged more than once to withdraw support from the initiative, the supervisors took no action for or against the call. An appointment to the NRV Sustainable Communities Consortium was pulled from the agenda until the board could do further research, board of supervisors Chairman Joe Sheffey said.