Getting involved: It no longer has any meaning

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By Greg Markham

    When I began to ask people for support in opposing the Harmony Development, I was told by many that it was little use; the decision had already been made. 
    For any official sitting in a county or city government position, if you want to know why citizens believe this and no longer care to get involved, look no further than response of the Bedford County Board of Supervisors during the public hearing.  I am not speaking of the outcome, but rather the manner in which many of the board members treated public comment.
      Though there were many serious issues, thoroughly documented and researched,  brought to light that have never been addressed, public comment stirred only discussion from one board member who was quickly ignored by the remainder.  Two board members made absolutely no comment the whole night, and their facial expressions reminded one of a parent listening to a pouting child. 
    In what can only be assumed as the majority opinion - when two of the majority never spoke -Supervisor Arrington created a precedence that the board could leapfrog adjoining properties in order to “daisy chain” to a zoning that does not exist.   (“Despite the existing zoning, that really should be...”)
    Two weeks prior to the Public Hearing, Mr. Aznavorian who will be at the helm of the Harmony development, sat at my parent’s dining room table and told me, “Let me tell you how it’s going to be...  See, the Board of Supervisors is going to tell you exactly what my lawyer said...”  
    For a moment, I thought back to City Council’s minutes where Vice Mayor Wandrei (Mr. Aznavorian’s, NBI’s, and BA Investor’s attorney) in consideration of the Oakwood Villas Project expressed  “feels this is spot zoning; not enough study developed to show there is need for multi-family; troubled by density factor; feels there will be children at the development , however, there are no facilities included for children; should do nothing to jeopardize the property values; as a representative body, Council has a duty to represent people, taking into account the views of those opposed to the project.” 
    I thought for a moment some reason would win out and these issues would be addressed.  To my despair, however,  this same discussion apparently did not occur with Mr. Aznavorian and his attorney.  Instead, I was told that night, “that area was zoned incorrectly.  And that’s exactly what you are going to hear from them.”
    And it was exactly what I heard from the supervisors.  Despite the fact that the property in consideration was most recently part of 80 contiguous acres of farmland, surrounded by over 300 acres of contiguous farmland, it was “incorrectly” zoned agricultural—that a housing development created before any zoning ordinance was ever written for Bedford County was zoned incorrectly.  Who among the supervisors ever considered that the zoning was the way it was for a reason, and that reason was to preserve the integrity and provide some protection to the farmland that existed before the city?  Who among you knows the history of that property better than those whose families have lived there over 100 years?
    No, what I learned is what is not taught in civics class, and will never be found on an SOL test.  I learned that the Law as it is written for all to follow means little to a board that (thinks it) has the power to ignore any previous ordinance that it does not agree with.  Their actions and sentiment reflect that they consider themselves elected to rule and patronize us.  And, that is why the citizens no longer feel that getting involved has any meaning.