Thursday, October 26, 2006

Is Founders Floundering?, Part Deux

This is bad news:

Plans for another college in the Lynchburg area hit a roadblock Monday when the Campbell County Planning Commission voted unanimously against a sweeping proposal for a campus in Lynch Station.

"What it really comes down to, to me in the long run, is that it's too much, too soon," said commissioner William Calohan.

Founders College Education Inc., a for-profit company planning to construct a college along with a retirement community and other amenities, has contracted to purchase the 1,125-acre Merritt Hutchinson Conference Center and Resort in Lynch Station . . .

The Founders plan proposed moving the land-use boundary so the college would be in an area designated for growth. However, planning commission staff recommended "they either leave the boundary alone or change the entire area to a transitional growth area," Harvey said.

There needs to be a valid reason to change the comprehensive plan, said Robert Nixon, commissioner from Timberlake. "At this point in time they haven't given me a valid reason to change" the plan, he said.

"For something as large and intense as Founders College, for it to be anywhere near a rural area you need to plan the after-effects," Harvey said before the meeting. "Just moving the boundary doesn't take into account the other things that will try to locate near it."

"It's a big impact," said Patrick Tweedy, commissioner from Altavista. "This would change the rural character of that part of the county." [Sarah Watson, The News & Advance]
I was utterly unimpressed with the positioning Founders took with the planning commission at an earlier hearing, where it was reported that the Founders lawyer said that the project would "increase tax revenue" amoung other things and and that therefore Founders plans should be approved. Increase tax revenue? Hell, I was 16, had never even heard of Ayn Rand, and was in attendance at a city counsel meeting back home in Buffalo when I heard a line like that and felt compelled to take the stand during public comments to condemn such a craven justification for doing anything worthwhile. What's this guy's excuse? And sure, I get that regulators demand to have their rings kissed from time to time, but to kiss their asses . . . that I just don't get.

All nitpicking aside, I seriously hope Founders can turn this setback around. I wonder why they didn't feel the need to lobby the community for support prior to this vote. From what I read, they had no allies speak on their behalf other than a few random people. Was the Chamber of Commerce too busy that night? Don’t they know that Virginia is experiencing a full-on no-growth frenzy that has to be explicitly confronted if they expect to be able to move ahead with projects such as theirs?

Fortunately, the final decision for Founders zoning approval rests with the county Board of Supervisors on Nov. 16th, so that will certainly be the red-letter day to watch. Here's to hoping that they do better with the supervisors than they did with the planning commission.