Big decisions should take a bit longer

Published 8:54 pm Thursday, June 28, 2012

Suffolk and surrounding areas are not on the cusp of a wave of development rooted in the expansion of the Port of Virginia. It has arrived.

Companies like Ace Hardware, Target, Green Mountain Coffee, Massimo Zanetti and Caspari have decided to locate major new operations here, because they see the potential of the port, as well as this area’s strategic location to harness it.

They have also been lured here with attractive state tax breaks and by local economic development officials eager to haul in as much of the booty as possible — as their job descriptions dictate — to create new jobs and lessen the tax burden on residential property owners.

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Although jobs and the new companies moving here and generating them are crucial to a prosperous local economy and, accordingly, good social outcomes and quality of living for everyone, there is a flip side.

Take the new Route 460, for example. It’s going to affect local property owners, some of whom will have to find new places to live, as the News-Herald reported earlier this week. Others will just be seriously inconvenienced, like farmers whose properties the road bisects.

All those trucks humming down the new 460, heading to some company’s job-bonanza distribution warehouse in Sussex County, for instance, may be sharing it with farmers having to travel miles out of their way because the straight-shot road they once used now comes to a sudden end maddeningly close to their target destinations.

Like a lot of things in life — most things — it’s an issue requiring balance, compromise, sacrifice and all those sorts of things.

Our localities can’t remain unscarred by new transport corridors and have their rural small-town charms left intact, while at the same time becoming an increasingly obvious source of jobs for future generations.

But the people laying the groundwork for all this development are either elected officials or the officials they in turn have appointed.

They ultimately answer to ordinary folks at the ballot box — the citizens who pay their salaries and provide the money they spend on our behalf — and it’s interesting to ponder this question: Just how far-reaching among citizens is the mandate to put a new toll road here and plunk a new 25,000 square-foot warehouse there?

Whether they would admit it or not, just about everyone who lives here is to some extent torn about what kind of future they want.

So maybe those holding the reins should appear a little more torn about their decisions that affect all of us.