It’s lose-lose for Windsor

Published 4:20 pm Monday, February 16, 2015

The Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors supported a controversial plan to reroute Route 460 around Windsor last week. The vote for the unpopular project was unanimous.

The plan calls for the road to bypass Windsor to its north, a path that will impact more than 20 commercial and private properties.

For weeks there has been growing community opposition to the plan, and opponents make good points. They believe it will make the Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park more or less irrelevant to industry, thus wasting significant county funding. They believe it will hurt the economy of Windsor. And they believe it will damage their home values and quality of life.

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An alternative proposed southern route was scrapped along with the larger project it had been part of when it become clear the project may not secure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ stamp of approval. The southern route would have passed near the intermodal park, and it had more local support. For some reason the Virginia Department of Transportation saw it as a non-starter when the agency began re-examining the project last year.

So why even pursue this project at all, especially with the massive price tag of around a third of a billion dollars?

A big part of Windsor’s success is its location along one of only a few corridors from I-95 to the ports and cities of Hampton Roads. Making sure this corridor can handle future growth efficiently is important to the economic success of Hampton Roads. It is fair to say this success affects not only our region, but the whole state’s economy.

Windsor’s location also places it right in the path of what is expected to be enormous traffic growth. That expected growth makes it unlikely that the current Route 460 alignment through town will be viable in the future.

From this perspective it is easy to understand the IW board’s unanimous vote. There just didn’t seem to be any choice.

From the perspective of Windsor residents, the matter is more personal. Private property rights have collided with public needs. So far, private property rights are not only losing, they don’t even seem have a seat at the table.

Today we are hard pressed to find anyone, of any political stripe, who does not value preservation of wild places, and wetlands, for good reason, are some of the most protected.

Beyond the environmental and esthetic reasons, protection of the environment also enriches communities. Even fiscal conservatives recognize that protected open spaces create better quality of life, which leads to attracting affluent residents, higher real estate values and greater tax receipts.

Unfortunately, the opposite effect may be felt by the Windsor property owners who will have a new highway cutting through their neighborhoods.