Eclipse being irreversibly altered

Published 9:12 pm Monday, August 27, 2018

To the editor:

Words like home, community and village invoke strong emotions for all of us. I think of the safe and humble place I spent much of my time as a boy, a place near and dear to my heart. I think of Eclipse. This is the watermen’s village where my great-grandparents first lived, where my grandfather was born and lived his entire life, and where my mother was born and grew up. It is a place where people know one another, but more importantly, trust one another. For those of us who walked down Eclipse Drive to church or raised the flag at the community cemetery on Memorial Day or watched our relatives bring in bushels of oysters from the James River, Eclipse is much more than a neighborhood — it is a community, the ties of which are woven deep in the fabrics of our very souls.

For this reason, those of us who know and love Eclipse were devastated last week to learn that our home is being irreversibly altered in a way that can never be undone. We, as a community, are still in shock as news of the destruction of our neighborhood saddens us down to the core.

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The treasured and pristine woods in the very heart of Eclipse are this day being ravaged by chain saws, bulldozers and earthmovers. The idyllic blend of modest homes, marshes, rivers and woodlands is being ruined. In place of a tranquil forest where deer and other wildlife live, 17 cookie-cutter cluster homes are being jammed onto nine acres. This is all happening as city leaders sit idly by. How ironic is it that a city that proudly boasts of its sense of community is allowing one of the true historic communities of Suffolk to be destroyed with cluster homes that are inconsistent with the spirit of the rest of the community.

As a quid pro quo for destroying our treasured place, in an act of supreme benevolence, the developer, who is not even from our state, is offering a park and a retention pond, as if the gesture were a panacea. Of course, information about the development is only available through second-hand sources because the developer did not even have the courtesy to inform anyone in the neighborhood of the clandestine plans before trees starting falling.

There is an old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The developer’s actions are lawful under Va. Code § 15.2-2286.1. Ironically, if you look up the history of the law in the Acts of the General Assembly, the recital states that the law was passed to preserve open spaces. The law, as we now know, allows for “by right zoning” in certain circumstances, which means that the development can be built without input from those most impacted.

How nauseating that the very law designed to protect open space is a vehicle by which a developer is destroying some of the only open land in Eclipse. There is a lesson here: no matter the intention, laws that limit opportunity for local oversight are fundamentally problematic.

Like my friends and family, I too wish there was more that could be done.

Jim Bailey