After a lengthy and heated discussion that lasted over two hours on Jan. 10, the Board of County Supervisors voted to approve the controversial Oaks III rezoning, which the town of Occoquan has fought since the spring of 2011.
The motion passed, five to three, with Supervisors Marty Nohe, Mike May, and Frank Principi voting against.
During the public hearing that preceded the vote, many speakers spoke out on the rezoning, most in opposition.
Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta argued passionately against the rezoning.
"Stormwater and traffic impacts will have a negative impact on the town," he said. "Occoquan has two principle creeks that flow into it and threaten homes and businesses during flooding."
"We're not opposed to development," he continued. He said that the developer likely continued in his pursuit of the project so that he wouldn't lose money on his investment. "All of those costs could have been avoided if he had had the consideration and the foresight to speak with the town council for as little as one hour. We had no advance notice of this development. We found out when everyone else did. Since June, we have had primary concerns about traffic. When do we get this proffer [addressing these concerns?] Yesterday morning, in fact."
He said the developer was counting on the county to bail him out of his problems.
Chairman Corey Stewart said that the development was the best possible development for that area, since it was tough to develop, and that it would help with economic and job growth in the county.
"Doing nothing does not preserve this property," he said, saying that other proposals for the land would come forward if this had not been approved. "We need to do this. It's the right thing to do, economically."
Resident James Phelps, whose basement was badly flooded in the recent September flooding in Occoquan, spoke to Lake Ridge Patch after the meeting.
"My reaction is this: that while many voices spoke tonight for Occoquan, it's a sad day for the town. I've never been prouder of the town tonight, but the developer made it clear that his friends are not in Occoquan. While I support Corey's position on economic development, I'm disappointed that we couldn't recognize a distinction between economic development and the protection of a scarce resource, i.e. Occoquan."
"If the developers had come to us in March, and said, 'This is what we want to do. What do we have to do?' we could have struck a much better deal," he continued.