Letters to New Kent County – Installment 3

Dear Friends in New Kent,

As indicated in our previous installment, the Tidewater and Big Bend Foundation (TBBF) is dedicated to restoring and preserving the historical and rural heritage of New Kent County. Through our efforts, eight historical homes and 5,500 acres have been acquired by the Foundation and forest clearing for pastures and farming has begun. Driving through our lovely County you’ll soon see miles of white fences, managed landscapes, and stately houses capturing the good – and the evil – of our antebellum properties.

However, this future endowment is imperiled by a grave danger that also threatens our County in general. Some members of our current Board of Supervisors (BOS) seem to support rapid commercial development that will forever alter New Kent County’s appearance for the worse.

In short, New Kent is on an unappealing path toward duplicating eastern Henrico County’s commercial appearance. As an official confirmation of this prediction, Rodney Hathaway, the County Administrator, reports that the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission are deciding upon, or soon will consider, ten separate commercial and residential development projects.

Please drive Route 106 North to the New Kent Winery for easy confirmation of our potential peril. Our county invested significantly in building this elegant thoroughfare and its handsome traffic roundabouts. Now, much of #106 has been subjected to the ruthless scalping of forest that once lined this attractive road.

Two of those deforested areas will be devoted to tract housing complexes. Every tree has been removed out to the asphalt, thereby indicating little intention to provide a wooded margin. The third scalped property is reserved for an unattractive cosmetic fate as it will be developed by Buc-ee’s, an operator of megastores and gas pumps in the southern U.S.

I am acquainted with the CEO and Founder of Buc-ee’s and support his plan to establish a facility—of some size—in our County. However, it is not Buc-ee’s ambitions that are at issue here; it is the attitude of some members of the New Kent BOS that creates the risks for our rural landscape.

The Buc-ee’s installation, reportedly to operate 110 fuel pumps, also shows no indication of maintaining any wooded frontage along Highway 106. What we probably will see is a megastore with asphalt to the roadside and acres of paved parking. This development will significantly impact residents through considerable traffic congestion from I-64.

But the feature that will most capture your attention is the County’s acquiescence to a 125-foot, illuminated Buc-ee’s sign of a colorful beaver towering over the site. This will redefine how motorists and residents view New Kent: not as a quaint rural community but as ‘that place where the Buc-ee’s is’.

In its zeal for development, the previous BOS allowed itself to be out negotiated. For example, Buc-ee’s stores in my state of origin, Texas (that is Buc-ee’s headquarters also) often do not have overhead signs. Moreover, the previous BOS awarded Buc-ee’s a ten-year tax refund (an abatement effectively) worth $7 million.

New Kent County has an excellent Comprehensive (master development) Plan that now slumbers in a file cabinet ignored.  The Plan calls for commercial and residential development that respects our rural character. Ignoring the Plan and sometimes citing ‘pre-existing’ obligations to private developers, recent Boards of Supervisors have not utilized the standard tools for controlling development including zoning and commercial taxation and regulation. 

Another argument often cited for approving commercial development is the creation of new jobs. But in this instance, employment opportunities for residents of New Kent would be no less if Buc-ee’s were located a few exits up or down I-64. And we could have found a more compatible occupant for this valuable site that would not create major traffic congestion.

The Tidewater and Big Bend Foundation opposes the current pace of development as we invest in beautifying and reviving the County’s historical heritage.  If you share TBBF’s point of view, I encourage you to make your voice heard at public meetings and through other forums. Here are the New Kent Supervisors whose elections were in accordance with the recommendations of the Attorney General of Virginia:

  • Thomas Evelyn (District 1): 757-207-6078
  • John P. Moyer (District 2): 757-207-6078
  • Ron Stiers (District 4): 804-385-0779
  • Jordan Stewart (District 5): 804-310-2203

John Poindexter 

New Kent County

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