Chesapeake referendum drive to curb rural development failed to gather enough signatures
A petition drive that sought to push Chesapeake to reconsider its land use policies failed to get enough signatures to force a referendum vote.
Renee Cobb, one of the principal organizers behind the Rural Chesapeake Preservation Committee, arrived at Chesapeake’s courthouse Wednesday morning with a stuffed green folder full of petition pages.
She said petitioners only got about a tenth of the 32,000 signatures they needed, but wanted to follow through on the promise to submit them anyway.
“We did not meet our goal. But what we did accomplish was city council … planning commission, everybody knows who we are and what we stand for and that we're against this,” Cobb said.
“We know that we can't stop development. And that wasn't our goal in the beginning anyway.”
If the effort had succeeded, a referendum would have asked voters if the city’s council should make preserving the city’s rural areas a priority when considering land use and development.
Cobb said she and others intend to continue making their positions known and pushing back against development they say outpaces the infrastructure that has to support it, like roads and schools.
There’s also still the potential for another referendum aimed at preserving rural land, this one initiated by a member of the city council. A decision on that referendum, which would ask if the city should dedicate more money to buying and preserving agricultural property, has been delayed.
The citizens’ referendum push was spurred by the planned development of a major commerce park on 1,400 acres of farmland in Southern Chesapeake.
The effort is one of several instances of frustration at perceived overdevelopment across the region. Residents in neighboring Suffolk filed a lawsuit to try to halt the development of a warehouse there.
They lost that case but vowed to redouble their efforts at lobbying their leaders by incorporating a nonprofit.