Like others who attended the town hall meeting last week hosted by southern Fauquier supervisors Lee Sherbeyn and Chester Stribling, we were a little confused by the seeming mish-mash development proposed for Opal. An RV park. A truck stop. A cardiac center for children?
They certainly don't seem to go together, as more than one attendee pointed out. What sort of planning is it to have trucks belching out diesel fumes next door to either one of the other possible businesses?
This strikes us as poor planning. Planning so poor, in fact, that it hardly qualifies as planning at all.
That's not to suggest that the county shouldn't and wouldn't welcome another specialized medical facility, but putting it in Opal simply because the physician who has dreamed this up owns land there doesn't really put a long-term vision for the county on display.
On the other side of the equation, do we need another truck stop? Truckers coming from the south already passed a pretty well-established facility not 20 miles ago, on the outskirts of Fredericksburg. Less than a mile down the road, there is a smaller, though no less established place to pull over where they can, too, enjoy some of the nation's best barbeque.
Is there a huge demand for an RV park? We checked on the web, and discovered that RV travelers approaching Fauquier can stop in Front Royal, Luray, Centreville, Gainesville, Culpeper, Spotsylvania County, and Charlottesville, and have their pick of spots.
The kind of development being proposed, developer representative Joe Wiltse said at the meeting, stands to benefit from VDOT's Opal flyover, an ongoing $44.6-million effort to smooth out the intersections of U.S. 17 and U.S. 29.
That doesn't really make much sense to us. The flyover is being built to accommodate the traffic that already exists and to solve traffic-flow problems that have made that intersection a nightmare.
But it's unclear that there will be more traffic to take advantage of, or that there is any reason to suppose that development there along U.S. 17 has anything whatever to do with the flyover.
Indeed, we're not yet sure that the flyover won't make it more difficult for traffic to access the site.
Wiltse told the crowd that, at build-out, the development would generate more than $600,000 annually in net revenue to Fauquier County.
That's nice, but it's hardly a sum that will put us back firmly in the chips again.
"We know it's going to be hard," Wiltse said, "but we think we can do it. If we had public water, Opal would have all kinds of nice things."
Like a truck plaza and RV park.
The still-fluid plan also includes a hotel, which makes considerably more sense to us, the site being cheek by jowl to such a busy intersection.
How about a hotel with a golf course? Those who have been around these parts for a while will likely remember that there once was a public golf course near that intersection, nine holes, as we recall.
Fauquier has been without a public golf course since Kastle Green closed a few years ago.
We understand the challenges of owning and operating golf courses, but we also believe that a course attached to a hotel, and one that is so close to the beaten path, would have a far better chance of survival.
And it just strikes us that if we are considering “nice things” for Opal, a golf course and hotel fits the bill a whole lot better, and set a far better stage for the eventual construction of a medical facility than does a truck plaza.
As for the RV park, we wonder if it could be folded into the plans for a hotel, and make everyone happy.