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INDEPENDENCE — While it may have appeared to some that a proposed Christian recreational park for seniors would be located in the Cox's Chapel area of Grayson County, residents there say it would not fall within their community.
"From an accuracy standpoint, not a single individual who spoke at the planning board's public hearing or sent letters in opposition to the Spirit Harbor project is from Cox's Chapel," resident George Haydt told The Gazette.
The 148-acre site is just west of the community, in what is known as the Fox Knob community.
Haydt said community members feel they received a "black eye" within Grayson in connection with proposals for the state prison now under construction, and he doesn't want a feeling to develop that Cox's Chapel opposes growth.
It was people from Cox's Chapel, he said, who worked toward an acceptable prison site.
"In fact, it was because of the efforts of the Cox's Chapel group to identify a workable location away from the river and to advance that location with the Department of Corrections, that the prison was even located here."
Haydt said the governor and the Virginia departments of corrections and transportation had already began evaluating other sites in other counties in case the prison site on the New River in Grayson became unworkable.
"The orderly management of growth in Grayson County is a primary concern of all residents," Haydt said. "This is not to say that development is unwelcome."
Most residents in the Fox Knob, Mouth of Wilson and Cox's Chapel communities would support development that is orderly, appropriate to the location and consistent with a long-term vision of preserving the natural beauty of Grayson County, Haydt said.
"Development which creates opportunity and the growth of our tax base and the preservation of this natural beauty are not mutually exclusive. In fact, well-planned development has as its cornerstone the preservation of our natural resources and recreational amenities."
Charlotte Hanes told The Gazette in an e-mail that "the people in Cox's Chapel are hurt because they felt the whole county was against them because they opposed the prison."
Hanes felt that if people had taken time to sit in on meetings when opposition was in progress, they would have found some caring and concerned citizens.
"They were not what the elected officials were telling everyone they were like."
The proposed recreational park off Fox Wood Lane raised concerns after neighbors warned it would have a negative effect on the New River. The land is zoned for rural farm use, and a mobile home park would be allowed by special use permit.
Developers have applied for a permit. The Grayson Planning Commission tabled a decision until its Feb. 17 meeting.
In stating that no one who took a position against Spirit Harbor is from Cox's Chapel, Haydt said it doesn't mean that residents from there "are any less concerned about the appropriateness of Spirit Harbor or will become engaged in the discussion than those who are neighbors of the proposed trailer park, because of the potential impact on water quality, development density, visual impact and road congestion.
"It is just unfortunate that The Gazette would choose to link opposition to Spirit Harbor with the prison, re-opening wounds that all of us are working to heal."
Haydt went on to say that a special use permit for Spirit Harbor would amount to spot zoning. "It will allow non-conforming development to occur in an area zoned as rural agricultural."