Under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, 222 e-mail messages exchanged between the county staff supporting the task force and Co-Chairman John Thillman have been obtained and published on this blog. This post describes the results of a review of those e-mails undertaken to better understand task force discussions of the East County Center and  the influences that created the land use concept produced by the task force.

East County Center: The first reference to the ECC appears to be the 130819 E-Mail from JT to Joanne Fiebe requesting a meeting with her and Liz.  JT states that he had had a meeting with Penny, “the County Building is an issue,” and “we have a suggested fix.” The message date, 08/19/2013, is two months after the 27 Jun 2013 design charrette.

This e-mail is the first one of two among the staff e-mails that suggests that JT may have been taking direction from Supervisor Gross and passing it on to county staff. The second is the 140624_August_Meeting_(17) E-Mail in which JT asks for a meeting with six county staff members for the purpose of passing on his discussion with Penny “re land use etc.”

The second reference to the ECC in the staff e-mails is the 131009_Atlantic_Station E-Mail from JT to the task force that mentions a Government center building integrated into the commercial and residential “Main Boulevard.” That is the last reference to the ECC found in the staff e-mails.

The 10 Jun 2014 draft of the task force report (plan amendment) mentions a “government center” as a possible public facility among a number of redevelopment options for Seven Corners on page 11. The 23 Sep task force report states on page 10 that, in the Willston Village Center, “office use may be developed as a new East County Center that would provide human services to the local community.” Nothing was found in task force meeting minutes between Mar and Sep 2014 inclusive that recommended a particular site for a government center now identified as the ECC.  Apparently, there is no public record describing how the task force agreed on the nomenclature and location of the ECC between 10 Jun and 23 Sep.

Whose Land Use Concept Is It? The stated objective of the task force was to develop a community vision of the future of Seven Corners. The legitimate stakeholders in that vision include residents of the study area and surrounding neighborhoods, certainly, as well as owners of Seven Corners businesses and properties. Developers have financial interests in the outcome, but hopefully those interests do not determine the vision. Supervisor Gross has agreed to stand aside and let the community decide. Is county staff a stakeholder in the outcome, or is their legitimate interest limited to helping the community achieve its vision?

And what has been the community’s experience of the task force and its report? Have the legitimate stakeholders determined the vision or has the vision been pressed upon us?  Is the report’s vision of our future our vision?