Last week, the Richmond City Commission voted to withdraw its plans to allow a private company, Lakeview RV Park LLC, to build a recreational vehicle park in the Camp Catalpa property near Lake Reba in Richmond. With that proclamation, the Save Camp Catalpa group celebrated and planned to contact the Richmond Parks and Recreation Department to begin clearing debris and trash on the Camp Catalpa property.
Situation solved, right?
Not even close.
As the week has progressed, a new group of activists has appeared in support of the RV park. The group assembled at City Hall last week to exchange heckles with the Save Camp Catalpa group and proclaim its disgust at the idea of the city turning back on its deal with Lakeview.
Michael Eaves, a local attorney who is representing Lakeview’s side in the melee, rallied supporters at City Hall Tuesday and told them to begin campaigning, petitioning and fighting for what they want just like Save Camp Catalpa did in early March. The company is now “not on the same page” with the city as they refuse to opt out of the lease, Eaves said.
And, as a result, the group came out in force to a “special call” meeting Tuesday morning where their numbers eclipsed Save Camp Catalpa, which was still burgeoning in size.
One could argue that it is inappropriate for Eaves to be rallying citizens against the city, but he is just doing his job. And he made an excellent statement at both meetings, highlighting the fact that neither side has been accurately heard. The city so far has heard about 10 combined minutes’ worth of arguments on the issue of Camp Catalpa.
And the quagmire the city now faces, between its citizens and the private company, makes one wonder if it spent much more than 10 minutes discussing the issue at all.
Commissioner Robert Blythe told the Progress last week that the issue originally appeared on the agenda in January. The proposal was discussed by the commissioners and then tabled for six weeks before reappearing again for a vote in late February.
Six weeks passed between the two discussions, which allowed time for opportunities to open up the city chambers for a public discussion-a fiery debate if need be.
Eaves said the city appeared to jump into the deal with inadequate information, and was eager to opt out of the lease with no additional information in which to justify the decision change.
A little over a month ago, Camp Catalpa was hardly known to many within Richmond’s confines; now, it stands as an impending battleground between two opposing factions within the city.
Bruce Simpson, a Lexington-based attorney representing Save Camp Catalpa, is presenting a motion to the Planning and Zoning Commission to find a recreational vehicle park inappropriate for the new zone that the city would like to implement for the Lake Reba property, which would move the property from residential to public.
If the Planning and Zoning Commission deemed it unfit, it would weaken the argument for Lakeview and RV park supporters.
But no matter what happens when the ultimate decision is made, the city should use this as a point for future reference. Hasty decisions are often sloppy decisions, and in a situation involving public land, there are many angles to cover. These angles are slowly being revealed and presented with each new occurrence in the Camp Catalpa saga.
Mayor Connie Lawson announced at the special meeting Tuesday that the city commission would allow both sides to speak soon, though the date was not announced.
This will give Richmond residents a long-awaited opportunity to present their arguments and possibly shine a light on issues, on both sides, that the city commission has not considered.
However, the impact could be significantly less because the city commissioners authorized the a legally binding contract that looms over Richmond.
Blythe told the Progress last week that, in hindsight, the commission should have heard the opinions of the people. It’s good that the city can admit its mistakes and be willing to try to amend them.
And, for the betterment of Richmond, and the sake of debate, the city should look at this current situation as a guidepost on how to avoid further missteps in the future.