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Decision delayed in Essex Point project

The Essex County Board of Supervisors recently denied a rezoning request for the Essex Point at Mt. Clement development project during its Oct. 19 meeting.

However, the board then voted and passed a second motion to defer rendering a decision until its meeting scheduled for Dec. 12.

While disappointed, Shiree Monterio said she remains hopeful. Through her company, 7and M Development, Ms. Monterio and her mother, June C. Monterio, have been working to fulfill a dream to utilize family lands to meet community need. An article in the September 28-30 edition of the Richmond Free Press detailed the women’s proposed multi-use project that would bring the county affordable, residential units for 55+ active living and workforce housing, as well as retail, commercial and community spaces.

“The silver lining is it’s not a ‘no’,” Shiree Monterio said in a telephone interview. “But I am disappointed that again it has shown we’re not going to get a fair case. We’ve provided everything, we’ve done the due diligence required, the community has spoken and we continue to just keep getting the can kicked down the road.”

Dr. Lorraine Justice was one of about a dozen community members who spoke on Oct. 10 in support of the development project.

“I’m here to advocate for the future of Essex County,” she said, remarking on the region’s need to do more to give its young people opportunities at home that might keep them from moving out of the area in search of jobs and housing and give its seniors resources to age in place with dignity.

In addition to those who came out to speak, another 155 signatures of support were presented to be added to the 700 signatures submitted on Oct. 2.

Only a few people who spoke at either meeting have spoken against the project. Much of that opposition has been raised by businesses in the LeGrange Industrial Park and is based, not on a lack of need for the proposed project, but rather on where it would be located.

Some concerns have had to do with traffic and the specter of possible noise complaints.

“The only people complaining about noise are the people that are making it,” Ms. Monterio said by phone following the Oct. 2 meeting. She noted that the noise factor has continued to be raised in the discussions even though there have been no noise complaints filed with the county concerning that area.

“We are being asked to disprove these allegations without any requirement for those raising them to demonstrate they are factual,” she added.

Ms. Monterio explained that the rezoning and approval of preliminary site plans does not allow the project to start clearing land or begin construction, but it will allow them to move forward on the studies required to gain final site plan approval.

In the meantime, she is urging the community to “continue to be loud and adamant” in the support they have shown at meetings and by writing letters to the interim county administrator, April Rounds.

“The community wants this,” Ms. Monterio said. “They need to keep the pressure on county officials that this needs to come to Essex County.”

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