By Tristin Van Ord
A proposed city plan to erect a shopping center and sports complex in Abingdon, Va., has led to a dispute between locals of the historic town.
The court case dealing with the zoning of the proposed development lasted for several hours as those in favor of the development and those opposed to it presented their cases. Judge Sage Johnson will make a final decision on Dec. 15.
The new development would be adjacent to the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34.3 mile long rail trail that connects the towns of Abingdon and Damascus, and reaches the community of Whitetop. The popular trail is used by hikers, bikers, runners and horseback riders.
The shopping center and the athletic complex would be visible from the Creeper Trail. Friends of Abingdon, Inc., a local nonprofit preservation organization that formed in opposition to this plan, is also concerned about pollution from traffic in and around the shopping center.
Stephen Jett, a board member of Friends of Abingdon, expressed concern that the new development would “drastically change the atmosphere” of the trail. The group seeks to halt the development for environmental, recreational and economic reasons.
“The community depends so heavily on historical and nature-based tourism, and all other developments should be compatible with that,” Jett says.
Jett explained that Friends of Abingdon has backed two new town council candidates who replaced members supporting the development.
Yet some residents and city planners are also in favor of the development. According to the Bristol Herald Courier, town officials have been discussing the possibility of a sports complex for more than 10 years.