Local Zoning Issues Belong in the Hands of our Elected Officials, Not the Courts
It is unfortunate that a local issue of serious importance to our area rests in the hands of the Prince William County Circuit Court, and not with our locally elected officials as it should. Right now the Court has hijacked a zoning issue that should be decided by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. The court should return the power of this decision to the local elected body.
I am talking about the new medical facility that is being constructed in Dumfries to replace the Family Health Center of Woodbridge and the pending lawsuit related to zoning regulations.
The new Dumfries health care facility, per its government contract, must offer a retail pharmacy. However, current local zoning ordinances prohibit the operation of a retail pharmacy in this office park setting.
The full availability of medical services and the viability of the new location come into question when the Dumfries facility is not in compliance with the current zoning ordinances.
The new facility’s zoning issues raise many questions that are best answered by a local governing body, such as the impact on local businesses, traffic congestion, available parking – including handicap spaces -- zoning proffers and strain on local infrastructure.
I believe our local government should have a voice in ensuring the continued availability of quality, affordable health care for the 27,000 military personnel and their families who reside in our area.
However, the fate of these issues lies in the hands of the circuit court as it deliberates on a subject that is at the very heart of local government control, a zoning ordinance. It is ironic, and also disheartening, that the court will be the one to make a ruling on this vitally important local topic, not our Prince William County Board of Supervisors that was elected to govern and make decisions including zoning issues.
Zoning ordinances are precise, neighborhood-specific regulations that are best addressed by community leaders, a planning commission, or other local elected officials who are closest to local neighborhoods and constituents.
Not only does the circuit court lack the familiarity and understanding that local officials possess, it will take several months for the circuit court to render a decision. This creates an alarming level of uncertainty surrounding the delivery of health care and pharmacy services for our active and retired military service personnel and their families.
If the Family Health Center of Woodbridge is closed and the new facility in Dumfries is not open or fully functional due to zoning issues where will military personnel and their families go to receive their medical care? Will the Dumfries medical facility open, but without a pharmacy? If so, where will the 287,000 pharmacy users go to receive their medication?
This matter has escalated to a point that is putting our military and veterans’ care in jeopardy. We must ensure the continued delivery of quality health care services to those who need and deserve it most. But a solution is at hand and it is one that comes with relative ease and simplicity.
That is why the Prince William County Board of Supervisors should act immediately to resolve this issue. It is poised to make a decision quickly and they know the area best, as well as constituents’ needs and concerns. The Board can make a swift decision as it has the most accurate, reliable information at their immediate disposal – and it’s well within the Supervisors’ governmental duties. The court should turn this decision back to the Board of Supervisors.
The delivery of reliable, affordable health care is at stake if the court does not turn this issue over to the Board of Supervisors so it can act quickly in the best interests of our military families.
Mr. Sivak is the President and CEO of RE/MAX Relocation Services in Woodbridge, Virginia.
Email Brian at email@example.com