Until last year, I was not much of a believer in “signs” and what they might mean. But my mind is changing. Back in... Sign of the eagle? Megasite, east-west freeway shelved
Mike Uzel speaks at a community meeting in April 2018.

Until last year, I was not much of a believer in “signs” and what they might mean. But my mind is changing.

Back in November 2017, I attended the first of many Chesterfield Economic Development Authority monthly meetings. The meetings have generally been very short and often involve the EDA members going into closed session, where the public cannot observe, due to “confidential” information being discussed about existing or future projects. Our group, Bermuda Advocates for Responsible Development, was building strong opposition to stop the “Matoaca Megasite,” a large-scale project of the EDA, due to its inappropriate location next to many existing subdivisions, among many other reasons. During the closed session at that meeting, while waiting in the lounge area overlooking a pond in front of the office building, I saw a bald eagle sitting by the water. I immediately had a strong feeling that this was a sign that we were on the right track in opposing the megasite and associated east-west freeway.

In the following months, there were several sightings of eagles by others at or near the proposed megasite property. This reinforced the feeling to me that these sightings were signs that BARD was going in the right direction in its opposition.

In May, 2018, due to BARD’s and many citizens’ efforts, the EDA withdrew their application for rezoning the Megasite property. However, the county has continued their attempts to pursue the east-west freeway right-of-way, claiming it is a separate project. Since then, some members of BARD have worked to form a new group called Chesterfield Citizens United, to encourage information sharing and support between citizens groups and individuals county-wide.

At last month’s board of supervisors meeting, Jesse Smith, director of transportation, announced that there is a major obstacle to the east-west freeway. Per Smith, the Army Corps of Engineers has a new policy that requires the permission from all property owners within the proposed right-of-way in order for the county/corps to enter and verify wetlands delineation for the environmental study. Smith stated that he believes there is no way to obtain the permission of 50-plus property owners along that first stretch of the freeway. Therefore, he is “shelving” the project. “This is a sea change for us,” he stated.

On Dec. 22, 2018, while leaving our house off Harrowgate Road, I saw a bald eagle flying south, directly over our car, towards the proposed east-west freeway route. I have never seen an eagle near our house before. Then, 10 minutes later, as we drove through Chester, my wife Beth, who was in the car with me, spotted a second bald eagle off Chester Road in the wetlands near Centralia Road. We have never seen two bald eagles in one day.
Is this another sign? I believe so. What does it mean? I can only speculate: BARD and citizens should be thankful for the outcomes so far, but we need to be twice as vigilant in the coming year for future county attempts involving these two proposals. I don’t think it is over yet…
Thanks to all who got involved, and Happy Holidays and New Year to all!

Mike Uzel
Bermuda Advocates for Responsible Development