I spotted the sea of green T-shirts even before I found a parking spot.
More than 50 members of the Valley Green Residents Organization gathered outside the Newberry Township building Tuesday evening to protest a proposed amendment that, if approved, could change Valley Green Golf Course’s zoning from open space to residential.
Preliminary sketch plans filed with the township call for the golf course to make room for a mix of residential staples such as single family homes.
Many of the members of the Valley Green Resident Organization carried signs with messages such as “Rezoning is out of bounds” and “We’re tee’d off at McNaughton.”
McNaughton Homes or Golf Enterprises, the owner of the course, hadn’t sent a representative to township building Tuesday evening. The agenda for that evening’s Board of Supervisors meeting made no mention of Valley Green.
But, that didn’t matter to the residents who came out to oppose the rezoning of the course.
“We’re here to let them know that we’re not going away,” said Bill Robinson, a member of the group and a resident who owns a home that borders the course.
Robinson spent a half hour outside the building holding up his “Rezoning is out of bounds” sign before breaking away to attend the meeting.
But, it wasn’t the signs, the occasional chanting or even the free hot dogs that the group handed out that really made me pay attention.
At 6 p.m., members of the VGRO didn’t simply put away their signs and head for their cars. Instead, they packed the township’s meeting room, still knowing that their issue was most likely not going to be discussed.
However, about 40 minutes into the meeting, Newberry Township Board of Supervisors President Carl Hughes paused and looked out into the crowd. Like me, he most likely didn’t miss the matching green shirts, either.
At that point, he asked township’s solicitor to update the public on Golf Enterprises’ application for a curative amendment.
I’ve covered many municipal meetings in my journalism career. I’ve seen boards simply ignore citizen groups, regardless of the size of their membership or volume of their voices. For some townships, a meeting agenda might as well be chiseled from stone.
But on Tuesday evening, the Newberry Township Board of Supervisors didn’t ignore its concerned residents. The solicitor explained the situation, without taking sides, and that was enough for members of the VGRO.
And that was enough to surprise even the most hardened of reporters.