Archived Story

City to sell unpaved Bright Lane

Published 11:01pm Thursday, June 5, 2014

Despite the objections of a nearby property owner, City Council on Wednesday wiped a paper street off the map and transferred the land to the Economic Development Authority.

Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes said Continental Terminals, in the Wilroy Industrial Park, hopes to expand its operations, which would include additional building space and employees.

To allow that to happen, the city wanted to vacate an unpaved portion of Bright Lane and transfer it to the Economic Development Authority, which would then sell it.

The paved portion of the road currently extends from Nansemond Parkway before the pavement runs out. An unpaved path continues, makes a left turn and runs to Progress Road.

But local attorney Kirk Pretlow, representing his client Brink Nelms, whose company recently purchased property on the paved portion, said the city obligated itself 24 years ago to pave the rest of the road.

He produced records from a meeting of the Industrial Development Authority — as the EDA was previously known — in July 1990 in which the assistant city manager told members that “the city is obligated to improve this roadway” and “the only choice would be to build the road from Route 337 through to Progress Road at a cost of an additional $80,000 as was originally planned.”

The following month, according to the records Pretlow provided to the Suffolk News-Herald, City Council approved the $80,000 “for the extension and paving of Bright Lane.”

“I’m kind of curious what happened to that money,” Pretlow said in Wednesday’s public hearing.

“If this was a private development, there’s no way in the world the Planning Commission would approve this,” Pretlow continued, noting that even other EDA-owned industrial parks in the city have cul-de-sacs to allow a turn-around at their dead ends.

Pretlow also contended that nearby coffee processor Sara Lee, not the city, owns the property. But Karla Williams of the city attorney’s office said her research does not show Sara Lee — purchased two years ago by the J.M. Smucker Co. — ever owning the property and that the company has not contacted the city about it.

Pretlow also claimed the hearing had not been advertised properly, but the city attorney’s office said it had been advertised properly but merely mentioned the wrong code section in one place.

Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts said it would cost “easily half a million” to extend the road.

“In my opinion, that money would be better spent in neighborhoods where we have curb and gutter issues,” Councilman Charles Parr said.

“I am confident the staff and legal team have done their due diligence,” Vice Mayor Charles Brown said. “I’m going to rely on the experts that we have to make decisions.”

Both ordinances were approved on unanimous votes.

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