Suffolk loses city size status

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 6, 2003

SUFFOLK (AP) – Suffolk isn’t shrinking. It still sprawls over a whopping 429 square miles.

Yet it apparently has lost its claim as Virginia’s largest city.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Virginia Beach has supplanted the state’s peanut capital as the geographically largest city at 497 square miles.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;How can that be?” said a disbelieving James G. Vacalis, assistant city manager in Suffolk, who unfolded a state map to see for himself. &uot;They must be claiming some ocean to get that amount.”

No, the resort city isn’t claiming any area growth. Its Web site still claims just 258.7 miles of land and 51.3 miles of water, for a total of 310.

But the Census Bureau shows 248 miles of land and 449 of water.

Paul Harris, a spokesman for the Virginia Beach city manager’s office, said the Census Bureau apparently changed its calculation of water area to include more than just rivers, lakes and tidal areas of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean.

&uot;It seems that the bureau went three miles out,” Harris said. “If you go three miles out and multiply it by the amount of beachfront property we’ve got, then you probably get that number. It doesn’t seem logical to do something like that. I mean, you can’t be playing or walking a dog three miles out there.”

The agency’s calculations do include the three miles of water offshore, but no one at the bureau could say when the change occurred.

&uot;From our perspective, these are the official numbers the way we calculate them,” said Kenneth Meyer, a spokesman for the Census Bureau.

Suffolk City Councilman Bobby Ralph said he doesn’t object to Suffolk advertising itself as the state’s second largest city – at least for the time being.

&uot;That’s something we can’t fix overnight, so I guess we might have to look at annexing Isle of Wight County or Gates County, in North Carolina, to regain our number one status,” he said.