IDA gets update on comprehensive plan

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 12, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Transportation, residential growth and development, and schools are among the chief concerns residents want to see addressed when the city’s 2018 Comprehensive Plan is revised.

Scott Mills, the city’s planning director, told the Industrial Development Authority Wednesday that city planners will be holding a second round of meetings in September to gather public input on the comp plan. The first round of citywide meetings was held earlier this summer.

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The document designed to guide the city’s growth for the next two decades, the comprehensive plan is updated every five years. When the update is complete next year, city planners will adjust city ordinances to make them compatible with the revisions.

Citizens, during the series of June meetings, broke into small committees to brainstorm over a variety of issues. According to Mills, their top concerns included:

*Residential development – It is happening too fast. People were particularly concerned with the growth as it relates to inadequate public facilities – such as schools and roadways – to serve the overrun of new residents.

*Land use – Citizens recommended the continuation of smart growth policies in Suffolk, with future development focused along the city’s high-growth corridors, including Godwin Boulevard and U.S. Route 17.

People also want to see more open space in subdivisions and a larger variety of housing options. They were concerned by the lack of high-quality rental houses and the growing number of mobile homes.

*Transportation – The lack of state road funding and the city’s interest in assuming state road maintenance and/or construction was the leading concern voiced. People also said they want to see steps taken to preserve rural roads for agricultural use and for road maintenance citywide to be stepped up.

*Agricultural open space – Residents want Suffolk’s rural areas protected from development and for the city to support agriculture as a business. They also saw a need for more biking and hiking trails and city parks, particularly in the Forest Glen area.

*Schools – With the growing number of school-aged children coming into the city, residents were most concerned about overcrowding in the schools. Related topics brought up include the use of mobile units and lengthy travel times to schools.

Approximately 1,000 new homes have been built in Suffolk annually for the past three or four years, said Mills. But with more than 8,000 houses in some stage of planning, Mills told authority members that the growth rate could easily grow in the future.

A key to controlling growth is public water and sewer services access, Mills said. Currently, all new subdivision must be connected to city utilities.

&uot;It’s very difficult to control growth if you have water and sewer,&uot; Mills said.

City Attorney Ed Roettger agreed.

&uot;It’s the single most powerful tool a city has,&uot; he said. &uot;When you run public utilities, you are guaranteed development will come.&uot;

The city is now studying the feasibility of installing an alternate sewage pack for rural Holland, Mills added.