Planners shoot down Millstone subdivision

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 18, 2004

A developer’s efforts to have 121 acres of commercial property near the Suffolk Executive Airport rezoned for a subdivision didn’t fly with the Suffolk Planning Commission on Tuesday.

With a 7-5 vote, commissioners shot down a proposal by the Virginia Beach development company, PMP LLC, to rezone property on Turlington Road to build Millstone, a community of 191 homes that would sell for $250,000 to $325,000.

The planning commission’s recommendation will go before the Suffolk City Council for a final decision next month.


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Most commissioners opposed to the project because it would buck the city’s future growth plans at the airport and along the nearby area of Carolina Road. The property was zoned for residential use until 1999, when the city lawmakers adopted the Unified Development Ordinance that rezoned it for industrial and office use.

&uot;When circling takes place,…there is no doubt in my mind that there would be circling over those homes,&uot; said Commissioner William Goodman, a former air traffic controller. &uot;I’m concerned about future safety problems.

&uot;I feel the airport has to expand for the city of Suffolk to progress. Considering the future growth we are contemplating for the airport and the potential of future complaints and suits over jet aircraft flying overhead, I don’t think it is a good idea for us to approve this project.&uot;

Commissioner Brian Pritchard had similar sentiments.

&uot;It would be a mistake to put a residential development in a flight path zone,&uot; he said. &uot;We have got a lot of approved developments in the pipeline. Do we want to open a Pandora’s Box in the southern end of the city?

&uot;…We are the planning commission. We need to be planning for the future, not for tomorrow.&uot;

Commissioner Ronnie Rountree disagreed.

&uot;I think we are making a mountain out of a molehill,&uot; he said. &uot;We are trying to get development downtown and we have got to have rooftops in that area around the core city to do that.&uot;

During a public hearing before the vote, Evelyn Jones, chairwoman of the Suffolk Airport Authority, urged commissioners to consider the impact of future growth at the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the city’s plan for long-term growth at the Suffolk Executive Airport, which will bring larger planes and more frequents flights into the city, Jones said. The proposed development would lie in the flight path of approaching aircraft as growth occurs, she said.

&uot;Residential development and air traffic do not mix,&uot; she said.

Roger Leonard, owner of Cardinal Flight Shop, supported the subdivision, saying the city needs more top quality, affordable housing. Although planes will inevitably fly over the neighborhood, he said prospective residents just need to be made aware of the planned airport expansion before they invest in property.

&uot;I would recommend it be approved with a stipulation that there be a disclosure that the airport exists and there is an overflight potential,&uot; he said. &uot;In Chesapeake, I think the problem was with disclosure.&uot;

Larry Phelps, a Turlington Road resident, said most neighbors are opposed to the development.

&uot;It is going to overload the city’s school system and our city police and fire services,&uot; he said. &uot;I don’t think we can handle it right now. I just don’t think we need it.&uot;

In other business, the planning commission voted 12-1 to approve a permit allowing a developer to build 377 homes – 72 more than current zoning allows – in River Club, an upscale cluster housing community proposed for Shoulders Hill Road.

The developer, L.M. Sandler and Sons Inc., applied for the permit under the city’s cluster development density bonus program. The incentive program rewards developers who voluntarily leave extra open space in the developments by letting them build more homes on smaller lots than required.

River Club is the last of four cluster subdivisions that filed for the density bonus before city lawmakers modified the formula used to determine how many extra homes a developer qualifies for. After discovering a flaw that awarded developers too many additional homes, the City Council changed the formula in the Unified Development Ordinance last year.