Just over the horizon

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 29, 2004

After viewing a tape of the 9/01/04 Suffolk Council Work Session it appears that Suffolk progress may come like bananas, in bunches: a road arrangement with VDOT, airport expansion, and Carolina Road industry growth.

Tom O’Grady pointed out the fact that there is gathering interest in filling up the land set aside for light industry and office space just south of Downtown. Three separated areas are under the scrutiny of those considering Suffolk as the place to be. We can depend upon our Economic team to jam the space zoned for that purpose. That &uot;growth&uot; means much more in taxes collected as well as employment for Suffolk citizens. And it is happening faster than expected. Councilman Milteer should be jumping with joy and will reap the glory.

There are big plans, as explained by Kent Marshall, manager of our &uot;Executive&uot; airport. And the name will be justified just as soon as expected executive jets start landing for a load of gas, services, and limousine services to the fancy new hotel where traveling executives are wont to stay. It appears our city planner’s long planned dreams are beginning to come together. Councilman Milteer will reap the glory.

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Very soon long term franchises will be granted to those new business located directly on the airport grounds. There is already pent up demand for hanger and tie-down spots as well as demand for airplane services. Even the restaurant claims its business has increased 25 percent this year. This airport is a valuable asset now and will exponentially become more important to Suffolk and surrounding areas. It appears that UDO plans for south of town were on the mark and it could leave little room for housing subdivisions. Some question whether there will ever be enough private jets coming and going to disturb residents close to the airport. Council members Milteer and Johnson make no bones about loosening UDO rules. But four stubborn members still say &uot;no.&uot; We will have to watch this one.

There is continuing pressure to open up the UDO like a cadaver and mess around with the insides, rearranging it so as to satisfy all comers. But that’s not possible and if the city council will knuckle under to developers there was no sense in creating UDO in the first place. There are flaws that should be rethought but controlling growth in the right places is paramount to us not becoming another Virginia Beach. It requires backbone alongside the spinal nerves of seven council members and I am afraid it is lacking. .

In a year or so Suffolk will be changed by the amount of container trains traversing to and from the huge new Portsmouth terminal complex. Eventually there will be trains as long as 2000 flatcars causing consternation at various flashing railroad crossings in town and elsewhere. This &uot;progress&uot; is unstoppable, on the way and it is doubtful there will be any overhead crossings; those are years away, not even in the planning stages.

Eric Nielsen, a man with many important city jobs, Public Works is one of them, is becoming even more convinced it would be a good deal for Suffolk to take over VDOT city road maintenance. He and others believe there are few risks and much more money for us to take care of our own streets. There are also many who think it’s imprudent, too risky and our relationship with VDOT should be left intact. Nielsen doesn’t make the important decision, that’s left to the Council…about which it has been said by the mayor, &uot;Council members are good stewards of our money. &uot;This judgment will cause them sleepless nights, a far tougher decision that what to do about panhandling

Our Director of Tourism reports that the Downtown Farmer’s Market is doing well with an average of 300 buyers weekly. A boon to them and the vendors who supply the tents with fresh food and other goodies. Her presentation contained only a tad of the fudge usually associated with tourism. The market goers are even entertained by various groups including the Peanut City Cloggers. I still haven’t heard the net $$$ for the city but apparently that is not the object of the markets. The hope is that city restaurants and stores will be the ultimate beneficiaries. Which of course increases the city tax take.

In the sixties people took acid to make the world weird. Now that the world is weird the people take Prozac to make it normal. Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession in the world. I have come to realize it bears a strong resemblance to the first.

Robert Pocklington lives in Suffolk and is a regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at robert.pocklington@suffolknewsherald.com.