Former hospital site generating lots of interest, May 24, 2005

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 29, 2005

Inside Business has a big story in this week's edition about the site of the former Obici Hospital, acquired by the city for $4.2 million.

The article states that developers are lining up to partner with the city on the planned mixed use development.

The source on the story is Steven Wright from the Economic Development office, who told Inside Business that about a dozen developers are interested in the site, part of which fronts the Nansemond River.

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I had mixed feelings about this project from the start. While the city entering a realm that normally is the domain of the private sector troubles me, the fact remains that Suffolk's waterfront is an embarrassment and if that much control is what it takes to get things done properly than I'm all for it.

Suffolk's downtown waterfront is a wonderful resource that any community would kill to have. And outside of the Hilton, it's been completely squandered. Fast food franchises, car washes and convenience stores line the shores of the river. And but for the grace of God, we would have another car dealership on the Obici site.

I mentioned my uneasiness over public entities competing in the private sector. It stems from the unfair advantage government has over the little guy. I've always believed government should be responsible for protecting us from criminals and little else. It was that philosophy that prompted me to write an editorial recently defending John Holland in his suit against the Southeastern Public Service Authority. Holland alleges that SPSA cut a deal with a trash hauler that he couldn't match in an attempt to monopolize the market.

The editorial led to a meeting last week with John S. Hadfield, SPSA's executive director, Felicia Blow of the SPSA office, and Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett, who represents Suffolk on the SPSA board.

It was a good meeting and I learned a lot about SPSA. SPSA is basically charged with keeping tipping fees as low as possible for its member jurisdictions and if someone gets squeezed in the process, then, well, that's just tough, I guess.

I was invited to tour the regional landfill in Suffolk to learn more about SPSA. Also, SPSA may become a regular contributor to the News-Herald, writing about waste disposal issues.

There's apparently some disappointment over the low rate of participation in the recycling program. If the News-Herald can help raise the level of participation by giving SPSA space in our paper, then we'll have done a good thing.