The two sides of Suffolk

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 29, 2005

As the discussion of growth continues for the southern end of Suffolk, the most glaring issue of them all constitutes where the southern end of Suffolk starts and ends.

It looks like what is planned will be a significant development expansion of the area from the south of downtown, to about where the new Route 13/58 Bypass starts.

The area of prime interest for residential development or about 3000 homes and businesses, is the area bounded from Route 13 east to Hoosier and White Marsh Roads.

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The primary elements that will determine the possibility of such planned growth will be the enhancement of new east-west connectors between Rout 13, Hoosier and White Marsh Roads along with sewer and water lines.

If these infrastructure improvements are made, it is possible that the southern end of Suffolk will be changed dramatically.

The most compelling question that attaches to this plan is how we will benefit from such a new direction?

While there will be some significant changes in the landscape and make-up of the community, it is clear that there will be some who are happy about it and some who are horrified by the prospect of such change.

The real question that will decide the ultimate processes involved is; what impact will this effort have on the character and nature of the community and who lives here?

With so many issues in Suffolk driven by a split-perspective between downtown and the rest of us, how this issue will be resolved is perhaps as divergent as the belief by some on city council that they really do know how to spend all of our money better than we do.

Perhaps a good example of this split personality can be found in how the Hall-Place community has splintered.

With many of the well connected new-comers pushing for a state recognized historical designation that the City might expand into the Historical Overlay District, some residents took actions to run the up-starts out of office.

The more established residents of Hall-Place were concerned about the potential effects such changes would have on taxes and the affordability of their homes and neighborhoods.

Many of these same issues will obviously be part of the divergence of perspective as the southern end of the City develops.

As with many such issues, there will be arguments, misunderstandings, and differences in how these questions are answered.

The most telling aspect of this saga will be how much of a power struggle there will be to decide just how much of the downtown perspective will be allowed to drive these issues.

Further, will the people who live and work in the southern end of the city accept the heavy-handed management style that has become the hallmark of downtown during the last few and important years?

With such continued failures most likely to occur if there is not some fundamental changes in how City business is conducted, this will most likely create a real impediment to acceptance of a good plan by the citizens.

Perhaps one recent example that is instructive in how this important issue may be mishandled, was how the recent zoning correction for a residential development in this area was politicized just months ago.

When the mayor and council were reviewing this zoning issue, it was clear that the city manager pulled out all the stops to curtail the rights of the property owners and community.

There were some significant efforts at misinforming how the airport, traffic, and the community might be affected by such development.

Now that there is discussion about this area again, what might be the process and who will control it?

Also, will the effort get a full and reasoned review or will political agendas and personalities drive it again?

As our community grows, it is imperative to shed the obstacles that have impeded progress and fairness in the past.

It is imperative that the best be done for the community as a whole, rather than just meet some political objectives of a singular vision.

As a community, we need leaders that have a larger vision of what Suffolk is that include more than just the two square miles of the old downtown.

While no reasonable person believes that support of downtown is not good for the entire community, it is abrasive to continue the myopic view held by too many.

Fairness demands a broader view of what Suffolk is and that may take some new faces downtown.

While there are sure to be some interesting discussions about the new possibilities for the southern end of our community, it will be instructive to observe how some rise to meet the challenge and others fall by the side.

If the past is any indicator of what will happen, we all must insure that the many petty political games played on us recently will not be tolerated.

Perhaps it is time to demand some change in those who find it a challenge to rise to the needs of the community as a whole rather then self.

Roger Leonard is a Suffolk businessman and regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at