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Some questions raised by growth proposal

Does Suffolk need a southern growth strategy? That’s the question the News-Herald posed in an editorial Sunday.

The editorial expressed doubts. To this observer, there’s just something that seems awfully political about the entire discussion.

A smart, well-managed growth policy should be above that and if city council members are going to relax rules to placate special interests, then they might as well tank the entire program and go back to an anything goes approach.

When was it even decided we should consider expanding growth, and spending tens of millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars on infrastructure improvements to a largely rural area of the city, a stone’s throw from the Great Dismal Swamp?

I just remember Ray Gindroz of Urban Design Associates showing up at a city council retreat with a Powerpoint presentation and some big, pretty drawings of a project that was on the scale of the building of the Panama Canal.

What’s going on here? First we had city council voting to give away the store so a prominent physician could build his dream house at Governor’s Pointe, and now we’re on the verge of miring the city in debt. And no matter how many $50 million connector roads you build between White Marsh and Hosier Road, virtually all of those cars are going to eventually end up on Main Street, which isn’t big enough to handle its present load.

And what’s up with the homes proposed on Turlington Road? It seems like just a few months ago that planners and council members were telling us what a terrible plan that was and fighting tooth and nail against that development. Suddenly it’s a good idea? That smells bad.

And speaking of building roads, its seems to me we are forgetting the many already-over-developed areas of the city that could use a few connector roads. We’re going to build multi-million dollar connectors to homes that don’t exist while ignoring areas where people actually live?

It makes no sense from any standpoint, coming from a city administration and city council that has been touting its smart growth strategy from the mountain tops for the past five years.

And I would contend it’s not a racial issue as Councilman Charles Brown subtly hinted at by saying the plan &uot;leaves people of color behind.&uot; Much of the plan that planners and URS Corp. presented council on Wednesday – a great plan if you eliminated the southern strategy nonsense, by the way – is focused on the I-664 corridor area. Has Mr. Brown visited that area lately? I know those people don’t shop downtown and in the minds of some on council don’t merit any consideration where such matters are concerned, nonetheless the point is there’s a balanced, racial mix throughout the bulk of Suffolk, and any suggestion of a racial motivations can’t be anything but grandstanding.

The bottom line is that a real, smart growth plan is going to benefit all of us in the long run. The plan adopted in 1998 was the right one then and it remains so today. City officials led us down this path seven years ago and they should stick to it. Granted, any plan should be open to review and modification as circumstances change, but those changes should be driven by the need to realize the city’s goals – remember those? Reducing sprawl, preserving open space, reducing traffic congestion – not the political or personal desires of a couple council members.

Unless a compelling reason can be provided for changing course – are we suddenly pro-sprawl? – the URS plan should be approved sans &uot;southern strategy.&uot;

Andy Prutsok is publisher of the News-Herald. He can be reached at 934-9611 or at andy.Prutsok@suffolknewsherald.com.