• 63°

Council adopts Comp Plan with changes

Allison T. Williams

City leaders on Wednesday gave the nod of approval to the road map that will guide the city’s growth for the next two decades.

The Suffolk City Council adopted its 2026 Comprehensive Plan with a 5-2 vote, after making a change that could allow nearly 1,600 acres of rural farmland to one day be developed into homes, offices and retail space.

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett and Councilman Calvin Jones voted against the plan, saying the changes would set the stage for a flood of residential growth.

City Manager R. Steven Herbert, as well as the city’s planning department, opposed adding the three pieces of property n most of which are now zoned agricultural or rural estate n into the city’s designated growth corridors.

“If you include these parcels, you will be going against principles you had already agreed upon,” said Herbert, referring to the council’s direction to city planners to keep residential growth at the existing rate. “There’s too much residential property being added to the inventory by this action tonight.”

All three properties added to the city’s urban/suburban growth are near major highways, including the site of the proposed new U.S. 460, U.S. 58 and Godwin Boulevard. Specific properties include 750 acres owned by the Jessie Williams and the Porter families, 458 acres owned by the Byrum family and 382 acres owned by the Williams and Blair families.

Adding the property to the high-growth areas is paving the way for future economic development, according to council members who voted for the plan.

“We’re in the business of creating more economic development and job opportunities,” said Mayor Bobby Ralph, saying it would eventually shift more of the tax burden to the business community. “(Route) 460 is a place for potential development … and a connector between Hampton Roads and Richmond and western Virginia.”

Councilwoman Linda Johnson agreed.

“Route 460 has got to be commercial or we’re missing the boat all around.”

Councilman Curtis Milteer also supported the plan, saying the economic benefits would give the city the money to deal with substandard housing and other problems.

Before council members voted, more than a dozen speakers offered input on changes proposed to the comprehensive plan.

Jessie Williams urged council members to include his property in the growth area, saying the economic impact the area could provide would outweigh the residential rooftops that it could add.

“Change is going to come,” he said. “This area at the junction of 460 and 58 could be a regional retail and economic hub for this area. I think it will complement downtown and compete with areas like Greenbrier and Chesapeake Square (malls).”

Steve Lawson, a Virginia Beach builder with several residential projects under way in Suffolk, praised the city’s inclusion of affordable housing measures in the comprehensive plan.

“We have an affordable housing crisis in this nation,” he said. “The changes in your comp plan will truly make workforce housing a reality in the city of Suffolk.”

Both Roger Leonard and Deme Panagopoulos said the city needs more detailed planning studies of the city’s major growth corridors.

“There is a glaring necessity for a corridor overlay study,” Leonard said. “We are at the point where we need to have those studies.”

allison.williams@suffolknewsherald.com