Does someone have influence in high places?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 14, 2006

Several e-mails recently have asked if there might be citizens of Suffolk with a pipeline to important ears in our city administration, or council. They were all referring to the wonderful things that go on up in the city of North Suffolk … especially that most recently planned creation of an additional 600 individual lodgings, two hotels, etc.

They weren’t asking me, just wafting the query into the air hoping to raise suspicion. And it does make you wonder when you remember we have 15,000 lots scattered around town approved for homes.

We could ask, who wants a quarter acre any more when all that raw land is or will be available in the 430 square miles? But then you see 4,000 square foot homes popping up like mushrooms, on plots no bigger than that. &uot;Mixed-use&uot; has now been added to the lexicon, next to the usual explanatory sentence describing the word as, &uot;A new and wonderful idea.&uot; The answer to the &uot;influence&uot; question might be to ask who gains the most from such a development … is it developers and realtors? Or do the economics of it add employees, pride in our city, and sufficient taxes to cover all outlays?

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Is mixed-use the answer to a great lifestyle? Not necessarily — no grass to mow, but convenient shopping and entertainment nearby. And for time-short, two-family-income producers, it is a lifestyle catching on in many areas. It’s also supposed to keep traffic off the highways, provide less expensive sewers and water, proper drainage, and convenient schools. It’s a real trick if it can do all that. But the main idea is to control growth, urban growth, urban sprawl.

So, if their and our planners agree to the notion, we can expect more of it, the wave of the future. One would think, though, that mixed-use projects would be on land that had already been zoned as mixed-use, not on property that had been zoned otherwise. When business zones are changed, we could end up with a shortage of business property and business property is where taxes are born.

In my subdivision, the rule laid down some years ago was that each lot be a minimum of three acres … a waste of land? Depends upon what you want. Try having sizeable flowerbeds and a vegetable garden on a quarter acre, or woods and trees. Personally, I do not envy people in cramped subdivisions, multi-use or not.

But regardless of where you live in Suffolk, Andy Damiani says, &uot;I can jump in my car, see the ocean, a zoo, lay on a beach, see an Imax movie, etc; it is not necessary to duplicate that stuff in Suffolk.&uot; And where would we park a battleship?

So, in Suffolk, we have very wide choices how we will live. And we can be satisfied with what Suffolk offers, or expensively attempt to duplicate everything other cities have, even though they are available there at a reasonable cost. We are replete with eateries, and as for entertainment, you can carry movies, TV, Ipods, and radios around in your pocket. And a recent magazine suggests we have so many options nowadays it boggles the mind. Throw in beer and there’s no reason to leave town.

We are very fortunate to have the cramped cities providing all kinds of entertainment to our east, and wide-open spaces to the west. How many cotton fields, cornfields, soybeans, peanuts and open spaces can you find in Norfolk? I tell you, we’ve got it made … if we can control our council’s spending, wise or otherwise. We are the place to be, and hope others don’t come. But I imagine older Suffolkians were thinking that same thing 30 years ago. Are they now excitedly saying, &uot;But look what has happened downtown.&uot; Or are they asking, &uot;What have they done to our downtown?&uot; Either way downtowns are always mixed-use … ain’t nothing new about it.