Remember the old expression snow job?#8217; Staff 12/30/2006 Many say our Council just received one and collectively bought it. A tall handsome attorney for the plaintiff spoke well of a 132-acre mixe

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 30, 2006

Many say our Council just received one and &uot;collectively&uot; bought it.

A tall handsome attorney for the &uot;plaintiff&uot; spoke well of a 132-acre mixed-use project, up in what I refer to as North Suffolk. Grandiose describes it well … two hotels, 600 condos, tons of office and retail space, and here is the best part … 2,400 new jobs. Not exactly at the same level of pay that high tech people up there get, but apparently sufficient enough to afford to live up there.

I say that because the attorney suggests those 2,400 won’t be adding traffic to the nearby-congested highways. I suppose we can assume then that two employees occupy each of the 600 condos.

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Here is another old expression that comes to mind, &uot;attorneys and developers believe everything they can prove, and can prove everything they believe.”

Two events are occurring simultaneously: the costs to taxpayers, us, are as always, underestimated, and five of seven Council members are allowing the word, &uot;grandiose,&uot; to quickly turn their heads. Do two members have doubts about traffic and projected outlays? Will developers sign a contract to compensate the city for any and all differences between estimated and actual costs?

Council could reverse this action and, perhaps for the first time, study how this &uot;growth&uot; project will really impact roads, schools and controlled growth. The plan has been &uot;thoroughly&uot; inspected by their planners, our planners, zone changers, and the Planning Commission. No doubt it looks great on paper; mixed use might be a wonderful idea, and all that. But what will it actually cost the taxpayers and why do we continue to accept such paltry proffers toward assisting with additional costs of schools, roads, and other impact outlays?

Most every other city in Virginia demands much more in proffers from developers and gets it. Hampton Roads cities are millions short in their demands and the state must force formulas on developers to better compensate cities for the havoc caused in their treasuries. Is this huge multi-million project getting in just under the wire?

A new question is being asked on the streets of Suffolk. &uot;If the recent financial analysis finds us in dire straits, will this project just make it worse?&uot; It may be that this plan, having received so many departmental huzzahs, is in most ways good for Suffolk. But, again, beware of attorneys and developers bearing &uot;gifts.&uot;

As far as we know the Special Taxing District up north is successful in collecting 16 cents per $100 of assessed value and is keeping pace with the costs of necessary infrastructure. It is likely adding 200 acres to the &uot;district&uot; will continue to stimulate economic growth, that which will pay its way. Those who reside in &uot;Southern Suffolk&uot; should be pleased and pointing with pride to what has happened up there.

But recent questions about our treasury and traffic congestion give pause to many who pay taxes and travel those roads. It’s a case of citizens expecting Council to trust, but verify.

The Planning Commission put the brakes on the proposed &uot;mixed use&uot; project for the 25 acres of former Louise Obici Memorial Hospital. Potential traffic snarls caught the attention of Ross Boone and others. And the Airport Commission wants a better look at Roger Leonard’s plan for a heliport, for some unstated reason. At least it shows that folks are paying attention, and we expect Council to be as wary.

&uot;Because 2,400 employees looks good to me,&uot; is no reason to accept a project of this magnitude. I may not be around eight years from now when the 600 homes have been sold and all Suffolk costs totaled. But you might be.