Short session on zoning

Published 10:26 pm Wednesday, October 1, 2008

City Council had an unusually short work session yesterday.

Clocking in at less than 15 minutes, Council spent the entirety of its work session talking about enterprise zones.

An enterprise zone is a partnership between the state and municipalities. The state provides support via incentives to offer business to encourage them to locate in more distressed areas in the city to help spur growth and revitalization.

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Since 1990, Suffolk has had a maximum of 3,840 acres to deem as enterprise zones within the city. Enterprise zones expire after 20 years; Suffolk’s zones will be up next year.

With such a short time left, city officials want to maximize the zone space and are making modifications to the zone boundaries. A locality can change its zone boundaries once a calendar year.

Back in February, some of the recommendations included extending the enterprise zone boundaries to include the Lipton plant, the Commerce Center, Virginia Regional Commerce Park, Northgate Commerce Park, as well as some miscellaneous land to keep the zone contiguous – a state requirement.

Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts gave Council a presentation complete with updates on concerns they had when proposed enterprise zone boundary modifications were presented to them earlier this month.

When presented these and other recommendations, Council raised some concerns during its Sept. 3 work session.

Yesterday, Roberts presented Council a new, more detailed map giving Council a better idea of where the affected zone changes would take place.

Councilman Charles Brown thanked staff at the department of economic development for their time and help walking him through the enterprise zone idea as well as how it would affect the East Washington corridor. He said that he now sees the East Washington corridor benefiting from the great opportunities of the enterprise zone designation.

Roberts said the next steps are to vote to schedule a public hearing for the zone changes at the Council meeting held yesterday. Then, on Oct. 7, there will a community information meeting held at Council Chambers for people in the affected areas of the zoning changes, and by Oct. 31 the city will submit an application to the state with a supporting resolution from City Council for the changes.

Council rolled the matter over to the night’s regular session meeting to vote in a public hearing.