Hearing Suffolk’s rural voice

Published 9:57 pm Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Much has been said and written about the loss of some of Suffolk’s rural areas in recent years. One need not be an “old-timer” to recall the days when Route 17 was a 55-mph road with a popular restaurant and one stoplight. And Holland Road wasn’t always known for its fast-food restaurants and warehouse distribution centers.

Suffolk is changing, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The growth that portions of the city are seeing brings increased taxes and a broader array of services, both commercial and governmental.

Nonetheless, Suffolk is a huge city, with space to accommodate vibrant suburban and commercial communities, as well as the ageless, bucolic landscape of farms and forests. Suffolk needs both types of communities in order to prosper and still retain a sense of its own history. Fortunately the city can claim vocal proponents of both lifestyles.

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Two separate meetings planned this week in two of Suffolk’s most rural communities will give the residents who cherish the slower pace, the sparse traffic and the stable property values that are inherent to life in the country a chance to sound off on what they want their areas to look like in the future.

Planners have set up the “visioning sessions” as a way to get community input regarding rural subdivision development in the city’s agricultural and rural areas, including minor subdivisions and family transfer subdivisions. One meeting is set for tonight in Whaleyville. The other is tomorrow night in Holland.

Both meetings are evidence of a laudable attitude on the part of Suffolk’s planning department, an attitude of cooperation with and respect for a segment of the city that easily could be overlooked in the face of mounting growth pressure. Such an attitude could help Suffolk avoid the fate of other Hampton Roads cities that have lost all of their character amidst the suburban sprawl.

Suffolk’s rural residents have much at stake in the growth versus preservation debate. It’s good to see that the city wants to give them a voice in the planning process, as well.