Suffolk seeks and gets community input

Published 10:23 pm Thursday, November 13, 2008

Holland and Whaleyville were center stage this week.

About 120 people combined from both communities came out Wednesday and Thursday night to talk with members of the city’s planning staff about Suffolk’s policies regarding family transfers and minor subdivisions.

“That’s why we’re here,” Scott Mills, director of planning said, “We want your comments.”

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The visioning sessions were held in each village to get maximum input from residents in the rural communities on how to best uphold and preserve the rural character of the city.

After Mills gave a brief presentation about subdivision practices, he opened the floor for public comment and questions.

Overall, comments from both communities were similar.

Residents want their farms and land to be protected; however, some people disagreed about how they should go about it.

In the Holland meeting, people almost uniformly agreed that the 10-year holding period for a family transfer needs to be kept, if not built upon.

In the Whaleyville meeting, it was not as easily accepted.

William Harward read off a list of problems he has with the policy, including the fact that his children would potentially have to hold the land for 10 years even if they get a divorce or have another unforeseen hardship.

Mills stressed in both meetings that compromise needs to be reached in dealing with rural policy; making policies too stringent can make residents’ lives more difficult, but leaving policies too open makes the rural countryside of Suffolk vulnerable to over-development.

“That’s part of the discussion,” he said to the Whaleyville group. “What’s too much and what’s not enough?”

The family transfer issue has been a priority on the city’s agenda for months. Throughout the spring and summer, City Council routinely discussed and tabled a variance request from Justin Nelson.

Nelson was asking for permission to sell property he received through a family transfer, because he had received a better-paying job in Roanoke and wanted to move.

However, council kept seeking more information from the Planning Commission. The commission is working on amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance to adequately cover the family transfer matter, as well as policy regarding minor subdivisions.

Mills thanked all who came out to the sessions, saying their input was what they needed to hear to make these decisions. Councilmen Joe Barlow and Jeff Gardy were in attendance both nights, along with members of the Planning Commission and Economic Development Authority.

Assistant Director of Planning Cynthia Taylor took notes of all comments and questions raised throughout the night, and Mills said they would be taken under review.