Choosing to take it slow

Published 9:17 pm Friday, December 5, 2008

In choosing to postpone a decision on whether to reduce the number of members on the city’s Planning Commission, the Suffolk City Council on Wednesday took a laudable step toward public accountability. Councilors said they wanted to give incoming Sleepy Hole Borough Council Member Rob Barclay IV a chance to be involved in the discussions.

The idea, as presented by Councilman Charles Parr Sr., is that the city would trim its 14-member commission — the largest in Hampton Roads — to 8 members. The suspicious timing of the suggestion — coming less than 24 hours after commissioners had voted to temporarily put the brakes on a controversial warehousing and distribution center — had some council observers wondering whether the city’s governing body was trying to force a quick vote on the project by taking it out of the Planning Commission’s pocket.

Wednesday’s decision to slow down the move to restructure the commission sends a message to cynics that the City Council has purer motives. It also provides a chance for both advocates and critics of the proposal to make their cases to council members.


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There could be good and solid reasons for the city to reduce the size of the Planning Commission. Its current size, after all, is a throwback to the early days of the merger between the city of Suffolk and Nansemond County, the idea being that there would be representatives from both the rural and urban portions of each of the city’s boroughs.

A lot of water has flowed under a lot of bridges since 1974, and the city has clearly changed in that time. Does that mean it’s time for the Planning Commission to change, as well? Maybe. But we’re glad the City Council decided to give everyone the time to inform their opinions on the question with actual facts.