Borrowed money a poor solution

Published 10:44 pm Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The idea to borrow over almost $100 million (plus interest) to finance the widening of Route 58 in Holland to accommodate the CenterPoint warehouse/trucking complex is a bad one for several reasons.

First, the main attraction for the CenterPoint plan has been to gain the estimated $3 million in annual property taxes that the complex will generate. But all of the taxes raised will be needed just to pay off the debt in a 30-year payment plan.

Second, the increased school enrollment that would come as a result of more than 2,500 new workers has never been accounted for. Developers’ assurances that there would be “minimal impact” on schools have been blindly accepted. Even if only 10 percent of these workers are new Suffolk residents with one child, or residents who would have moved elsewhere for military jobs and so forth, the additional School Budget cost could rise by more than $1 million (250 students at $5,000 per student).

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Third, all this borrowed money would not even buy us the only long-term solution to Holland congestion — a bypass.

This was clearly stated by both residents and planning commissioners at the last meeting. There still will be four or five traffic lights at key intersections, along with major backups, no matter how many lanes there are.

Finally, it might be worth it to borrow all this money if it would add to the quality of life in Suffolk. Instead, CenterPoint will aggravate traffic congestion and reduce safety on other parts of Route 58; it will add relatively low-income jobs, as opposed to focusing on expanding jobs in the high-tech corridor on 664; and it will do nothing to inspire tourism or mixed-use development along the James and Nansemond Rivers and downtown.

If the City Council approves this idea, Suffolk will no longer be the Peanut Capital, it will be the Truck Capital and it could have a huge deficit, like many other cities — including Virginia Beach — this year.