Four Farms raises stakes

Published 11:43 pm Friday, December 17, 2010

Almost on the eve of a final decision on the issue by the Suffolk Planning Commission, developers of the Four Farms project are upping the ante by adjusting their plans to address some concerns posed by the project’s neighbors.

The developers plan to move a proposed convenience store to the western side of the project, away from White Marsh Road residents who complained about the store’s location across the street from their rural lots.

They also will abide by a self-imposed condition not to sell any homes before construction begins on a connector between the development and Carolina Road.


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“We have agreed we will not sell anything, and can’t sell anything, until that road construction begins,” said attorney Whitney Saunders, who is representing the Four Farms developers. “No one will live there until that construction begins.”

Traffic concerns, particularly related to congestion on East Washington Street, have been the primary topic of discussion among residents, city planners and the developers since the project first came up for a vote in a Planning Commission meeting in September.

South Suffolk Properties, LLC, hopes to put about 2,000 single- and multi-family housing units and 164,000 square feet of commercial space on 462 acres south of downtown. The development would be situated between Hosier and White Marsh roads, with a northernmost boundary near Seminole Drive.

It would include space for office, grocery and retail establishments, a variety of parks, lakes and open spaces, and a 19-acre site for an elementary school. The development could attract more than 5,000 residents by the time of its projected completion in 2018.

The commission has twice tabled the plan to allow time for completed traffic studies and more community involvement.

According to the developer’s traffic study, the earlier construction of the road will help clear up development-related congestion on East Washington Street, even though the size of the development will remain the same.

Matt Howard, one of the principals of South Suffolk Properties, compared the concept to people taking a bypass around a town rather than a business route through town — even though they know the bypass is longer, they also know it is faster.

“You start to educate people,” Saunders said. “You learn the fastest way to go.”

Lory Lagoyda, a member of a group that formed to oppose the proposal, said she does not see the timing of the connector road as the real issue.

“It’s wrong for this time,” said Lagoyda, a member of Suffolk Citizens for Responsible Growth. “When we build the connector road really has no bearing on that.”

Lagoyda stressed the group is not against growth and progress but does want to see smart growth.

“What they’re proposing flies in the face of the comprehensive plan for this area,” she said.

Saunders and Howard stressed what they see as the project’s benefits. The project will connect utilities throughout the area at no cost to the city. It includes vast amounts of parks and open space. And the development’s eventual residents will pour more than $4 million net revenues into city coffers annually after the project is completed.

Saunders acknowledged he has no idea how the Planning Commission will react to the changed proffers.

“We really don’t know what is going to happen,” he said.

The Planning Commission meeting begins Tuesday at 2 p.m. in City Council chambers, 441 Market St. It also includes a discussion of the city’s capital improvements plan.