City should deny Four Farms proposal

Published 8:55 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2010

To the Editor:

As a resident of White Marsh Road, I share the concerns of other Suffolk citizens who oppose the Four Farms development project. Like Citizens for Responsible Growth, I object to Four Farms because of the impacts on traffic, schools and public infrastructure.

However, my objections go further, and include the negative impact of Four Farms on the Chesapeake Bay and on the diminishing and irreplaceable resource of available agricultural land.

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On Dec. 14, The Virginian Pilot published an article entitled, “Land conservation can, should be used to save Bay, new study says.” The article cited a study concluding that land conservation is key to reviving the Chesapeake Bay. “Putting aside land,” the article stated, “keeps it from being torn up and developed, lowers any pollution that might flow off of it and provides habitat for wildlife.”

The Four Farms development would have a direct, negative impact on the Chesapeake Bay by building 2,000 homes on nearly 500 acres that drain into Shingle Creek, which flows into the Nansemond River, and eventually to the Chesapeake Bay. The impact of erosion and runoff from this new construction would be significant.

Another concern is that Four Farms will forever remove nearly 500 acres of farmland from Suffolk. The city’s 2026 Comprehensive Plan wisely designates that the majority of development in the city should be confined to northern Suffolk and the downtown area, while preserving the rural integrity of southern Suffolk.

Suffolk has always been primarily a farming community. As a small-scale farmer myself, I am concerned about the further loss of agricultural land, which is a finite resource.

According to the American Farmland Trust, America loses one acre of farmland per minute to development. It would be a shame to lose another 500 acres of farmland in Suffolk when there is already so much land in the city that has been rezoned from agricultural to commercial or residential, and is yet undeveloped.

Suffolk has an abundance of homes on the market. There are also 15 or more commercially zoned parcels in and around the downtown Suffolk area that either still have space in them or have not yet been developed.

Sites like Suffolk Industrial Park, Enterchange at Suffolk, and Commercial Center Hampton Roads all have easy access to the Southwest Bypass and are in a much more favorable location for business than Four Farms. Of these, the only site that has been developed is the Suffolk Industrial Park.

It is difficult to imagine how new businesses will be attracted to Four Farms when there is so much land available and currently unoccupied throughout the southern area of the city.

The City of Suffolk prides itself in having the Great Dismal Swamp Wildlife Refuge off of White Marsh Road and has worked hard to attract tourists to the area. Has the city considered how tourism will be affected by having a large, urban-style neighborhood directly across the road from the Refuge?

Another consideration for the city should be how Four Farms will affect future expansion of the Suffolk Airport.

Until these questions are adequately answered, how can the city make a decision to approve such a massive project?

William J. Pendleton