‘Follow the money’

Published 10:09 pm Monday, July 4, 2011

To the editor:

Whom does the Suffolk Planning and Community Development Department work for? I am told they work for the citizens of Suffolk, but my recent dealings with the department have caused me to question that statement.

The Unified Development Ordinance governs how the planning department is supposed to regulate and control growth in the city. We have all seen the results of uncontrolled growth in congestion, gridlocked traffic, decreased property values and increased taxes.

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Zoning regulations set the standards for developers to ensure that Suffolk is not one giant apartment complex or truck stop.

During the past several years, developers have used cluster developments as a pretext to circumvent the city zoning standards. Cluster developments are intended to create common open space and provide for the preservation of environmentally sensitive areas.

Ask any city planning engineer, however, and you’ll learn the purpose of a cluster development is to increase the number of dwellings that can be built on a parcel. City planners routinely ignore lot dimensional standards in order to maximize the number of houses a developer can fit onto fewer streets.

The way the planning department interprets zoning standards definitely benefits developers. Building nearly twice the number of homes on fewer streets cuts their infrastructure costs in half, while doubling profits.

Ignoring lot width and setback requirements allows open space requirements to be met right out the front door of homes. Planners even count asphalt streets as open space, despite express regulations against it.

Planning engineers are required to ensure that the public facilities needed to support new developments meet or exceed standards. Yet the Planning Department routinely approves developments that flood already-overburdened schools and public safety services.

The citizens of Suffolk and developers are both being impacted by decisions made by Suffolk planners. Taxpayers are asked to shoulder ever-increasing public service costs.

Our streets and roads are becoming even more congested with the increasing number of homes. We are closing schools while increasing the number of students who will attend the remainder.

Developers, on the other hand, are building what and where the long range plan says they should not. Their costs are falling while their profits are rising.

An old saying comes to mind: “Follow the money.” So whom do you think the Suffolk Planning and Community Development Department works for?

Chris Dove