City to meet with legislators

Published 10:46 pm Thursday, November 3, 2011

Suffolk officials will set up a meeting with state legislators who represent the city to share the city’s legislative priorities, City Council decided during a Wednesday work session.

The city’s desires include an end to unfunded mandates, a study to address the impacts of port-related rail traffic in Suffolk and the removal of restrictions on the use of 55 acres in North Suffolk owned by the city.

The council members also discussed two items on the Hampton Roads Partnership’s legislative agenda, disagreeing over whether to support raising the rental car tax to fund passenger rail projects and whether to ask legislators to form a federal facilities and defense industry caucus.

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In light of the fact that the state posted a budget surplus in excess of a half-billion dollars at the end of fiscal year 2011, the city wants the state to reverse the $60-million reduction for the current fiscal year and eliminate future reductions, according to the city’s interim special projects manager, Sherry Hunt.

The city also requests a study on the Commonwealth Rail Line Safety Relocation project, which would move the line to the median of Route 164. No funding has been identified for phases of the project in Suffolk, Hunt said.

For the 55-acre site in North Suffolk owned by the Economic Development Authority, the city wants to strike language in a 6-year-old agreement that said the land would be used for defense and technology related uses. The land was part of a study earlier this year by the Urban Land Institute, which recommended clearing the way for other types of development by getting the language changed.

The city also hopes to monitor a move to pass a constitutional amendment regarding eminent domain, saying some of the provisions would be “very harmful and very expensive for taxpayers.” The city wants the General Assembly to identify funds to offset project costs that would increase, Hunt said.

The legislative agenda also includes a slate of transportation funding requests, including for projects such as widening Holland Road and Nansemond Parkway, replacing the King’s Highway Bridge and adding a parallel span to the Godwin Bridge on Route 17.

When it came to the Hampton Roads Partnership’s legislative agenda, some of the council members had some concerns.

That agenda includes a request to create a Virginia Federal Facilities and Defense Industry Caucus so members of the General Assembly who represent districts that host federal installations and defense facilities can discuss issues that impact their districts.

Councilman Charles Parr did not seem to favor the idea.

“I think we’ve already got some systems in place that are helping us with that,” he said, mentioning the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance.

But some other council members did favor it, and Mayor Linda T. Johnson wanted to leave it up to the legislators to decide if they want to form the group.

Parr also said he did not think rental car companies would enjoy a proposal to raise the rental car tax from 10 to 14-15 percent to help pay for passenger rail projects.