Same road, different growth

Published 10:20 pm Saturday, December 10, 2011

North Suffolk isn’t the only community along Route 17 that is flourishing with growth in recent years.

In the past decade, Carrollton in Isle of Wight County has enjoyed a population boom of its own and has seen more businesses move to its portion of 17.

With North Suffolk just a hop over the Chuckatuck Creek from the northeastern part of Carrollton, the two localities share and relate to one another when it comes to development.

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Kevin Hughes, Suffolk’s director of economic development, said he thinks there are some differences between how Carrollton and North Suffolk are growing, but the localities share something.

“There’s a common bond as to why they are fast-growing locations,” he said. “I think the main driver (for growth) is the connectivity to main areas in Hampton Roads.”

Carrollton is about 15 minutes from Hampton and Newport News, while North Suffolk is a short drive from Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Norfolk.

Like Hughes, Nancy Guill, a planning commissioner for the Newport district of Isle of Wight, which includes Carrollton, said the biggest thing the two areas have in common is that they are designated growth areas because of their placement on Route 17.

She said she thinks Carrollton is more likely to identify with the western part of North Suffolk, including Eclipse, rather with than Harbour View.

However, Guill said, many Carrollton residents travel to the far end of North Suffolk to visit stores, like Walmart and Kohl’s.

“I know Carrollton residents travel to Suffolk for things they need, because we have a real lack of diversity of our commercial market,” she said.

However, she said, North Suffolk has a denser population, and as a result, the area has attracted a lot of big retailers.

“Because of the density of (Suffolk’s) population, we’re able to attract some of the things we would like to have,” she said. “One difference I see is that Suffolk is able to attract more of the chains.”

Hughes also said he thinks the big difference between North Suffolk’s development and Carrollton’s growth is the commercial aspect.

“There’s more people, and there are different types of businesses setting in,” he said.

Hughes said he thinks the key for development in North Suffolk — especially for Harbour View and Bennett’s Creek — is that it is so close to Interstate 664.

“The proximity of 664 is a big driver,” he said. “I think that’s why we are seeing a lot of growth in the business section.”

While Carrollton might not be getting all of the chain stores, Guill said, it is feeling I-664’s effects.

“Every time Suffolk builds something over there, it adds traffic to our road,” she said. “Everything (Suffolk does) affects us.”

Guill said this is a big concern for Isle of Wight, because the main thoroughfares out of Carrollton are bridges that cannot be easily expanded to accommodate extra traffic.

“There’s only so much traffic that can go through and move,” she said.

Mark Edwards, the vice president for the Hampton Roads division of East West Communities, which developed The Riverfront in North Suffolk and Eagle Harbor and Founder’s Pointe in Carrollton, said he thinks both places have nice things about them but believes they attract different types of residents.

Isle of Wight County, he said, offers homeowners a lower tax rate and more peace and quiet.

“It’s a little more removed from the city,” Edwards said. “It’s nicely removed from the city and off the beaten path a little bit, but it’s not as far as people perceive it to be.”

He said he thinks North Suffolk is attractive to people because of its proximity to other Hampton Roads cities.

The northern part of Suffolk started seeing growth when 664 was built in the early 1990s.

In contrast, both Guill and Edwards said, Carrollton didn’t started growing quickly until Eagle Harbor was established in the early 2000s.

Both places offer a variety of housing options, including large single-family homes and condos.

Hughes said he thinks the best thing about both North Suffolk and Carrollton growing and flourishing is the selection for homeowners.

“I think the positive thing is that there are more options for folks than there ever has been,” he said.

Guill said Isle of Wight’s goal for Carrollton is to have it grow gradually and add affordable housing and new businesses.

“Here in Isle of Wight, we are big on planning our future — not accommodating growth,” she said.