Time for a plan

Published 9:16 pm Friday, June 22, 2012

Nothing substitutes for a good plan, and officials from the city of Suffolk set out this week to begin updating the plan they will use as their guide for much of what happens in Suffolk for most of the rest of the decade. The five-year update to the comprehensive plan is a very big deal, one that was worthy of this week’s joint meeting of the City Council and the Planning Commission, when members of both bodies shared their hopes for the city, their vision for its future and their opinions about its challenges.

Unsurprisingly, growth topped each of those lists. Suffolk officials share a desire for well-managed growth, an expectation that it will bring positive changes to the city and a sense of apprehension about the negative consequences of allowing it to take place unchecked.

It’s pretty easy to look around the city and see where growth has been handled badly and where it’s been handled well. Those who took part in Wednesday’s special session kicking off the comprehensive plan update were quick to praise Suffolk’s Harbour View development as a place where the plan came together in a way that benefited just about everybody — developers, residents, businesses and the city coffers, too.

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But it’s clear that not all of Suffolk can — or should — be Harbour View. Different parts of the city are destined to grow in different ways, and a shared desire to honor the spirit of Suffolk’s various communities should result in a variety of small-scale plans for targeting commerce toward some areas, new homes for others and infrastructure improvements at appropriate levels throughout the city.

A well-considered and carefully written comprehensive plan can do great service to a city’s future if it’s followed. If it’s ignored, it will have been a waste of time and money.

There will be opportunities for public input into the process, and that input also must not be ignored. A solid comprehensive plan should reflect the ideals and desires of the community it represents, not just those of the officials representing that community. This early part of the update process is the time for public officials to seek out all the opinions about Suffolk and its future that they can get.

Suffolk officials like to say, “It’s a great time to be in Suffolk.” What’s more appropriate to say today, though, is this: “It’s a great time to think about Suffolk’s future.” It’s time to make a plan. Let’s get to work.