Work remains on veterans’ project

Published 10:13 pm Friday, September 7, 2012

A veterans’ rehabilitation center planned for Suffolk requires a lot more legwork before it could go ahead, according to a letter from the deputy city manager to a partner on the project.

Suffolk resident Buddy Joyner and project partner Michael Tacoronte, a Norfolk real estate agent, hope to develop a 101-acre facility, dubbed the Veterans’ Care Initiative, alongside U.S. Route 58 off Pitchkettle Road.

A rough estimate of the project cost is $101 million, Tacoronte said.

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The site is inside the “central suburban/central growth area, with a suburban designation,” the city’s Patrick Roberts wrote Tacoronte.

Early plans for the project, which Tacoronte said could be expanded or contracted, include single-family homes, townhouses and apartments, a “healing center,” and a commercial component where veterans would work.

Roberts advised Tacoronte to “meet again with the city’s development review staff in order to determine the specific zoning and related approvals that would be required … in accordance with the city’s Unified Development Ordinance.”

One of the next steps for the project, Tacoronte said, is to lodge plans with the city’s Planning Commission.

Roberts wrote Tacoronte that he “would like to further identify the level of existing infrastructure and the adequacy of public facilities … required to support a project of the scale which you have outlined.”

Tacoronte said a sewerage line would probably be required beneath 58, along with a new intersection at Pitchkettle Road and upgrades to about one mile of Lake Kilby Road.

“We couldn’t even get buildings permits without those proffers being in place,” he said.

Roberts also advised Tacoronte to “contact stakeholders in the identified project area,” particularly residents in the Pitchkettle Road corridor and surrounding neighborhoods, to “determine if there are any concerns.”

Tacoronte said he is reaching out to state, federal and local representatives to garner support for the project, but has not approached residents, saying “we wanted to get further along with it before doing that.”

Randy Forbes’ military communications director, Wes Battle, confirmed that a member of the congressman’s staff met with Tacoronte.

“Congressman Forbes (himself) has not yet met with Mr. Tacoronte or reviewed his project,” Battle wrote in an email.

Bon Secours, which Tacoronte hopes will become a partner on the project, had preliminary conversations with the developer “more than a year ago,” health system spokeswoman Lynne Zultanky wrote in an email.

In his letter to Tacoronte, Roberts stated he is “encouraged by the concept you have discussed with me, and with my staff, and look forward to further exploring the viability of such a project in Suffolk.”