‘Visioning’ meeting tonight

Published 10:07 pm Tuesday, November 13, 2012

From left, Harold Faulk, Cindy Lane, George Blair and Tim Johnson mark different types of development with green and red dots to describe what they would or would not like to see in Suffolk during a workshop at Lakeland High School Tuesday night. A similar workshop is set for Wednesday at Nansemond River High School.

About 20 Suffolk residents came together Tuesday night to inform the city and its consultants how they want the city to grow in the next 20 years.

The “visioning” meeting was the first opportunity for public involvement in the city’s comprehensive plan update. In attendance to hear the public’s concerns were five members of the Planning Commission, two members of the comprehensive plan advisory committee, city staff and one member of City Council, Jeffrey Gardy.

For those who didn’t get the chance to participate Tuesday night, another workshop will be held Wednesday at Nansemond River High School, 3301 Nansemond Parkway. It begins with an open house at 6:30 p.m., followed by the workshop at 7 p.m.

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Robin Whitley said she attended Tuesday’s workshop because she is interested in how the city grows.

“I’m interested in how my community is doing, not just where I live but the whole community of Suffolk,” Whitley said. She referenced her children — “I’m interested in their future. Will they be able to come back and live here?”

Participants viewed a short presentation on what the comprehensive plan is all about and then got to work. They were asked to fill out a survey on comprehensive plan values, mark various building types as something they would or would not like to see in Suffolk and complete a mapping exercise in groups.

“You could phrase it, do you like what you’re getting?” said Geoff Ferrell of Ferrell Madden, a firm consulting on the project.

This is the third version of the city’s comprehensive plan, which state code now requires to be reviewed every five years. The first iteration of the plan was crafted in 1973, and it was updated in 2006.

A lot has changed over those years, even from six years ago, consultants noted.

“We are updating a relatively recent and very good comprehensive plan the city already has,” said Greg Dale of McBride Dale Clarion, a firm working on the project.

Participants at the workshop had different reasons for coming. Some, like Mills March, wanted to make sure farmland was protected.

“There’s too many warehouses,” he said. “They’re taking another farm to build a school. What are we doing to preserve this farmland? It’s really time for us to put some sort of program in place” to preserve agricultural space, he said.

Others were concerned about transportation and making urban areas more pedestrian-friendly. Jonathan Powell said he can’t cross the street downtown without worrying about getting hit.

“Outside of an automobile, you really cannot functionally get around our city,” he said.

Whitley was concerned about the lack of retail development downtown, while North Suffolk has stable “big-box” stores like Kohl’s.

“We (in southern Suffolk) do see economic development, but it’s warehouses and it’s tractor-trailers coming through on a residential street,” she said.