Planners bless Habitat project

Published 10:41 pm Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Habitat for Humanity development off White Marsh Road now has the Planning Commission’s blessing and will be considered by the City Council next month.

The organization hopes to build 10 to 11 houses on a lot near the corner of White Marsh Road and Lake Kennedy Drive.

“We’re overjoyed with the vote, and we look forward to the next vote,” said Wayne Lavender, executive director of Habitat for Humanity South Hampton Roads. “We’ve partnered with Suffolk for most of our 25 years.”

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City Council voted in March to transfer the land from city ownership to Habitat for Humanity. Planners first considered the matter in June and delayed it for two months, then delayed the decision for another month in August.

The delay was meant to allow input from members of surrounding communities. Some said they prefer to see commercial development, perhaps a grocery store, on the site or nearby.

The White Marsh Shopping Plaza, a mostly-empty shopping center, sits across the street from the site and used to be anchored by a grocery store. City officials say that, not the Habitat lot, is the appropriate place for any commercial redevelopment.

Planning Commissioner William Goodman, who lives nearby, was the lone vote on Tuesday against recommending approval of the project.

“I wanted the people to know my position and why I oppose it,” Goodman said after the meeting. “I did not feel it was the best use of the property … at this point in time, with a dire need for a grocery store on the east end of town.”

However, Goodman said he is not opposed to Habitat for Humanity in general.

“They’re a good organization, and they do a good job at what they do,” he said.

Commissioner Ronnie Rountree said after the meeting that he supported the project because “we need to put it (the land) back on the tax maps.”