Planning denies apartment request

Published 10:12 pm Tuesday, March 18, 2014

With plenty of opposition to the project sitting in the audience, the Planning Commission on Tuesday recommended denial of a rezoning and conditional use permit for land in North Suffolk the developer hoped to change from office space to apartments.

Located at 3345 Bridge Road near the Bennett’s Creek Bridge, the site — dubbed Bennett’s Creek Commons — has not attracted the number of tenants the developers hoped for, said Jim Bradford of Hassell and Folkes P.C. Only one building has been constructed on the site.

The rezoning and conditional use permit would have permitted 144 apartment units at the site, but about 14 nearby residents came to the meeting to voice their displeasure. They said the site is ideal for businesses but not for apartments.

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“This is totally contrary to the comprehensive plan in terms of density and use,” said attorney Whitney Saunders, representing a couple of the opponents. “This is not a positive thing for the city of Suffolk.”

The city agreed, recommending denial of the rezoning. Locating residences or strip retail centers along high-speed, high-traffic roadways is discouraged in the Unified Development Ordinance, planner Shanda Davenport said in a staff report. The land is isolated from other residential, civic and neighborhood business uses, she added.

Nearby residents had a number of concerns: environmental effects, the capacity of local schools to handle the students, putting children near the busy highway and waterways and more.

“As I’ve listened to what is planned for this piece of property, in my mind, it’s ludicrous,” said Elwood Carson. “I just feel business is what we ought to have there and not residential.”

Planning Commissioner Jim Vacalis noted that although the developer said the site’s current zoning was not suited to the market, there was no market analysis submitted.

“There is nothing to support the developer’s request,” he said, making a motion to deny the rezoning request.

The votes to deny the rezoning and conditional use permit were both unanimous.

In other business, the commission voted to table for 30 days a preliminary subdivision plat on Bright Lane and to recommend approval of a conditional use permit for Suffolk Pawn and Gun at 3215 Bridge Road.

All of the matters considered on Tuesday will be taken up by City Council on April 16.