Kill this project

Published 10:31 pm Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Developers looking to recoup a tanking investment in a property along Bridge Road have brought the city a proposal for the site that is no less controversial than the one that resulted in City Council sending them back to the drawing board earlier this year.

The 18-acre site, located at 3345 Bridge Road, is currently zoned Office-Institutional and has a seven-unit office building situated along its back end. Developers originally had intended to build a full office park in the space, but a declining market for such property left them with a landscaped site they could not sell. So they approached the Planning Commission and City Council earlier this year with a request to have the site rezoned to allow for the construction of a complex of 144 garden apartments.

Planning Department staff recommended against the change, and the Planning Commission agreed, sending City Council a recommendation that the rezoning and an associated conditional use permit be denied. Members of Suffolk’s City Council stated during a hearing on the matter that they agreed residential uses of the property would be inappropriate, but they stopped short of denying the rezoning outright, and instead they told developers to come back with another plan.


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On Tuesday, the Planning Commission heard about that plan, and it sounded pretty much the same as the old one. The developers would be happy to use the property for something other than apartments, they said, but just in case it comes to that, they’ve offered a proffer of $3,000 per residential unit. That sounds more like a plan to buy the city’s cooperation than a concession to officials’ concerns about increased traffic, safety of residents and added pressure on the school system.

As a further sop to the city, developers have agreed never to build a boarding house, a dormitory, an animal pound or a fertilizer sales business there. But considering the value of the property — located within sight of Bennett’s Creek on one of the city’s busiest roads — such uses were never likely in the first place. The concession was similar to suggesting that they’d never build SeaWorld on the site — it was never going to happen, anyway.

What could happen — and what’s likely without City Council stepping in and putting an end to the shenanigans of a developer who clearly hasn’t heard the message the community has sent regarding the property — is that an apartment complex will be built on the property, bringing with it all the school and traffic pressures of such a facility with very little in the way of recurring tax revenue.

After the issue came before them in March, members of City Council said they wanted to work with the developer to help him find a solution to his problem of a property that wouldn’t sell. At the same time, they made a public show of vowing they would not allow the property to be used for residential uses.

Despite their desire to help this developer, it appears to be time for City Council to stand by its promise to the public by denying the rezoning and the associated conditional use permit and removing any doubt about the developer’s ability to build apartments there.