Thoughtful, discerning government

Published 10:52 pm Thursday, December 18, 2014

Members of Suffolk’s Planning Commission, an appointed body that has in recent years often shown itself to be more responsible and responsive to citizens than the elected City Council it advises, proved once again this week that they have a better understanding of representative government than some of the council members who appointed them.

After hearing from just two speakers regarding changes to the city’s comprehensive plan, the commission voted to extend the public hearing on the document for another month to provide more time for public input.

The Planning Commission had been set to hold its public hearing on the planning document on Tuesday, a little more than a month after its unveiling, and then vote on whether to recommend it for approval by the City Council.


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But the comprehensive plan is an exhaustive document, and it’s an important planning tool for the city, even if — as in Wednesday’s vote to approve a conditional use permit for an apartment complex in conflict with the existing plan — it is sometimes ignored by a City Council that seems more eager to help meet the needs of developers than to carefully and discerningly manage growth within Suffolk.

As such, updating the comprehensive plan, as Virginia law requires every five years, should not be a process that’s undertaken lightly or without sufficient time for public input. There was no pressing need to push the plan through the process, and the Planning Commission wisely chose to apply the brakes ever so slightly.

In the days between now and the Jan. 20 meeting of the commission, both its members and the public can take a bit more time studying it and understanding its ramifications, ultimately allowing city officials to make thoughtful additions or amendments. That’s what good government should be about.

Citizens can view the draft plan by downloading it from or visiting a city library or the East Suffolk Recreation Center.