Apartments would strain city

Published 8:50 pm Thursday, March 19, 2015

To the editor:

Many of my fellow citizens have been promoting the idea of a park on the old Obici hospital site. Numerous justifications have been presented for such a use. Access to the Nansemond River has been cited by proponents and dismissed by the City.

Economic Development Director Kevin Hughes told the Economic Development Authority, “We do not have access to the water.” The truth is, access is difficult due to marshy conditions, as Hughes has stated in the past.

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But difficult is not impossible. The Virginia Marine Science Museum has a nice boardwalk through the marshes of Broad Creek that gives access to an ecosystem not easily accessible.
The real issue is that the city’s plan to use part of the site to develop apartments ignores requirements of the local zoning ordinance. The ordinance prohibits the approval of residential development if public services are not available.

The 224-unit planned apartment complex would generate 58 new elementary students for Elephant’s Fork Elementary School. The current update to the City’s Comprehensive Plan shows Elephant’s Fork is already at 141 percent of the building’s capacity, with 679 students. An additional 58 students would push that number to 153 percent.

The simple fact is that until the city actually builds facilities for more elementary school students no residential development should be approved. This is not my opinion but what the City’s zoning ordinance states in Section 31-601 Adequate Public Facilities.

But the city has never let violations of the zoning ordinance stop it from doing whatever it has wanted to do in the past, so there’s a good chance officials will go ahead with the apartments anyway.

Chris Dove