Time to rethink Obici Park position

Published 9:09 pm Monday, March 30, 2015

To the editor:

While on their face, Steve Stewart’s ideas expressed in Wednesday’s column, “Park would require an about face,” appear balanced and logical, many of his comments need challenging.

It is true that there has been no lobbying for a park at the old Obici site until the 11th hour. But to suggest this should have been done in 2005 is flawed. Then the demographics of the city were different from now, Main Street was not congested with traffic and a lot of land currently under housing and industry was open fields.

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Since 2008 the economic climate, combined with a council that would never have listened to any park proposal, would have made a citizen’s movement pointless.

We have a new council and an improving economy. Citizens are rising now, because our planners have failed to consider quality of life for its citizens over unchecked development.

Read the city’s own 2035 plan. Their own data says people want more parks and open space as a priority.

Citizens for Obici Park fully recognizes the decision rests only with the council. They are not going after EDA for doing its job, nor the Planning Commission, which has the power to only make a recommendation.

We are not going after City Council either, but will take the time to sit with them and explain the pros and cons of a park, versus apartments, in terms of revenue and quality of life.

The city is working with VDOT to relocate, with the goal of obtaining the current VDOT site in a land swap. How can it be called planning to subdivide Obici Place and compromise the potential development of the combined site? All of this for a short-lived block of apartments that do not generate any net revenue.

We are confident common sense will prevail. The time is optimal to review how we can provide a central, large open space for all citizens to enjoy. Picture a park with deep-water access from the VDOT site and a couple of riverfront restaurants attracting diners from nearby counties helping to fill the tax coffers.

We should plan for ecotourism over urban sprawl and create a vibrant city center from which all local businesses will benefit.

So Mr. Stewart, it is time for you to rethink your position and join the growing movement to make downtown Suffolk a destination and not just a bedroom community to the Greater Hampton Roads.

Geoff Payne