Council denies Harbour View housing
City Council denied a rezoning application to add another multi-family development in Harbour View during its Wednesday night meeting.
City Council voted 5-3 to deny the application with Councilmen Roger Fawcett, Donald Goldberg and Lue Ward supporting the development.
The applicant — Edward Miller, Kimley-Horn agent, on behalf of Ronald Ferrin, Harbourview Partners — submitted a rezoning application for a parcel located at the northeast corner of Harbourview Boulevard and Hampton Roads Parkway.
The land currently is zoned for office and institutional development, but the applicants wanted to rezone it to construct 500 multi-family apartments and a maximum of 120 townhomes.
The 2035 Comprehensive Plan designates the parcel as part of the mixed-use core use district.
Staff from Suffolk’s Planning Division recommended denial of the application for three reasons — school capacity, traffic and inconsistency with the Comprehensive Plan.
The applicants believe that the biggest reason to develop housing on the parcel is to add people to patronize the businesses in the area.
“We did a market study in 2016, and Terry Peterson Group looked at both sides on I-664. They found that 300,000 square feet of commercial development aren’t supported by the number of residences in the corridor,” said applicant attorney Whitney Saunders.
According to Saunders, the area in question is in danger of putting commercial properties out of business due to the lack of residences.
The current property has been zoned as office-institutional for some time, and a committee of residents from the Harbourview Homeowners Association are concerned that it will go undeveloped or be developed into something the area does not need.
“It has been roughly 30 years that the property has been available for commercial sale and it has not sold,” said Andrew Sweet, the president of Harbourview Homeowners Association. “The more we look at this, we are concerned there are not enough people in Harbour View to support all of these commercial properties. The apartments that were proposed give us 500 more rooftops in Harbour View across from where a lot of retail is.”
“We want to succeed, and we don’t want to see vacant buildings.”
Some council members, Goldberg and Ward, were in favor of the application due to positive reactions they received from Harbour View residents.
“They did what was best for the project and the community. They listened this time, and there is nothing else that can be done,” Ward said of the developers.
“I have not had a call or any communication about being opposed to this,” Goldberg said. “I’ve looked at this, and I’ve spent time up in Harbour View. At this point, I’m in support of this, and I feel like it’s a good project.”
The application, as proposed, would generate 307 students, according to the city’s planning staff report. But the applicant believed the housing would add only 37 students.
“Council approved rezoning for the Pointe at Harbourview, and that parcel is at the end of the same street. The applicant took the number of children in the existing complexes to generate this rate of new children,” Saunders said. “We used the very same number of children used in the Pointe, which you approved and was vetted by staff.”
City staff would not use their generated numbers because it does not comply with the Unified Development Ordinance.
“I don’t think it is in accordance with state law and the UDO,” said Director of Planning David Hainley.
Construction of two new schools for the upcoming school year should help alleviate overcrowding in the northern part of the city, and continuing to add residences is a concern for city staff and a few councilmen.
“We’ve got to put apples to apples, and I don’t think you’re ready to present this, and I don’t think I can approve this because of the reactions to the schools,” said Councilman Tim Johnson. “It’s our job to make sure the city can handle that. I don’t think we are quite ready for this.”
If City Council approved the application, they would have to approve every application that calculated their own student generation rates, Johnson said.
Numerous folks, including Tim Johnson, Mayor Linda Johnson and residents at the meeting, noted that traffic is a problem on Route 17.
“I will tell you the employees are concerned about traffic and if you add more apartments it will add traffic,” said Harbour View resident Steve Widell. “Traffic is already horrendous, and hopefully you’ll think of something great for it.”
“Traffic volume has grown,” said traffic engineer Robert Lewis. “We are meeting and exceeding the capacity of the roadways. As a region, we are looking at ways to address that.”