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Growth requires planning

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows what all Suffolk observers, and even casual observers, already knew — Suffolk is continuing to grow.

From its official 2010 count of 84,585 residents in Suffolk, the Census Bureau estimates that the city has grown 7.8 percent to a population estimate of 91,185. That’s on top of the 33-percent increase Suffolk experienced between 2000 and 2010.

Such astronomical growth strained Suffolk’s resources in the first decade of this century. While growth has slowed this decade, the city is still catching up.

This decade, several new schools have opened, as has a new fire station and other public buildings. But growth in population has somewhat outpaced the growth in the school division’s and city’s capacities to provide the services American citizens expect. Some of Suffolk’s public schools are still overcrowded, public safety departments are constantly asking for more staff, and the utilities department had to take on massive amounts of debt to expand city water and sewer over such a large area so quickly.

The city is expected to grow even more, reaching well over the six-figure mark before it levels out.

This kind of growth requires careful planning on the part of the city. There should be a commitment to preserving the agricultural heritage of much of the city while allowing growth where it’s appropriate; a search for new, creative solutions that will allow growth with minimal impact on the environment and our way of life; and a search for ways to mitigate residential, commercial and industrial development of the past two decades that may not have occurred in the most ideal place or manner.

Growth isn’t always a bad thing, and some well-planned growth will improve the city for everyone with more jobs, a larger tax base and so forth. We hope that, with good planning, Suffolk will continue to be a place people want to come for many years.