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Store planned for Northgate entrance

The Northgate Commerce Park entrance could be the site of a convenience store, gas station and fast food restaurant following a 7-0 vote by the Suffolk Planning Commission to recommend  rezoning the property there.

The owner of the nearly 32-acre property at 5045 Nansemond Parkway, the McGowan Group, is looking to rezone about four acres of the property near the intersection of Northgate Commerce Parkway and Nansemond Parkway from heavy industrial zoning to general commercial zoning.

The staff report for the rezoning indicates the proposed use for the property, though that has not been specifically proffered by the applicant, C. Burt Cutright, SNC, on behalf of the property owner.

The conceptual site plan and documents submitted to the city’s planning staff indicate an access point from both Nansemond Parkway and Northgate Commerce Park.

The restaurant part of the property will be directly accessible from Nansemond Parkway and have a two-lane drive-through for take-out.

There will also be on-site parking, with cars leaving through the adjacent site with a connection to Northgate Commerce Parkway and returning to the signalized intersection at Nansemond Parkway.

The convenience store and gas station would be accessed from Northgate Commerce Parkway, with exiting cars also heading to the signalized intersection.

The proposed uses are not allowed in the heavy industrial zoning district, which is the reason for the rezoning request.

A traffic impact analysis noted about 638 peak morning trips and 354 peak afternoon trips generated for uses associated with fast-food restaurants with a drive-through, a convenience store and gas pumps. It notes that 9,214 daily trips are estimated to be generated by the surrounding road. The current right-turn lane on the conceptual plan serving the entrances from Northgate Commerce Parkway will need to be split into two separate turn lanes.

Planning staff recommended approval for the conditional rezoning, saying it is consistent with the principles of the 2035 Comprehensive Plan and the city’s unified development ordinance.

During a Dec. 15 public hearing, Jon Babineau, representing C. Burt Cutright, SNC, said the proposed rezoning and use for the property would be a better fit for the property.

“It’s going to be a more aesthetic look to the intersection there at Nansemond Parkway and Northgate Commerce Parkway,” Babineau said. “With the buildings, you’re going to have less impact on the roadways from commercial vehicles and heavy equipment that would be associated with industrial use.

“Plus, there’s an absolute need when you look at it from the standpoint of the geographical area for convenience store items as well as gas sales and then fast food. It really seems to act as a good buffer, if you will, coming from (heavy industrial zoning) leading to the residential area.”

Commissioner Anita Hicks noted that in the entire stretch of Nansemond Parkway, “you cannot buy a loaf of bread or get gas in your car in the entire 10-, 12-mile stretch of Nansemond Parkway all the way into Chesapeake.”

Northgate Commerce Park is where an Amazon robotics fulfillment center is being built and is expected to employ 1,000 people when it opens sometime in 2021. An Amazon processing center nearby just across the city line in Chesapeake is expected to employ another 500 people and also open next year.