Council approves rezoning for Holland Road property at Port Logistics Park

Published 7:12 pm Friday, April 23, 2021

City Council unanimously approved rezoning a 5.2-acre property along Holland Road and Enterprise Drive from light industrial to general commercial use to build a convenience store, gas station and a pair of drive-through restaurants. 

The approval came amid concerns from Councilman Tim Johnson who represents the area and owns a nearby business, Johnson’s Gardens about the traffic he is all too familiar with, and the access the developer wants from Holland Road, also known as U.S. Route 58. What the developer wants, Johnson said, is reasonable up to a point. 

The conceptual plan for the property proposes access to the site from both Enterprise Drive and Holland Road. However, due to concerns about future traffic signals at Enterprise Drive and Holland Road, the site of an emergency signal for a future fire station and the location of the entrance within a future merge area, the city’s planning staff does not favor the site plan and would not approve it with access from Holland Road. 

The staff report on the proposed rezoning noted that if the request was approved, the access issues would need to be addressed before site plan approval. 

“The problem I have with it as proposed, and it needs to be understood clearly … that there will not be access to these businesses from (U.S.) Route 58. We’ve gone to a huge expense to create an industrial park with two accesses, both with stoplights,” Johnson said. “The way we have traffic on 58 right now, it’s a safety feature that just can’t be. The entrance to this development could easily come through the back.”

Johnson said the access could be set up similar to what exists on Godwin Boulevard where users have to access the fast-food restaurants through a feeder road and not directly from Godwin Boulevard. 

During the Planning Commission’s public hearing on the rezoning, Knott said not having direct access from Holland Road would not deter him from moving forward, but said he would prefer to have the access and thinks it is possible.

Robert Lewis, interim public works director, said that the staff report makes clear that the dual access points to the development have not been proffered and is only an example of what the developer might do. 

“With that, there’s certainly a lot of federal, state and city regulations that deal with access management,” Lewis said. “We have been very clear with this applicant from day one that access off of Holland Road directly would not be permitted.”

He cited three reasons: the proposed Holland Road access point is adjacent to a traffic signal, it’s less than 800 feet from where the city is anticipating building another fire station and it’s also in an area where three lanes of traffic in one direction are going to be merging into two. 

Lewis said when the project comes back to city staff to review the engineering plans, it would not approve them. He said the development has good access from Enterprise Drive. 

John Knott, representing property owner Equus Capital Partners, acknowledged the access of the proposed development off of Enterprise Drive, but said the reason why it showed an access point off of Holland Drive is based on experience and the types of businesses who will want to locate there. 

“Their first question is going to be, ‘Can we get a right-in, right-out,” Knott said. “So we are simply anticipating what these tenants and businesses will ask of us. So we’ll be the messenger and deliver that same message to our engineer and to the city planning folks.”

Johnson said he likes what is being proposed for the property and would be well-received by the community, and ultimately seconded a motion from Councilman Donald Goldberg to approve the rezoning request, but said there are enough problems with Route 58 without adding to them by adding another access point. 

Knott has not proffered any specific uses for the property in Port Logistics Park, which used to be known as the CenterPoint Intermodal Center, though the staff report pointed out the proposed commercial uses for the property. 

“We do think the businesses that will locate there … could be convenience-type stores, restaurants, and will be an amenity not only to employees of the park, but also residents of the city of Suffolk and travelers along Route 58,” Knott said. 

Equus Capital Partners bought about 500 acres of undeveloped land just north and west of the Port Logistics Park along Holland Road as well as three buildings on Enterprise Drive and another at 375 Kenyon Road for $119 million in June 2019. 

Though the other properties surrounding it are vacant, a future fire station has been proposed just to the east. 

The staff report noted that that rezoning request “is intended to take advantage of improved commercial retail opportunities along the Holland Road corridor, (and) these could include, for example, convenience stores and restaurants.”

During a public hearing, Knott told the council about the construction of the Massimo Zanetti warehouse and another, speculative warehouse for a tenant to be determined. It is also in the process of extending Enterprise Drive from Holland Road 2,000 feet into the property. The company, he said, is investing more than $50 million in those projects. 

The proposal from Equus is separate from plans by new Sadler Travel Center owners Hermie and Angie Sadler, who have expressed plans to expand the truck stop at the corner of Route 58 and Centerpoint Drive after paying $6.5 million to buy nearly 42 acres of property 5.6 acres of which include the travel center in the area around 2400 Holland Road. 

Hermie Sadler said he wants to add 300 truck parking spaces with a newly-paved well-lit lot, restarted deli and kitchen services and add other retail to it.