Rezoning would add 131 homes to North Suffolk
Published 9:41 pm Monday, June 27, 2022
A developer has asked for nearly 65 acres near Shoulders Hill Road in North Suffolk to be rezoned to allow for 131 single-family homes.
Following a June 21 public hearing before the Planning Commission, it is one step closer to that goal, as the commission voted 4-3 to allow the rezoning after a motion to deny it failed on a 4-3 vote. City Council will hold its own public hearing July 20.
The homes would be built on 45.2 acres near Bennett’s Creek and the Quaker Neck neighborhood and include pedestrian walkways and outdoor amenities that would incorporate views of Bennett’s Creek and is within walking distance of the Seaboard Coastline Trail.
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The developer, Bob White Development LLC, can currently build up to 45 homes under the current rural residential zoning, which allows for one unit per acre, and with the proposed rezoning to residential low-medium density, it would allow for nearly triple the number of homes.
It says the current zoning is wrong for the property, citing its half-mile proximity from multiple neighborhoods zoned for higher densities and it cites “great access” to the U.S. Route 17, Nansemond Parkway and Interstate 664 corridors.
“Changes to the current post-pandemic era are leading both millennials as well as mature buyers to safer communities such as Suffolk,” according to a narrative of proposed uses submitted with the rezoning request. “These buyers are also trending toward new construction homes as well.”
Grier Ferguson, an attorney representing Bob White Development, said the four-to-six bedroom homes would be priced from $490,000 to $650,000 and be no smaller than 1,500 square feet for one-story units that would be geared to older buyers and higher for the two-story homes aiming for the millennial market, though in one of its proffers, the minimum home size would be 1,400 square feet, something Ferguson acknowledged.
The project is expected to add 34 students to city schools — 15 elementary, eight middle and 11 high school. Because Nansemond River High School is above capacity, the developer has proffered $326,480 to advance capacity there. It has also proffered road improvements to Bob White Lane and Pughsville Road.
Ben Fitzgerald, a pastor at Zion Community Church near the proposed neighborhood, said he was excited about the new homes due to the current housing crunch.
However, Thelonious McLean-Burrell, the president of the Quaker Neck Homeowners Association, which represents 49 homeowners in the neighborhood adjacent to the proposed development, said they are opposed to it, citing the number of homes already in the area, the 377 homes already approved for Bob White Lane and the existing traffic congestion. He also noted that the existing homes in the area are at least 2,500 square feet and on larger lots than the proposed development. He said the proposed rezoning would allow for nearly three homes per acre.
“This proposal would put 10 to 12 homes on my same property that one home is on,” McLean-Burrell said.
Another opponent, Evelyn Jones, who lives in the Glen Forest neighborhood, said that between the nearby neighborhoods of Bayberry Cove, Bob White Landing, Quakers Neck, River Club and her own, along with miscellaneous lots, there are, by her own count, 753 homes among them, with at least double the number of vehicles.
She said Bob White Lane cannot handle the additional vehicles and asked that the developer not be allowed to build more than the current zoning allows.
Ferguson acknowledged the concerns but said the number of homes per acre the developer plans to build is based on the total property size of nearly 65 acres, not the 45.2 acres it plans to build on.
“There are legitimate concerns,” Ferguson said. “And anytime there’s growth, there are going to be concerns. We can’t turn our heads to that. But that’s the reason we have long-term planning. We cannot look at planning as looking at one or two trees. You’ve got to look at a forest, and that’s what the long-term, 2035 (Comprehensive) Plan does. It looks at the forests.”
He said the plan says the property is in the northern growth suburban area and said the city wants to see a dense situation so people don’t have to drive so far to work.
“This is not a high-density situation,” Ferguson said. “The staff has told you that in the northern growth suburban area, they are recommending anywhere from one to five houses per acre. We’re putting two houses per acre. We’re under the halfway point of what they feel is a good number to properly fill in a suburban area, which this is designated.”
He said in his roughly 10 visits to the property site, he has not encountered traffic issues, but added it wasn’t at high-peak morning and evening commute times. He said the developer’s plan is in the best, long-term interest of the city.
Commissioner Kittrell Eberwine said he would not be able to support the project due to the traffic issues in the area, while Johnnie Edwards said he was torn on the issue, ultimately voting in favor of the rezoning.