Public opposition to Port 460 project mounting
Published 5:38 pm Tuesday, August 2, 2022
The signs against the massive Port 460 Logistics Park project have been sprouting up in yards along Pitchkettle Road and areas adjacent to the proposed rezoning of the 540 acres of property.
The proposed park would encompass 4.7 million square feet for an industrial park of 10 warehouse buildings and some retail fronting U.S. Route 460.
As more details have emerged about the scope of the project over the past few weeks, which will border not only Route 460 and Pitchkettle Road, but also U.S. Route 58, Kings Fork Road and Murphys Mill Road, opposition to it has mounted.
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A Change.org petition entitled “No rezoning 500+ acres between Pitchkettle Road and 460 in Suffolk” (bit.ly/3zuCn9w) had nearly 900 signatures on it as of 1 p.m. Tuesday, and a private Facebook group, “Say No to Warehouses,” has also emerged and has nearly 700 members.
Many of the comments on the Change.org petition echo those made during a July 19 public hearing before the Planning Commission, with criticisms related to traffic and the likely increased number of trucks on city roads, smart growth, the lack of public awareness and environmental concerns among them.
“The traffic through 460 is already horrible because it’s already a main hub from Hampton Roads to the west and it’s already dangerous,” said William Cook on the Change.org petition, “and adding more trucks will make it worse and the road conditions worse. I’m also worried about fallout of people’s property and happiness with the possibility of making 460 bigger.”
The commission, after a public hearing that lasted about two hours and about another hour of its members deliberating over the project, ultimately voted 5-3 to recommend rezoning the property from general commercial and agricultural to heavy manufacturing zoning (bit.ly/3OTacGY), with Chairman Arthur Singleton, Anita Hicks, Johnnie Edwards, Gerald Goodman and Oliver Creekmore voting in favor, and Mills Staylor, John Rector and Kittrell Eberwine voting against.
City Council holds a public hearing on the project rezoning at its Aug. 17 meeting, and Matan Companies holds a second public meeting about the proposed project from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 4 at the Hilton Garden Inn–Suffolk Riverfront at 100 E. Constance Rd.
Matan Companies, the project developers, previously held a public meeting in June about the project, coincidentally on the same evening as a council meeting (bit.ly/3zuqsZi).
While council has yet to vote on the rezoning request, several members have weighed in on the project, including Tim Johnson, Donald Goldberg and Mayor Mike Duman.
Johnson said at council’s July 20 meeting that the project, if approved, would be the biggest thing the city has done since he began representing the Holy Neck Borough in 2015. But he was critical of what he said was the lack of input by residents.
“With a project of the magnitude of the Port 460 Logistics Center, why weren’t the citizens included in the conversation,” Johnson said during council’s July 20 meeting. “And why didn’t we as a city make sure they were included? Or even aware? And better than that, why wasn’t council aware over the last eight to nine months?
Johnson said that while the city needs the developers, “they need to be helping us create the kind of city we want to have,” and though he said a logistics park is not a bad idea, “you don’t throw this down somebody’s throat.”
Goldberg said proposals come to the city when they are ready and they are submitted.
“I feel very strongly that the city is processing it in the proper manner,” Goldberg said.
He said he has spoken with people about the project — “many for, and some against.”
Goldberg said that if this project doesn’t get the rezoning, something else will come.
Along with the proposed warehouses, about 24,000 square feet at the front of the property off of Route 460 calls for a mix of service retail — a restaurant, gas station and convenience store.
Project officials and the Port of Virginia have touted its potential economic benefits, saying it would provide nearly 2,600 construction jobs, about 9,000 jobs once the project is built out, $28.6 million to $34.1 million in property tax revenue to the city’s economy and $16.2 million in yearly state income tax revenue. There would also be $30 million in road improvements, and construction costs of about $420 million.
Duman said during a Monday Facebook Live chat that he is undecided on the project and hasn’t expressed to anyone that he is for or against the project. Duman said he would attend Matan Companies’ public meeting Thursday.
“Contrary to popular belief and some of the false information that has been spread around, I have not made up my mind on the 460 project,” Duman said. “It has some very, very good merits. It has some very, very legitimate concerns.”
He outlined four major concerns he had with the project — how to keep traffic off of Murphys Mill Road, how to ensure any increases to traffic on Pitchkettle Road is minimal and doesn’t adversely impact people heading toward downtown (“That’s going to be a nightmare if that isn’t handled correctly,” he said.), how to mitigate traffic and safety issues on U.S. Route 58 from the bypass to Nansemond-Suffolk Academy and up toward Isle of Wight County and, if those three things can be addressed, what guarantees will there be to mitigate those issues.
“There’s a lot of stuff going around,” Duman said. “Some of it has some serious validity, some of it doesn’t.”
He said right-of-way acquisition won’t be an issue. “There’s about 100 feet of right-of-way already there,:” Durman said. “Maybe 120 (feet) will be needed altogether. That’s not much of anything.
“It’s all about traffic. The folks on Pitchkettle Road, actually, in my opinion, my feeble opinion, have the most skin in the game as far as how this particular development could have an adverse effect on them … because if this doesn’t come to fruition, then chances are, nothing will change on Pitchkettle Road. (Routes) 58 and 460, whether you like it or not, 58 and 460 are going to continue to get increased truck traffic. That traffic comes out of the Port (of Virginia).”
He said that is where the growth is coming from, and it affects those two roads and Interstates 664, 64 and 264. Even if this project were located elsewhere in Hampton Roads or Western Tidewater, the city would still get the traffic and the trucks that would come with it.
“Realistically, we’re going to get the traffic,” Duman said. “If it is here, we get to control our own destiny a little bit and we get some money to mitigate those factors.”