City Council notebook: Downtown festival park, library, shooting range projects get council go-ahead

Published 6:34 pm Thursday, August 4, 2022

Mayor Mike Duman had teased during a Facebook Live earlier in the week that the regular meeting agenda for the Aug. 3 City Council meeting was not too heavy, but with 14 speakers signed up for the non-agenda public comment period — many speaking on the Port 460 Logistics Park project — the work session and regular meeting combined still went more than six hours.

He did, though, give everyone a 15-minute break just before the second public comment period started and after the key votes for the evening had been taken.

The key votes

  • Council approved the rezoning for the new downtown library (7-0 in favor).
  • The festival park downtown adjacent to the new library now has a conditional use permit to proceed (7-0 in favor).
  • A shooting range and school on Hosier Road both received conditional use permits to operate (6-1 in favor of both, Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett voted no on both).

The key briefings

  • Comprehensive Plan 2045 update and timetable during the council’s work session.
  • Police and fire — Police Chief Al Chandler on the department’s tools it uses for crime scene investigations — much involving the leverage of technology — and Fire Chief Mike Barakey on the department’s accomplishments, incident data, (much on pace to increase over last year), fire marshal data and some new things upcoming, like a new ladder truck coming in November, groundbreaking of Fire Station 11 in the fall land the new apparatus storage building expected to be finished by fall.

The key discussion

  • Port 460 Logistics Center project — other than from those connected to the project, there has been little said to support the project. Opponents took to the non-agenda part of public comment to express various criticisms of the proposed rezoning of more than 500 acres along U.S. Routes 460 and 58, and Pitchkettle, Kings Fork and Murphys Mill roads.

Sleepy Hole Borough Councilman Roger Fawcett again participated in the meeting remotely due to illness and did not stay for the entire meeting.

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Whaleyville Borough Councilman LeOtis Williams did not attend the meeting. Mayor Mike Duman said it was an excused absence.

Comprehensive Plan 2045 update

Sarah Kelly, a director for Planning Next — the city’s consultant on the comprehensive plan update — spoke to council during its work session about where the development of the new plan stands in terms of stakeholder and public engagement, the technical analysis of it and integrating council’s thoughts on the plan, branded Suffolk 2045: Connecting Our City, Shaping Our Future.

Kelly said later this fall, it would test ideas in draft form and get more feedback, with more plan updates coming through the winter.

What has it heard? The city’s rural, small-town feel is one of its biggest strengths, there’s opportunity for downtown investment and revitalization, open spaces and parks are a big plus and there is a desire for well-planned residential and commercial growth in the northern part of the city. Kelly said these are just a few of the things it has heard.

What else? Carefully manage increased residential development, proactively address traffic congestion, bring more restaurants, entertainment, recreation and retail, please. And, ensure growth and development benefit all parts of the city.

What do you want to see in it? There’s still time for individuals to offer their thoughts through the latter part of September. Kelly said it is saving all comments, verbatim, and will be available to the public.

Go here: suffolk2045.org.

See previous coverage: City begins update to comprehensive plan, City surveys residents on comprehensive plan

Shooting range, school approved

By a pair of 6-1 votes, council voted to approve a conditional use permit for an outdoor shooting range and a training school on property along Hosier Road. Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett was the lone no vote for both permit requests.

See previous coverage: Shooting ranges, school proposed for Hosier road property, Council to hold public hearings on shooting range, downtown park, library

New downtown library rezoning approved

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Councilman Donald Goldberg. “I’m excited about it. It’s going to be great for downtown.”

That’s what he said after council voted 7-0 to approve rezoning of property at Lee Street from residential medium density to central business district zoning to move forward with building a new, larger downtown library to replace the Morgan Memorial Library.

In different ways, most council members shared a similar sentiment.

See previous coverage: Book it: Commission recommends rezoning downtown property for new library

Festival Park conditional use permit a go

City officials expect that in less than a year, the Festival Park being put in downtown with the showcase entrance at the corner of West Washington and South Saratoga streets will be hosting events.

By a 7-0 vote, council approved a conditional use permit to establish a park/open space on the property at 219 W. Washington St. and 101 S. Saratoga St.

See previous coverage: Festival park gets go-ahead

Chiefs give police, fire public safety update

Chandler said he expects to have all of its Flock cameras up and operational by the end of the month. He received authorization for them earlier this year Read the story here.

He focused his briefing on the department’s crime scene investigations unit, which has four technicians and a supervisor and is responsible for processing major crime scenes for forensic evidence. They also engage the public through speaking engagements at schools and other groups, including this summer’s CSI Camp.  It has processed 142 crime scenes so far this year, has collected 1,720 items of evidence, and has processed 160 cell phones and 85 firearms, approaching pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.

Chandler also focused on the technology the CSI unit uses in collecting and organizing evidence.

Barakey talked about Suffolk Fire and Rescue initiatives, such as the groundbreaking later this year of the new North Suffolk Fire Station 11 and a new, 107-foot ascendant ladder truck that he said would comfortably reach the roof of the new Amazon robotics fulfillment center in Northgate Commerce Park. A new apparatus storage building is expected to be finished by this fall at Fire Station 6, and the Carolina Road Training Facility’s burn building is estimated to be ready by 2024.

He noted it has 74 people on shift daily covering nine firehouses, the North Suffolk firehouse will be the 10th.

It handled 12,713 emergency medical calls and 380 working fires in 2021 — 161 structure fires and 219 vehicle, brush or other fires, and through June 30 this year, it has handled 6,690 such calls and 199 working fires — 87 working fires and 112 vehicle, brush or other fires. He noted that just in the first half of this year, it is approaching its total loss tally from all of 2021, with more than $3.7 million being a total loss combining property and content losses in fires it has handled. Last year, the total loss from working fires approached $4.2 million.

The fire marshal’s office, among its duties, investigated 270 fires last year and so far it has investigated 54. It also handles bomb threats or explosives threats, handling 14 of them in 2021 and has already handled 14 through June 30 this year.

Farmers market adds days, new location

Though the city’s farmers’ market continues to take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through Nov. 19 at the Suffolk Visitor’s Center, it has since added bonus Wednesday summer markets from 3:30-6:30 p.m. through Aug. 31 at the same location.

And, beginning Aug 9, it will start a mini pop-up market from 2-5 p.m. Tuesdays on East Washington Street at the corner of Tynes Street. No vendors have yet been announced.

Know more: suffolkfarmersmarket.com

By consent…

Council, en bloc, approved a trio of items:

  • Accepting $3,500 from the Virginia Department of Aviation to support the Suffolk Executive Airport for the current fiscal year. The money will be used to help with Federal Aviation Administration required triannual inspections of the automated weather observation system. It required $184.22 in local money, which is in the current aviation facilities fund budget.
  • Accepting $236,542 in state grant money from the state Department of Criminal Justice Service for the Fifth Judicial District Community Corrections Program. The city anticipates getting $43,558 from Franklin, Isle of Wight County and Southampton County. The program also estimates it will collect $30,000 in supervision fees in the current fiscal year from defendants placed on probation by circuit, general district and juvenile and domestic relations courts for the district. The money will be used for CCP operating expenses. Suffolk administers the program and is its fiscal agent.
  • The city will receive more than $2.25 million from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s urban maintenance program. The added money is due to increased roadway maintenance lane miles, a supplement of overweight permit revenue and changes to the state urban maintenance funding formula. The money will go to road maintenance citywide.

A look ahead

Here are public hearings coming up at council’s Aug. 17 meeting:

  • Port 460 Logistics Center rezoning (see above)
  • Glenwood subdivision conditional use permit request
  • Linwood-Turlington Road rezoning

See previous coverage: Commission approves rezonings, conditional use permits

  • Shady Pine Borrow Pit conditional use permit request — Remember?

See previous coverage: Safety concerns from IW, Suffolk residents prompt city commissioners’ recommendation against borrow pit. Opportunity narrows for pit proponents.