Plan IDs wish list for city
Published 9:38 pm Tuesday, August 9, 2022
The city’s rural, small-town feel is one of its biggest strengths, according to preliminary public feedback on the city’s comprehensive plan update.
According to the city’s consultant on the update, Planning Next Director Sarah Kelly, it also got feedback noting that the city has opportunities for downtown investment and revitalization, while its open spaces and parks are a big plus. She said it also has received feedback noting the desire for well-planned residential and commercial growth in the northern part of the city and to ensure that growth and development benefit all parts of the city.
Kelly, who updated City Council on the progress of the 2045 plan update during its Aug. 3 work session, said public feedback has indicated a desire for carefully managing increased residential development while proactively addressing traffic congestion and bringing more restaurants, entertainment, recreation and retail to the city.
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The plan has been branded as Suffolk 2045: Connecting Our City, Shaping Our Future.
Kelly outlined where the development of the plan stands with stakeholder and public engagement, its technical analysis and sought to integrate council’s thoughts on the plan.
Kelly said around mid- to late-November, it would test ideas in draft form and get more public feedback, with more plan updates coming through the winter and wrapping up in early spring.
“That’s going to be a chance for us to say to people, ‘OK, This is what we think we heard in the first round, this is where we think we might go with some recommendations, and what do you think’ and get feedback,” Kelly said.
She noted the 10 focus groups it held in May on the following topics: industrial and logistics; diversity, equity and inclusion; housing; commercial and business community; transportation and mobility; environmental resources; community services; land use planning for growth; builders; and agriculture.
The previous plan identified growth areas and use districts for the city, and is something Kelly said is being looked at during the update as part of looking at what land uses the city wants to focus on.
“So we’re looking at all of that through this process, trying to understand (that) a big part of what we’re doing is what I would call a capacity analysis,” Kelly said, “so, looking at the growth areas, looking at what’s happened over the past seven years and what development has occurred, and then, asking the question looking out into the future about what development we might expect to occur, and whether what’s in the previous plan can accommodate that. And if so, if we’re identifying the right kinds of development that we want to see.”
She said the plan is also focusing on the character of the city, considering things such as development patterns, the density and the intensity of specific land uses, street patterns and block size, street connectivity and land use.
Kelly said the land use considerations in the current comprehensive plans are things it is looking at now to determine if the concerns now are the same as those adopted in the plan update in 2015. They include maintaining the focused growth approach and expanding growth capacity, capturing new growth opportunities, coordinating transportation and land use considerations, ensuring a high quality and character of development and protecting natural resources and agricultural lands.
Other critical topics have emerged in the plan update discussions, Kelly said, among them encouraging development in a manner that contributes to the city’s economic and quality of life, aligning the workforce with jobs, ensuring a variety of housing types to cater to a range of preferences and incomes, preserving the city’s unique assets such as open spaces and mix of lifestyle options (urban, suburban and rural) and coordinating development and transportation planning.
“I think we all still need to remember that, just like the 2035 plan, or the 2025 plan, or the 2045 plan, it’s a plan,” said Councilman Donald Goldberg, who chairs the steering committee on the latest plan update. “You try to do the best you can with what you have, and then things change along the way. I think that’s what we need to keep in mind the whole time.”
Kelly said they have used different strategies to engage the public, including through the city newsletter, news releases, 5,000 print rack cards, social media, emails and targeted outreach. There have been more than 3,300 unique website visitors to suffolk2045.org, with more than 8,600 views, and another 1,500-plus people engaged in focus groups, online activities and pop-up events such as National Night Out. Paper surveys also have been made available at the city’s libraries and at City Hall.
Kelly said there is still time for individuals to offer their thoughts on the plan through the latter part of September. She said it is saving all comments, verbatim, and will be available to the public.
“I think people are really energized and they’re excited about trying to get their input,” said Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett, “because we hear all this stuff being put up there about traffic and all the other stuff, so that gives them an opportunity to express themselves.”
Mayor Mike Duman said city residents have the luxury of having the lifestyle they want to have, whether it be rural, suburban or urban.
“We can probably offer it someplace, but there is a tradeoff between one and the other,” Duman said. “I just want to bring that out again because it does come out a lot where folks want to know ‘Well, why don’t we have this here,’ or ‘Why do we not have that there.’ We do not go out and drag businesses here and tell them where they have to locate. They’re going to do their market analysis and they are going to go where there are rooftops to shop in their businesses.”
For more information on the 2045 comprehensive plan or to provide comments on it, go to suffolk2045.org.