Letter – Reject rezoning: The best option for city’s future

Published 7:20 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2022

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To the Editor:

Over the past several months our mayor and councilmembers have heard innumerable objections to the Port 460 project. The reasons presented are as diverse as the individuals presenting them, from environmental damage, to crippling effects on local businesses, to parents viewing the statistical certainty that this plan will directly – with 99.99% certainty – cost the lives of local school children.

I myself have presented more than 20 years of national data showing the harm that occurs when warehouses are placed close to metropolitan centers, particularly to minority communities. The developers have admitted the massive cost to the city for infrastructure and maintenance. From a practical standpoint, truck related accidents on U.S. 460 are already too common and adding more freight traffic is a timebomb.

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Counter to these arguments, you have heard projections for job creation, tax revenue, and the inevitability of such development. While these numbers are spurious, the reality is that progress is necessary, and these projects must go somewhere. We concede that, however our city has delivered multiple warehouse districts to the benefit of the state and the port. There remains growth within those districts yet to be realized without robbing your citizens of yet another portion of their city.

Regarding the concerns about land use, Mr. Williams has offered the best resolution yet: a solar farm. Solar farms require no rezoning, no infrastructure improvements, have no impact on the school zones or traffic, do not affect runoff or the environment, and preserve the land for future development. With evolving state codes, North Carolina has seen an average 2000% increase in local tax revenue from solar farms, with numerous proffers to the community. The ultimate benefit is that by restricting warehouse districts to their current locales, you can continue to attract port business while focusing infrastructure improvements where they are most needed. This is an ideal strategy that addresses the needs of the citizens, the state, the port, and Mr. Williams.

At this moment in time our representatives have a choice to make – one which will forever affect the future of historic Suffolk. They can approve this project, based on the “used-car pitch” that it is a one-time opportunity, or they can pass on it. Should they embrace rezoning, there will be no second chances. Any miscalculation or deviation from the advantages presented by Matan will be indelibly branded on the future of Suffolk.

If they abide by the zoning already in place, the future of our city remains open, and all avenues of growth, including a responsible relationship with the port, may be pursued.

For the future of our city and our children, I ask them to choose wisely. Those pleading for rezoning do not live here. We do.

Gerard Celia, PhD, HCLD, TS, CC