Opponents of rezoning for Port 460 project rallied outside City Hall ahead of next week’s expected vote by council
Published 5:39 pm Tuesday, September 13, 2022
More than 20 people rallied outside City Hall last week in opposition to the proposed rezoning for the 540-acre Port 460 Logistics Center.
The rally was held before City Council’s regular Sept. 7 meeting. While the topic was not on the agenda for that meeting, 17 opponents spoke out during the non-agenda public comment period of council’s meeting ahead of council’s anticipated Sept. 21 vote.
The property off of U.S. Routes 460 and 58 and Pitchkettle, Kings Fork and Murphys Mill roads would be rezoned from general commercial and agricultural to heavy industrial zoning to allow for 4.7 million square feet of warehouses, 10 in all, to be built, along with some commercial retail to be put on property fronting U.S. 460.
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Council tabled the matter at its Aug. 17 meeting, with Mayor Mike Duman and other council members asking for more information about the project before they vote.
Erin Clemow asked council to think of their most prized possession before voting on the rezoning for the project. For her, it’s children.
“I hear a lot of talk about tax revenue and how we’re going to try and get money for (road) improvements,” Clemow said. “But I don’t hear much about protecting our children from the danger that Port 460 will bring.”
She cited information she said came from Suffolk Public Schools showing 82 bus trips each morning on U.S. 460, with Isle of Wight Academy making another five bus trips on the road every morning, and 174 daily bus trips counting including the afternoon bus runs.
Democratic Del. Clinton Jenkins, who is running against Republican Emily Brewer for the newly drawn 17th District Senate seat, also spoke, stressing that the state has no funding in the current budget for the Port 460 project.
Jenkins had identified himself as the 76th District delegate whose district is 85% of Suffolk and the remainder in Portsmouth. However, the current district boundaries include parts of Suffolk and Chesapeake. The new 17th District Senate district does include parts of Portsmouth, along with parts of Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight County, Southampton County, Brunswick County, Greensville County, Emporia and part of Dinwiddie County.
“And as you are aware, the city of Portsmouth does not receive any tax revenue from the ports,” Jenkins said during the public comment period. “And Suffolk does not receive any revenue for road repairs from the ports. So I kindly ask that you work out a plan that’s beneficial for the city of Suffolk and its residents when it comes to the Port 460 project.”
Three others, including Doug Smith, president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Alliance and Barbara Nelson, vice president of development and transportation policy for the Port of Virginia, said they favored the rezoning for the project.
“The current vacancy rate for this kind of development is 1.4% for class A warehouse and distribution, meaning there is market demand and need for this project,” Smith said.
Matan Companies and its representatives have touted the need for the warehouse space to support the Port of Virginia, which is backing the project, and said it would create up to 9,000 jobs and bring in significant tax revenue for the state and city.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin has also come out publicly in favor of the project, telling WAVY-TV that it shows “Virginia is open for business.”
Duman has indicated that, unless he gets the answers he is looking for about the project, he would prefer to table the proposed rezoning for another 30 days, though he does not expect that to happen.