Letter – It’s time now to take a pause on rezoning

Published 9:10 pm Friday, December 16, 2022

Editor:

Last week, City Council voted to restrict through truck traffic on several streets in North Suffolk, including Shoulders Hill and Suffolk Meadows Boulevard. I appreciate Council responding to citizen concerns about the increase in tractor-trailer problems in that area.

Whenever I drive that way I get a clear picture of what we need to prevent right outside downtown Suffolk. I recently wrote a letter about this, which I’d like to expand on by sharing some observations from the city’s planning documents that make me scratch my head.

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I had never read a staff report, reviewed a Traffic Impact Study, or heard of a Comprehensive Plan until recently—when I learned that a developer wants to rezone parcels on both Lake Kilby/Lake Cohoon and Manning Roads to allow for over 200 and 300 homes, respectively.

It was a new experience for me to request documents from the City, but I have since looked at multiple residential rezoning requests. Some interesting trends have jumped out at me. First, is that the staff reports presented to the Planning Commission and City Council only note new peak hour vehicle trips projected by traffic studies, but not the projected new trips for the entire day. In the example of Lake Kilby Road, the difference is 300-plus peak hour trips verses more than 2,000 for a whole day. There is also no mention of projected vehicle trips for other upcoming nearby developments. In the case of Manning Road, the projected new peak hour trips are more than 500 while the daily trip number is more than 2,800. Of course, peak hour traffic is important, but these daily totals are no small matter for our quality of life and roads.

The 2035 Comprehensive Plan (written in 2015) is a very important planning document used to inform growth and development decisions. Several policies from the plan are commonly used to help justify residential rezoning, but Policy 4-1 is one that especially struck me. It states: “Provide opportunities for residents to adopt a lifestyle that is less dependent on auto travel.”

Let the irony of that sink in while you imagine an extra 2,000 daily vehicle trips on rural, ditch-lined roads combined with thousands of new tractor-trailers driving throughout the city.

Citizens are now speaking out about what is happening on our roads. Their actual experiences and concerns should hold the most weight in these large-scale decisions that cost the city a lot of money and potentially disrupt the way of life so many people enjoy.

Suffolk is currently working on a 2045 Comprehensive Plan, but we need a pause on much of this rezoning now before our road situation gets any worse. We need to ensure that future development is more compatible with reality than a plan written seven years ago.

Bryan Harris

Suffolk