Editorial – Be heard on Suffolk 2045

Published 5:49 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2023

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There’s nothing wrong with raising Cain about ill-advised zoning decisions, and Suffolk residents have shown they aren’t bashful about doing so.

However, we must reiterate a point we make regularly in this space. While it’s easy to get citizens to fill the room for a public hearing on a controversial rezoning or conditional-use permit, citizen engagement is much less robust when it comes time for a community to update its comprehensive plan — arguably the time to have a much more meaningful impact on land-use decisions.

Now is that time.

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Suffolk leaders are working on the first update of the community’s comprehensive plan in seven years. The 20-year plan, dubbed Suffolk 2045, will be a long-range guide for a number of strategic areas, including land use, housing, transportation, parks and open spaces, public safety, schools and economic development.

To their credit, officials are actively seeking participation from the citizenry. The first of seven “community engagement sessions” was held Tuesday night at City Hall. Others are planned for Thursday at Southwestern Elementary School, Feb. 9 at the Chuckatuck Fire Department, Feb. 14 at John Yeates Middle School, Feb. 16 at Nansemond River High School, Feb. 23 at Col. Fred Cherry Middle School and Feb. 28 at the Curtis R. Milteer, Sr. Recreation Center. All start at 6 p.m. 

Citizens can talk about any related topic, but officials say they especially want to hear feedback on planning and coordinating approaches for residential and commercial development; managing the impacts of increased residential development; mitigating traffic congestion and improving roads; maintaining Suffolk’s rural heritage and small-town feel; creating downtown investment and revitalization; and incorporating open space, parks, entertainment, restaurants, recreation and retail opportunities.

For the many citizens angry about City Council approval of the Port 460 warehousing complex, now is the time to show up and say unequivocally to city leaders: No more warehouses. Suffolk must immediately pivot to a more creative, innovative, lucrative and less burdensome strategy for economic development and job creation.

Suffolk 2045 is the perfect document in which to say no to warehouses and yes to a brighter future for our city. It won’t happen unless citizens show up for this month’s engagement sessions and demand it.