Residents speak out at first of seven Community Engagement Sessions
Published 5:47 pm Thursday, February 2, 2023
The last night of January saw many Suffolk residents come out to make their concerns known at the first of seven Winter Community Engagement Sessions, designed to focus on improvements and ideas for the 2045 Comprehensive Plan.
Taking place at City Council chambers on 442 W. Washington Street, the Jan. 31 session was held by Comprehensive Planning Manager Keith Cannady with Interim Director of Media and Community Relations Jennifer Moore moderating the meeting.
Also attending the session were councilmembers Roger Fawcett, John Rector, Leroy Bennett, retired councilman Donald Goldberg, as well as Deputy City Manager Kevin Hughes and Planning Commission Member Mills Staylor.
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More than 30 residents brought up a variety of issues that they want the city to address and improve on in the updated comprehensive plan. These range from police understaffing, improving the downtown area and increasing jobs for small businesses to preserving rural areas, road and traffic issues, and the need for public notification when city plans are in the works. The meeting was kept informal with no citizen asked to provide names or addresses.
“We want Suffolk to look the very best we can,” said one citizen regarding trash and disposing issues in the downtown area. Another citizen spoke on how rural areas also had trash issues and that adding signs to halt the problem contributes to having trash dumped on said signs.
On preserving Suffolk’s rural areas, citizens noted how roads need to be better equipped to serve these areas, as well as the issue of roads being within growth areas that can’t handle added traffic. Likewise, one citizen said in order for the City Council to approve options for certain areas, they need to visit there themselves prior to voting.
Housing values and needs also were raised at the meeting. Residents pointed to the need for both affordable and senior housing, with the issue of population density being to be considered as well. Likewise citizens expressed their desire for returning amenities, such as a movie theater and roller-skating rink for children in the city.
Additional comments were made on the traffic issues on Portsmouth Boulevard, as well as the parking issues for the downtown area. Another citizen spoke on the downtown area’s issues of incomplete streets, amenities, gateways and infrastructure despite the investment it had back in 2006. One citizen said they believe city government needs to publicly notify them on day one when a new plan is in the works.
“I think we did what we set out to do, and that’s sort of share some information about the comprehensive plan and why people should care about it and… I think we heard good feedback,” said Comprehensive Planning Manager Keith Cannady after the meeting. “Folks care alot about Suffolk, and we heard that tonight. We heard some good ideas about what we should do or not do. And that’s what we’re looking for.”
A second meeting was held Feb. 2 at Southwestern Elementary School. The next five meetings on the 2045 Comprehensive Plan will be held from 6-8 p.m. at:
- Chuckatuck Fire Station 9, Feb. 9
- John Yeates Middle School, Feb. 14
- Nansemond River High School, Feb. 16
- Col. Fred Cherry Middle School, Feb. 23, and
- Curtis R. Milteer, Sr. Recreation Center, Feb. 28.
“One of the things we’re trying to do is go to where everyone is, and the areas are so different,” Cannady said. “We’ve got the rural areas, we’ve got suburban growing areas, we’ve got older developed communities, so part of our goal is to go to people who represent those different interests and let them tell us what they think.”
“All we can do is provide the opportunity, and hope that people show up and tell us what they’re thinking about,” he added.
For those unable to attend or want to make another concern known, citizens can go to suffolk2045.org/critical-questions to make their voices heard. For more information, go to suffolk2045.org.