Fourth Winter Community Session continues with taking public feedback

Published 5:59 pm Friday, February 17, 2023

Despite a rough start with public shouting following a question directed at the Planning Commission, the fourth Winter Community Session held Tuesday, Feb. 14 continued receiving public feedback on ideas and concerns for the city’s 2045 Comprehensive Plan.

The meeting held at John Yeates Middle School, was led by Director of Planning and Community Development Kevin Wyne with Interim Director of Media and Community Relations Jennifer Moore moderating the session. 

Citizens comments during this session ranged from traffic issues on Bridge Road and a lack of reasons to visit the downtown area, to concerns about the lack of a downtown center and developing incubators for small businesses.

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“I’ve been fortunate enough to visit all 50 states, drive in all 50 states, and I can tell you right now, the traffic on Bridge Road makes it feel like a large city.” one citizen remarked on the topic of preserving Suffolk’s small town feel. Speakers are not asked to provide their names at the sessions as officials work to keep them informal. “You have about 50% more traffic in the last three to five years, on Bridge Road, than we used to have and every single traffic light on that road is messed up. Every single one.”

On the question of how to accommodate new housing while still protecting the city’s agriculture areas, Agricultural Advisory Committee Member Bryan Harris voiced his disapproval.

“I think that this question right here drives all of our challenges here, where businesses are being pushed out, roads are busy and congested,” Harris said. “There’s this thought that ‘Oh, we need more rooftops for bringing in more businesses.’ What’s happened is we brought in more rooftops and we have less small business.”

He said he believes this is the question that is the most important part of the 2045 comprehensive plan and it needs to be data driven. 

“When a developer comes to planning, if there is not data that supports their proposal, that application does not need to be considered,” Harris added. “‘Cause you and I know there are more than 7,000 units approved to be built right now that have not yet been built. That is a lot of homes, that’s 15 years of projected growth force.”

Harris stressed the importance of data before making any final decision.

“I think you need to have data that drives these decisions, he said. “No data, no decisions.”

Another citizen spoke up saying he doubts the city is at 100 percent occupancy of the warehouses here.

“Do we need another 5 million square feet of warehouses at the expense of the nature and agriculture that makes this city what it is? I don’t think so,” a citizen said following up on this same question.

Following the meeting, several citizens voiced concerns that the sessions are simply a formality, while others said they were hopeful change would come out from them. 

Other officials who attended this session include Vice Mayor Lue Ward, City Manager Albert S. Moor II, Council Members Roger Fawcett, Leroy Bennett, Shelley Butler-Barlow, and retired Council Member Donald Goldberg.

The last two listening sessions on the 2045 Comprehensive Plan are from 6-8 p.m. at:

  • Col. Fred Cherry Middle School, Feb. 23, and 
  • Curtis R. Milteer, Sr. Recreation Center, Feb. 28.

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.