Lake Kilby Shores rezoning vote delayed
Published 5:19 pm Friday, April 21, 2023
Rezoning consideration of property at Lake Kilby Shores is on hold until August, but City Council opted to hear comments at a public hearing it had scheduled Wednesday.
The request would change zoning on the property from RE-Rural Estate zoning district to RM-Residential Medium Density.
Prior to the Wednesday, April 19 public hearing, the applicant filed a written request to defer the ordinance for 120 days to the Aug. 16 council meeting.
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Following back and forths between council members and City Attorney William E. Hutchings that resulted in motions, ties and revotes to help provide citizens that came out to speak out, council agreed to continue consideration on the rezoning to Aug. 16, but to hear public feedback at the current hearing.
The public hearing was one of several that were part of what turned into a six-hour meeting that did not end until after midnight. It follows the Planning Commission’s action March 21 recommending approval of the rezoning request on a 5-3 vote.
Norfolk Real Estate Lawyer Grady Palmer spoke in support of the rezoning, noting that those supporting the developer were wearing “Smart Growth” stickers.
“There are big issues involved in this rezoning and I know many of the people that are here in support of this project are here because they are concerned about a healthy housing market in Suffolk,” Palmer said. “We understand the people that are opposed to this project as well.”
He said he believes but it’s important to have a healthy housing market that allows buyers choices in the area they want to live.
“This is a new residential project that is consistent with the comprehensive plan,” Palmer said. “It’s recommended for approval by your staff. It’s recommended by the Planning Commission; and it’s important that that be approved from a healthy housing perspective.”
Zion Community Church Pastor Ben Fitzgerald told council that contrary to popular belief, everyone doesn’t want to move to North Suffolk.
“Suffolk is a big place and there’s room for people throughout. It’s ridiculous for us to think it would chase all the agriculture away,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald believes this project would strengthen downtown businesses.
“Downtown Suffolk has a lot of potential,” he said. “The problem is you need more rooftops. You need more people to help support those things. And as I think history has proven, us on the northern end, we’re not coming to downtown on any regular basis. So we need to get some rooftops closer to there.”
Michelle Faulk spoke in opposition to the request, asking about the affordability of the new homes.
“In the fiscal impact analysis, the developer, Mr. Arnet, proposes to build about 204 homes at $500,000. That’s a whole lot of money coming into Suffolk,” Faulk said. “Yet, we keep hearing about affordable homes.”
She went on to asky why these these homes can be called affordable, particularly for millennials.
“Tell me how can a millennial afford a half a million dollar home? The ones I know can’t,” Faulk said. “The average cost of a house according to Zillow is $338,968 and going up — actually went up this past year about a 5.3%. Even if you had two adults working, they also have other financial obligations.”
She said she wonders how they would find the kind of money needed for these homes.
Suffolk resident Bryan Harris voiced his opposition to the rezoning, pointing out that the wrong graphic was used during the presentation.
“The devil is in the details: that’s the wrong graphic up there,” Harris said. “That was for the rezoning that was denied last year, so that’s not the same concept graphic. Just a small detail. The little ones, they add up though,” Harris said.
“I really wish we would’ve just gone through it tonight.”
Harris said he brought a lot of people to the meeting, adding that they’ve spent a lot of time on it.
“It’s really frustrating that the deference goes to the developer, not the citizens who are putting in the real hard work. This is now the third go around for us,” he said. “I know that you say that you’re listening, but I think it’s more of a hearing. Those two words are not the same.”
Harris provided a petition with 586 signatures from local residents opposing the rezoning. He added that several people who had planned to speak will not save their comments for the Aug. 16 hearing.
He then asked those in the audience who had read the rezoning application to raise their hands.
“Before we come back, I hope everybody takes the time to read this application because many things that were said up here do not align with what that application has been presented to staff,” Harris said. “When we come back, I really hope people are grounded and based (knocking on stand) and know what’s in this application. Because like that graphic, the details matter. We’ll see you guys in August.”