Port 460 rezoning hearing delayed to allow plaintiffs to file addendum

Published 5:21 pm Wednesday, May 10, 2023

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A Tuesday, May 9 hearing on a lawsuit involving Suffolk’s rezoning of land for the Port 460 project saw the court grant a request from those seeking to block that decision to add an addendum to their filing.

Dale Roberts, Gerard Celia and Sterling Taylor filed suit in Suffolk Circuit Court last October seeking to block City Council’s decision to rezone property for development of the Port 460 Logistics Center on 2925 Pruden Boulevard.

They filed suit after council’s approval of the rezoning Sept. 21 on a 5-3 vote after several months of public outcry from local residents. It allows the rezoning of the 540-acre property off of U.S. 460 that would bring with it 4.7 million square feet of development with 10 warehouses and five commercial retail buildings.

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Speaking to lawyers, Suffolk Circuit Court Judge Matthew A. Glassman said he wanted to give an “opportunity to bring the best complaint that you have” to the hearing.

Glassman then agreed to set a new hearing date on the case for July 21.

Celia called his decision a “mild victory” for their case.

“This gives our team more time to flesh out their objections to the city’s rezoning decision and holds off the start of construction by Matan even further,” Celia said in a statement. “Ultimately, though, no decision was reached, no agreements were made, and no judgment was rendered. It is merely a delay at this time, but one that works in our favor.” 

He said he hopes their attorneys can ultimately bring the strongest case possible against the city council.

Celia said he believes they will be able to “demonstrate why they violated their duties and authority when they arrived at the decision to allow rural agricultural zoning to be reassigned as Heavy Industrial 2 zoning for the William’s property.”

Denise Murden, spokesperson for the opponents against the Port 460 rezoning, said the judge’s decision will allow them to prepare additional information for the court to consider.

“It is a delay, but we were happy about the outcome because our attorneys had requested to amend their petition, which means they have additional information that they’d like to include. So of course, we want to have as solid of a case presented as we can when it does go out to hearing,” Murden said after the hearing. “The next part of the legal process is the judge actually hearing all of the arguments, both pro and con, for why this should go forward to be heard.”

When contacted for comment, City Attorney William E. Hutchings Jr. directed the News-Herald to the city’s media relations.

Jennifer Moore said the city would have no comment during pending litigation.

In its court filing Dec. 27, Hutchings asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming they have a lack of standing in the case and that the record shows City Council’s decision to grant the rezoning was reasonable.

“The Plantiff’s lack standing because they have not alleged facts that show a particular harm,” the city’s filing states. It cites areas where they claim it will infringe on their quiet enjoyment of their property, that it poses safety issues on the roads and that it will harm well-water and the health of the plaintiffs.

The city’s response to the original suit also states that City Council’s decision on the rezoning was not arbitrary, not capricious, but reasonable.

“If the reasonableness of the underlying zoning is, at the very last ‘fairly debatable’ then it does not matter whether the landowner’s application was reasonable or even the best use of the land.”

Glassman scheduled the hearing for 2 p.m. July 21 in Isle of Wight County Circuit Court.

Editor’s note: Updated third quote as well as seventh and eighth passage at 7:15 p.m., Wednesday, May 10 to reflect grammatical corrections.