Judge dismisses Port 460 lawsuit ruling plaintiffs have ‘no standing’ to block rezoning

Published 7:14 pm Friday, July 21, 2023

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A Friday afternoon hearing in Isle of Wight Circuit Court ended with dismissal of a lawsuit intended to block the City of Suffolk’s rezoning of property for the Port 460 project.

In the Friday, July 21 hearing at Isle of Wight County Courthouse, Circuit Court Judge Matthew A. Glassman dismissed the suit brought by three individuals ruling they had “no standing” to challenge the ordinance granting the rezoning on the property.

The law firm Randall, Page and Bruch filed the lawsuit on behalf of Dale Roberts, Gerard Celia and Sterling Taylor 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.

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Glassman said the plaintiff’s complaints of safety, noise pollution and traffic issues presented to the court were making “conclusory statements.” 

Roberts was at the hearing, while Celia and Roberts were absent.

Attorney Chris Daniels addressed the judge’s ruling.

“We respectfully disagree and we attend to appeal,” Daniels said.

In the lawsuit, Roberts, Celia and Taylor contend City Council’s approval of the application for rezoning “was unreasonable, without valid basis in law, arbitrary and capricious, based on consideration of inappropriate factors, and made without giving due consideration to factors it should have considered such as the health, safety, order, prosperity, the conservation of the city’s natural and historic resources, and the general welfare of the city and its residents.” 

In the lawsuit, Roberts had contended the “quiet enjoyment of his property” will be infringed with increased traffic causing safety issues and posing risks to his well water.

Celia also raised concerns in the lawsuit for his well water noting its “close proximity to a massive heavy industrial site and the inevitable and unavoidable pollution that will emit from that site.”

The suit said Taylor has similar concerns about the traffic and the effect the development will have on his well water.

Attorneys point to the city’s own planning documents in seeking a declaratory judgment blocking the rezoning.

“Further, the Port 460 project associated with the application is inconsistent with the county’s long term vision for land use and growth management as outlined in the city’s own comprehensive plan and approval of the application would be inconsistent with the zoning of nearby properties,” the suit contended.

Denise Murden, spokesperson for Port 460 opposition group, said she is disappointed with the ruling.

“It seems to be quite clear that these homeowners will be harmed,” she said. “We plan to appeal. I am disappointed to be sure, but not deterred.”

Suffolk resident Tom Rein agreed with Murden’s assessment of Glassman’s decision, but also said it was not unexpected.

“My will has not been broken,” Rein said. “These cases do impact the citizens and we have to keep pushing forward.”
However, Rein remained optimistic about the future and expressed how this encourages those opposed to the project to move forward.

“We have to work harder [and] be more detailed, and we will do that,” he said. “This doesn’t change the impact this has on the citizens of Suffolk.”

Council’s approval of the rezoning came Sept. 21 with a 5-3 vote after several months of public outcry from local residents. It would allow 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.