Planning provides second of five 2045 Comprehensive Plan updates

Published 7:43 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2023

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Suffolk Planning and Community Development returned to provide part two of their 2045 Comprehensive Plan update. During City Council’s Wednesday, August 16 work session, the department provided Land Use and Development information. The update is the second of five topics, with Wednesday, Aug. 2, focusing on the update on the department’s community engagement efforts.

Comprehensive Planning Manager Keith Cannady provided a presentation that broke down the topic into four discussion points: Update growth area boundary and land use plan, recommend small area/district plan priorities, recommend United Development Ordinance, and recommend zoning map amendments. Starting off, Cannady detailed the main values in land use consideration. 

“I think it’s important also just to step back at the outset here and recognize the broad values in land use consideration which have been part of this process from the beginning, and really for Suffolk a part of your comprehensive planning efforts for 25 years or so as we discussed at your retreat,” Cannady said.

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These key values included an efficient transportation network and mobility choices for residents, protecting Suffolk’s natural resources, preserving the city’s agricultural heritage, supporting economic development opportunities, and promoting diverse housing options. Key considerations for land use were also presented and included a focused growth approach while expanding growth opportunities, ensuring high quality and character of development, coordinating transportation and land use and protecting both natural resources and agricultural lands. Likewise, supporting fiscally sustainable development and promoting synergy between economic development and land use was noted as well. For growth area boundary and land use plan updates, Cannady also detailed the department is looking at a more “refined approach” for how the plan identifies future land use categories.

“…Suffolk’s current plan identifies seven land use categories. It’s not uncommon for land use plans to include twice that number or even more categories as they plan for the future,” Cannady said. “This approach can provide better predictability for how the city would like to grow as well as a better definition for the established development areas that you have that you’d like to protect.”

On recommending small area and district plan priorities, he noted updates for the Downtown Suffolk Master Plan, the North Suffolk Master Plan and the Village Plan. 

“Heard a lot of good things about Downtown Suffolk, and we think it’s time to revisit that master plan and update that as a priority going forward. We also think that the North Suffolk area, particularly that urban core that has developed in North Suffolk, might be a good opportunity for more detailed planning as well, particularly around transportation. I think we’ve also all recognize that the Village area plans need to be updated, so that’s something that we’re strongly considering as a recommendation in this update.”

Finally, Cannady presented recommendations for United Development Ordinances and zoning map amendments. The six UDO amendment priorities included workforce and affordable housing, utility scale solar installations, minor subdivisions, fiscal impact analysis, downtown zoning districts and village commercial. Likewise, he detailed that as the land use plan is developed, there will be a need to bring zoning “in compliance and consistency with the land use plan.” 

Following the presentation, Council Member Timothy Johnson thanked Cannady for the six UDO amendment priorities.

“It looks like you guys are still on it,” he expressed. “Thank you for still looking at these things and land use is of utmost importance to our city and is something that we all consider everytime we sit up here.”

Council Member Shelly Butler-Barlow asked Cannady why “Village Commercial” was singled out in the presentation. Cannady replied that the land use plan describes a village area as one of the land use categories.

“I think we’ll want to look at that as part of the update for the land use plan,” Cannady said. “But if that changes, then the underlying zoning may need to change as well. So that’s what the thinking is there.”

Finally, Mayor Michael D. Duman also expressed how “spot on” the six recommended UDO amendments are.

“My hats off to you. Stay on top of it as far as I’m concerned. That’s huge as far as a lot of the concerns that we have, and we’ll address a lot of the concerns moving forward. So thank you very much,” Duman ended.