Citizens Voice created after court ruling on Port 460 rezoning
Published 5:37 pm Tuesday, September 5, 2023
A group of Suffolk residents who became engaged in challenging rezoning for the Port 460 project and other developments in the city have established Citizens Voice.
In a news release, the group said the non-profit organization intends to continue to address the Port 460 and other land use issues.
Citizens Voice was incorporated July 21, the same day that Judge Matthew Glassman determined in Suffolk District Court that three plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge Suffolk City Council’s 5-3 vote on Sept. 21, 2022, to rezone 540 acres of agricultural land surrounded by residential neighborhoods, businesses and schools to heavy industrial.
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The rezoning was requested by Matan Companies for a proposed warehouse and distribution center, called Port 460 with plans of developing the farmland into 5 million square feet of warehouses.
Having been ceded financial responsibility for the grassroots fundraising efforts that supported the year-long legal fight, the news release said Citizens Voice’s first task was to determine the financial and legal viability of the case. After consulting with multiple legal experts, the board determined that an appeal of the Port 460 decision was likely to be unsuccessful given the constraints of Virginia law and the deficiencies found in the legal argument and the costs would be exorbitant.
The plaintiffs have been advised that no one is stepping forward to assume the financial responsibility for the legal fees necessary to appeal the decision and pursue this course of legal action.
With Port 460 as its “marquee” issue and a mission of “amplifying citizens’ voices in land use decisions,” Citizens Voice intends to take a leading role in monitoring the Port 460 and other warehouse development throughout the City of Suffolk and the Hampton Roads area being driven by the Port of Virginia expansion, the release noted.
By bringing residents, city officials and Matan representatives together, Citizens Voice will identify potential quality of life impacts of the Port 460 project and seek equitable solutions to mitigate them. The organization will also ensure concerned residents are informed of permit hearings and other opportunities to provide input to official decision making in the processes that will be required to build the project.
Citizens Voice board members also have undertaken a review of proposed OTA2023-007, which would establish minimum standards for new warehouses and warehouse developments built in the city.
Suffolk Planning Commission voted to recommend approval on Aug. 15, with little announcement, discussion or public input.
City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance on Sept. 20. Citizens Voice said in the news release it believes more equitable standards should be developed, and board members have already started making their recommendations to council members.
As leaders of a newly formed organization addressing one of the most critical development issues facing both and the coastal region, the release said board members are eager to engage concerned citizens as volunteers and contributors to Citizens Voice efforts.
More information and contacts can be found by visiting the Citizens Voice website citizens-voice.com or sending an email to email@example.com.