2045 Comprehensive plan open houses met with mixed feelings

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Suffolk, Va. – Last week, Suffolk residents came out to three open house events to voice concerns/support for the draft version of the 2045 comprehensive plan. 

During three community engagement sessions held by the City of Suffolk on Wednesday, March 13, Thursday, March 14 and Saturday, March 16 at the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront, Hub 757 and Suffolk City Hall, locals had the opportunity to learn the latest updates regarding the draft comprehensive plan while also providing city officials comments and feedback on the plan’s direction before its send off to the Planning Commission and, finally, City Council for approval.

When she learned about the draft plan, Michele Faulk, who lives in Suffolk’s rural area, expressed concern about the city’s plan to build too many cluster homes on the area’s small acreage. She also expressed concerns about school capacity and traffic.

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“I just think that it shouldn’t be about how much money you can bring in. It’s about your citizens and what their needs are. It’s about our children that are attending school. The schools are overcrowded. You’re not addressing that,” Faulk said. “And traffic. On Manning Road, every week, there’s an accident or someone’s in the ditch. We’ve had tractor-trailers coming down Manning Road. If you think that’s going to disappear once [Route] 58 is finished, it is not going to disappear, simply because they know how [to] come around the backway, but they wind up in the ditches.”

Dr. Andi Parodi commended the presenters of the draft plan; however, she questioned whether those involved with the plan ever went out to see the properties and lands in person.

“Particularly since we have such a tremendous amount of wetlands and lands that are very fragile from the standpoint of supporting neighborhoods, communities, drainage, wells, and septic tanks — did they go to see any of it? And they did not,” Parodi said.

Parodi says that after reading parts of the plan, she found that staff drew conclusions “logical for their presentation” but not “accurate in terms of the reality.”

“For example, they gave an example for something related to the Nansemond River, stating that it did not have a significant title effect. Totally wrong. I live right on the Nansemond River. We have a very powerful current and it’s a mixed current, coming from the river, coming in from the ocean effect on the Chesapeake Bay. We’re the first large river coming off the Chesapeake Bay and having the influence also of the large body of the James [River],” Parodi said. “We have a maze of tributaries and we have significant water issues all over the map related to that. So making assumptions that we’re a low water flow area is wrong.”

Fritz Whitfield Sr. and Tiffany Whitfield both had various concerns about the draft plan. Whitfield Sr. says that he noticed a lack of improvements for “heavily congested” roadways and highways. He also noted a lack of technology and plans for higher education.

“ … There’s no innovation or technology which helps to build a better city … to take us into a better realm for the next life,” he said. “I don’t also see any type of plan for education, in terms of higher education, at least for the community colleges that we used to have. For example, there’s Tidewater Community College and there’s Paul D. Camp, but there’s nothing to help evolve them to help the citizens of Suffolk become better people.”

Tiffany Whitfield discussed the lack of transportation access for elderly and disabled people and provided feedback on libraries.

“I feel like there’s nothing up here that talks about their access and making it more equitable for them to get around, let alone be able to be seen and be heard,” she said. “Also, I don’t see anything about the libraries, even specifically the one in Chuckatuck, it is so tiny and so outdated. I don’t see anything that talks about that as well as expanding it or building up more libraries because your libraries do say a lot about literacy in your city and just about access as well.”

Along with wanting to see park improvements, better medical buildings for children with disabilities, and the city becoming more vibrant, Whitfield Sr. gave feedback on the city’s water resources.

“The City of Suffolk has a lot of Great Lakes, and they don’t protect it. One of the things that I am angry about is, you have the City of Norfolk and the City of Portsmouth that owns the lakes in this city,” Whitfield Sr. said. “Nobody wants to explain how that happens, and then, they don’t want to actually fight to get the lakes back. But at the same time, they not only have the lake rights, but they have the land rights around the lakes, which I think is a big issue. The city really needs to take action in doing something about that so that the citizens here can utilize those lakes without having to be charged by another city.”

Evette Keen, a three-year resident, is happy to see that a plan is in place.

“It’s good to see we have a plan and a direction,” Keen said. “Because Suffolk is growing very fast.”

DeNeak West, a two-year resident, says she would like to see more of the city. She notes fine dining restaurants, clothing stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, movie theaters, and skating rinks. West notes her “frustration” with having to leave her own city for entertainment.

“I’m seeing all these storage units go up. We don’t need another storage unit. We don’t need another car wash. We don’t need another fast-food restaurant, nail salons … We don’t need any more of that type of stuff,” West said.

West also says she wants Suffolk to have places for younger people to have fun, citing her young adult son’s return from college as an example.

“He’s here from school, and he’s bored out of his mind because he has nothing to do. Nowhere to go. So something for young people, young adults to do as well, as well as older people like myself. I would like to see a Dave and Busters or a Main Event…,” she said. “Me and my husband talked about a drive-in theater, when was the last time you’ve seen one of those? It’s been a long time! And we have the space for it, to do something like that. So, that’s what I would like to see.”

Residents can provide online feedback until Monday, April 8. To view the draft comprehensive plan and more information, go to suffolk2045.org.