SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Suffolk City Council has approved a rezoning request Wednesday, paving the way for the “Port 460 Project.”
Despite concerns from community members, city council voted 5-3 for the rezoning.
The “Port 460 Project” would build warehouses used for logistics on more than 500 acres of farmland and commercial use space along Route 460, between Nansemond Suffolk Academy and Route 58.
The plan has been championed by developers and the Port of Virginia as a critical job creator, but has previously been met with a wave of opposition from the surrounding community, mainly over concerns of traffic and a disappearing agricultural setting.
Community members against the project have expressed their frustration through petitions, rallies and by speaking to city leaders.
The group sent WAVY a statement with a list of reasons why they believe the project does not belong in the area. It includes:
- “Heavy industrial zoning does not belong in a suburban use district.”
- “The proposed project lies at the intersection of these roads and is also bordered by Pitchkettle Road, a winding country road unsuited for truck traffic.”
- “Citizens have a say in how the land is zoned and developed, which is already laid out in the 2035 Comprehensive Plan that was developed with citizen input.”
Gov. Glenn Youngkin has previously expressed his full support for the project, saying the project shows that “Virginia is open for business.”
The city says the $420 million project could create more than 2,000 construction jobs and around 9,000 long-term jobs. The project is also expected to nearly double the median income of $26,000 to more than $47,700.
Mayor Mike Duman had a stack of community concerns during Wednesday night’s city council meeting and spent more than half an hour reading aloud his research to answer the community’s most-asked questions.
Mayor Duman explained how traffic was the biggest concern among Suffolk residents, with traffic making up 41% of complaints about the Port 460 project.
According to the Hampton Road Traffic Planning Organization analysis of VDOT/CBBT data, US-460 and US-58 combined already rival I-64 when considering weekday truck volumes. City council member Shelley Butler Barlow mentioned that she believed the funding for the needed US-460/US-58 road improvements could be secured from the state without Port 460 as leverage.
In response to residents’ roadway concerns, the City Planning Commission’s presented a four-phased traffic plan during the meeting.
Phase 1 includes the modification of the westbound off-ramp of the 58 bypass to westbound 460, closure of the median break on 460 at Miller Mart, upgrade to the signal at Northfield and 460, and construction of a new Road A.
Phase 2 would optimize the timing and operations of the traffic signal system and halt traffic access to Murphy’s Mill Road.
Phase 3 widens Pitchkettle Road and prohibits trucks from turning left on Pitchkettle towards route 58.
Phase 4 builds up Pitchkettle Road and Road F to include turn lanes.
A previously discussed “landscape buffer” adjoining Nansemond Suffolk Academy and along the Murphy’s Mill Road right-of-way would also be put in place.
According to Suffolk, the engineering plan alone will cost an estimated $8.4 million and would be completed in the Spring of 2023. Construction could cost an estimated $47 million alone before right-of-way costs are factored which could be an additional $30 million.
Costs in total for the roadway improvements would be just under $90 million versus an originally estimated $100 million from an earlier council meeting.
Mayor Duman also projected the project to bring in $6.5-$8 million a year in real estate taxes and $500,000 a year in water connections.
Duman stressed no economic development incentives or tax dollars will be going to the developer.
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