SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — City leaders put off making a decision on a whether to approve a new sprawling logistics center warehouse complex in order to get more of their questions answered.
In a 7-1 vote Wednesday night, Suffolk City Council tabled the proposed rezoning that would have allowed for the “Port 460” project to move forward on land just northwest of downtown.
The plan being championed by developers and the Port of Virginia as a critical job creator has been met with a wave of opposition from the surrounding community, mainly over concerns of traffic and a disappearing agricultural setting.
Mayor Mike Duman called it the most impactful land-use decision to come forward during his time as mayor. He hopes in 30 days to have more information to inform the decision he will have to make.
“Port 460” is the name given to the proposal being brought forward by Maryland-based Matan Companies.
Their pitch is to purchase and rezone approximately 540 acres of farmland in order build roughly 10 warehouses totaling 4.7 million square feet. The property sits by Kings Fork Road to the north, Pitchkettle Road to west, Pruden Boulevard (U.S. Route 460) to east and Murphys Mill Road and U. S. Route 58 to the south.
Brian Morris with the Matan Companies said while no tenants are lined up yet, he expects a majority would be logistics and warehouse users. Online retailers have been in search of more space since the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated online shopping trends.
“The demand is inevitably at an all time high and is coming to this region because of the Port of Virginia and its exponential growth,” Morris said.
The development team praised the location for access to major roadways. It’s estimated by city staff the $420 million project will create 2,600 construction jobs and 9,000 long term jobs.
However one of the main concerns from the community has been what the extra traffic will do to their area roads.
“This project where it is situated is putting massive square peg into a much smaller round hole,” Chad Hart, a resident who spoke, said. He felt the development would be more appropriate near other warehouses further west down route 58.
Several others spoke out against the disappearing rural nature of the community.
Increased truck traffic has long been the chief concern.
Wednesday night, developers committed to paying a total of $6.6 million for road improvements around the project. However, Mayor Duman was concerned there wouldn’t be enough money for all the improvements that will be needed.
While both the Port of Virginia and Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration have pledged support for helping to improve roads for the project.
In a letter to Mayor Duman, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shepard Miller writes the state is committed to working with the city on planning and investment in “key freight corridors.”
Duman wants to see the money.
“I’m not satisfied because I’m not sure we will be able to get the money in a reasonable amount of time. Whether we will have the money if this thing goes through,” Duman said.
Councilman Timothy Johnson, the lone “no” vote for the tabling, gave an impassioned speech against the project that is located in his borough.
“What are we doing? … we should be about, protecting our community, Johnson said. “The traffic congestion just kills it. The fact that I don’t believe a warehouse district would belong in a residential district. I’m sorry I just don’t agree with it. I can’t vote in favor of it.”