SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia’s governor is throwing his support behind a controversial development proposal, two weeks before City Council could vote to greenlight the project.
Wednesday afternoon, when asked by 10 On Your Side why he supports “Port 460,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-Va.) told reporters it shows “Virginia is open for business.”
“What we are seeing around the Port [of Virginia], is a huge interest in expanding the port’s operations,” Youngkin said. “I think Hampton Roads broadly can be a good growth engine for the Commonwealth and it’s exciting to see happen. So I think this cooperation between local authorities and state authorities in order to provide for economic development is really important.”
The plans submitted by Maryland-based Matan Companies calls for the purchase and rezoning of approximately 540 acres of farmland in order to build roughly 10 warehouses that would ultimately be marketed for logistics uses.
“The current vacancy rate for this kind of development is 1.4%, for class A warehouse and distribution, meaning there is market demand and need for the project,” Doug Smith, President and CEO of Hampton Roads Alliance, said to Suffolk City Council on Wednesday night.
It’s estimated by city staff the $420 million project will create 2,600 construction jobs and 9,000 long-term jobs.
The development team praised the location’s access to major roads. The property long farmed by the Williams family sits with 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.
That is the same reason a tidal wave of neighbors have come out against the project.
“Several city councilman noted that they’ve never seen so much opposition and so much involvement from the citizens of Suffolk, as they did for this particular proposal for rezoning. Heed that,” said Katherine Cross, who lives near the project.
Most concerns center around safety, with increased truck traffic expected. Others lamented about the disappearing rural nature of the community.
Developers committed to paying a total of $6.6 million for road improvements around the project. Virginia Secretary of Transportation W. Sheppard Miller III also committed to helping find funding for the city to improve its “key freight corridors.”
However Del. Clinton Jenkins, (D-Suffolk) cast doubt that money could be found quickly.
“The state does not have any funding in the current budget for the Port 460 project. I’ll reiterate. The state does not have any funding in the current state budget,” Jenkins said.
On Wednesday after public comments, Mayor Mike Duman said he was still concerned about the money.
“Yeah, you can believe them, you talk to the state, you talk to the Port, but where is the money coming from? … this can not fall on the backs of the taxpayers,” Duman said.
He said on September 21, he’d like to defer the issue for another 30 days. He does not believe that will happen.