For the editor:
Following the public hearing before the Planning Commission on July 19, I wrote to you to share several concerns with the proposed Port 460 project. Since then, I have attended the second community outreach by Matan Companies on August 4 and I have watched portions of the video of board meetings on this topic over the past few weeks. The lack of a meaningful response to the concerns I had raised, as well as some additional concerns that have arisen, cause me to express serious reservations on these issues.
1. An inappropriate place
At the Planning Commission meeting, speakers from the community asked why the development of this warehouse project needed to be located next to several residential areas, rather than in an area of similar types of businesses. Questions were dismissed with the statement that the proposed location was the only site in Suffolk that had over 500 acres available. The clear implication was that this size of property was critical to the project.
However, during the second community outreach meeting, Matan representatives admitted that each of the 10 proposed warehouse locations (which they call “lots”) would be sold individually to new owners. The only information given about the “unavailability” of alternative properties for the project was to say that the alternatives did not meet Matan’s criteria for the project. Specific criteria were not provided. However, it is very clear that since the lots must be sold individually, there would be no impediment to having moved to two or more properties in close proximity to each other, rather than requiring a specific property and unique for the entire project. In fact, no reason, other than developer preference, was given for the property not to be located elsewhere.
Once the possibility of moving the site to multiple properties is considered, another benefit becomes apparent. As noted below under traffic hazards, relocating the site elsewhere will reduce traffic and congestion, and improve safety accordingly, without reducing the size of the overall project.
2. Traffic hazards
At the second community outreach meeting, there was a presentation of the ongoing remediation at the interchange between Pruden Boulevard/US 460 and US 58. Much of the discussion focused on the traffic light at the exit US 58 West to Pruden Boulevard/US 460 One speaker, a truck driver, also raised concerns about getting from this off ramp to the proposed left turn lane to the Port 460 location.
Many speakers expressed concern about traffic backing up on US 58 due to traffic lights. While Matan representatives dismissed these concerns, Matan’s traffic engineer did not. He admitted that the improvements were only a stopgap measure and that further corrective measures would be necessary.
In my opinion, the trucker who spoke may have raised the most important point. A truck exiting US 58 at this point will need to stop at Pruden Boulevard/US 460, even if there is a right turn lane, as it will need to ensure that all traffic lanes heading towards the northwest are cleared, in order to cross all lanes of Pruden Boulevard/US 460 to reach the left turn lane. This stop will cause more vehicles, many if not most of which will be trucks, to back up onto US 58 West. This is exactly the problem encountered at the US 58/Godwin Boulevard interchange. As these trucks rush through the multiple lanes of traffic, the risk of accidents with other trucks, or with passenger vehicles, is of great concern.
The proponent’s estimate is that there will be at least 3,000 trucks per day traveling this route. Simple arithmetic says that’s more than two trucks per minute, 24 hours a day. It is painfully obvious that this number of trucks cannot help but fall back. With this number of trucks passing through this interchange, there will also be an emergency lane in the left turn lane in the Port 460 development on Pruden Boulevard. The proponent states that the distance between the interchange and the turning point is approximately 1,700 feet.
Considering truck and trailer lengths of 70 feet, plus several feet of spacing, this distance allows for a maximum of 24 trucks. It will probably be less. Even that number will add up in just over 10 minutes. How long will the left turn signal last for these trucks? It will take several minutes to eliminate this backlog in a reasonable time. Oncoming traffic will surely become frustrated, which will cause anger to flare up and create more dangerous situations.
However, since it doesn’t really seem necessary for the project to be located at this dangerous interchange, the idea of an alternative site, created using several other locations, becomes particularly appealing. Not only will it allow developers to build the desired complete project, but it has the dual benefit of being located near other similar uses and reducing the amount of traffic added to a single location, as well as the corresponding dangers to the audience.
Additionally, as Mike Host pointed out in his correspondence, US 460 is the most dangerous road in Virginia, followed very closely by US 58. A disproportionate number of accidents and fatalities involve trucks. Adding thousands of daily truck trips to these roads can only dramatically increase the number of accidents and fatalities.
another hazard involves Kings Fork Road. When this was brought up at the second community outreach meeting, Matan representatives balked but had no response to concerns about safety on Kings Fork Road. In fact, it is a more dangerous route, even though the affected part is very short. It is a narrow road, with deep ditches and no shoulder. It also has a very severe “S” curve between Pitchkettle Road and Pruden Boulevard/US 460. It is inconceivable that trucks, due to their length and narrow roadway, would not cross the center line in this “S” curve. S”, endangering every vehicle on Kings Fork Road.
3. Modification of the master plan and zoning
This project will not conform to the overall 2035 plan or Suffolk zoning ordinances for the property in question. The proposal is to change the zoning from agricultural to heavy industrial, with conditions. Many of us, my wife and I included, chose our home in Pitchkettle Point because of its charming residential quality and the fact that neighboring properties were similar in character, except for the nearby farmland, which, in our opinion, added to the charm. . We have anticipated the possible residential development of agricultural land, consistent with the surrounding properties. We had not planned to move into a place which, a decade later, would become warehouses for heavy industrial areas.
Full plans are prepared with significant community input. It’s sort of an agreement between the city and its people as to how growth will continue in the years to come. Now, 13 years before the Global Plan’s target date of 2035, a change is being proposed that equates to a lack of trust on the part of the city in the community it is meant to serve. Despite community input into the preparation of the overall plan, very little public input was obtained to modify it. In fact, the main public input was the objections raised long after the proposal was finalized by the developer and staff.
There is nothing inherently wrong with changing an overall plan, just as there is nothing inherently wrong with changing the zoning. However, zoning is a neat design, usually used to prevent incompatible uses from being placed next to each other. As a rule, it puts like uses of the property in areas close to each other. Here it is proposed to modify it to achieve exactly the opposite result.
The proposal here is to modify the overall plan to deviate from the plan prepared with significant public input, to modify it without significant public input. The proposal is to change the zoning of the property so that incompatible properties are separated, to a situation where severely incompatible properties are absurdly close together.
4. Effect on Residential Property Values
There is no doubt that this will significantly decrease the land value of neighboring houses. As one study put it, “a surefire way to hurt property values and reduce buyer interest in neighborhoods is to make them difficult to access due to constant traffic.” Our neighborhood only has one entrance/exit, and that’s via Pitchkettle Road. We have no alternative. At the community meeting, Matan representatives described Pitchkettle Road as not truck friendly, “in fact, it’s not a road at all”. While Matan officials plan to widen Pitchkettle Road between the project and Kings Fork Road, the only plan to deal with the remaining portions of Pitchkettle Road is to put up signs that say “No Trucks.” With all due respect such signs have been on Pitchkettle
Road for years, and they don’t stop trucks from using it. Therefore, we can expect trucks to use Pitchkettle Road to avoid traffic on Pruden Boulevard/US 460, causing dangerous travel on Pitchkettle Road, and heavy traffic (including increased development workers) ahead. the entrance to our neighborhood. It’s exactly the kind of traffic that is “a surefire way to hurt property values and reduce buyer interest” for properties along Pitchkettle Road.
As you can see above, and as I have stated in my previous correspondence, I am not opposed to the owner of the property selling his land, or the developer building this project in Suffolk . My objections are to the decision to build it in the location currently planned, where it will cause hazard to everyone on the roads, where it will result in loss of land values, and where all of this is done with inadequate public interaction contrary to the whole plan.
I respectfully request that you vote against the proposed zoning changes and against the construction of this development as currently proposed.