Despite loss in court, Suffolk citizens ramp up fight against warehouse project
A group of determined Suffolk residents have been fighting an industrial warehouse project for nearly a year.
They say the planned Port 460 Logistics Center would impact quality of life for the surrounding community by increasing traffic and noise and potentially polluting the local environment.
The coalition’s now taking its efforts a step further with a new nonprofit called Citizens Voice.
“We're seeking to amplify citizens' voices in these land use decisions,” said Denise Murden, a Suffolk resident who helps lead the opposition effort and the new organization.
The nonprofit was incorporated by the Virginia State Corporation Commission on the same day the group suffered a loss in court.
At a hearing in Isle of Wight last week, Judge Matthew Glassman dismissed a lawsuit seeking to stop the Port 460 project.
Maryland developer Matan plans to build more than 5 million square feet of warehouse space along Route 460.
The Suffolk City Council voted last fall to rezone about 540 acres of commercial and agricultural land for Matan’s project.
Three people who live near the site filed suit a month later, arguing the council’s decision was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable,” made without considering the health and safety of citizens and inconsistent with Suffolk’s Comprehensive Plan.
Judge Glassman ruled last week that the three plaintiffs did not have sufficient legal standing to bring the case.
Murden said the group plans to appeal the decision. The lawsuit is largely being funded by community contributions, and donations to the new Citizens Voice will go toward it.
She said their legal team points to a case out of Fairfax County last year in which the Virginia Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s decision and held that neighbors opposed to a residential treatment center had standing to challenge it.
Port 460 is Citizens Voice’s "marquee issue,” Murden said. But they recognize that it’s part of a larger regional trend.
The Port of Virginia is continuing to expand, driving demand for industrial warehouse spaces around Hampton Roads.
Developers say they’re eager to provide a needed resource for the port. City officials say they want to support the local economy.
But developments near residential areas are drawing pushback from communities worried about negative impacts to local infrastructure and quality of life.
In response to a proposed “mega-site” in southern Chesapeake, for example, residents are trying to get a referendum on November’s ballot that would ask voters to push the city to change procedures for land use decisions and better weigh factors like environmental and rural character.
Murden said the goal is to eventually work with people across the region and aid those efforts.
“Our intention is to basically share the experience, the knowledge that we've gained through our experience in fighting this.”