Goochland County’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a rezoning application for 2.7 acres of land on the corner of Mills Road and Rt. 250 in Centerville at its November 7 meeting.
District 4 supervisor Robert Minnick moved for approval. This is an indication of the integrity of this board. Under the old regime, the motion for a zoning change opposed by neighbors would have been made by a supervisor from another district. If he was confident that there were three votes to confirm, the “local” supervisor could then vote against the measure, saving face among his constituents while ensuring that the measure passed.
Following a long public hearing on the matter, during which residents of Bellview Gardens, which is joined at the hip with the property in question, contended that approval of the proposal for a medical office park would destroy their neighborhood.
The proposal includes about sixty percent of green space with extensive landscaping. Two buildings, for a total of no more than 19,000 square feet served by 95 parking spaces were illustrated in elevations. Extensive proffers and attractive elevations of proposed buildings accompanied the application.(Go to the supervisors’ page on the county website www.co.goochland.va.us for Part C of the November 7 board packet.)
In 2011, Bellview Gardens residents raised such vigorous opposition to construction of a Goodwill Store on the same property, that the application was withdrawn. That store is currently under construction near the Centerville Food Lion in what seems like a much better location for all concerned.
The land in question, four lots on the west side of Mills Road that border the Tuckahoe Creek floodplain, was part of Bellview Gardens, platted about 50 years ago. Because many of the original lots did not perc, the subdivision was never built out.
About eight years ago, shortly after completion of the Tuckahoe Creek Service District trunk lines, the subdivision was rezoned to permit higher density using public water and sewer, resulting in the construction of many upscale homes. Little thought was given to development of the surrounding land.
Bellview Gardens residents have organized to fight any business or commercial development between their community and Broad Street Road. Until November 7, they were successful in their efforts as the county planning commissions voted 6-1 to recommend denial of the application in September.
The supervisors listened to comments from the residents, no one except the developer, Tom Kinter, spoke in favor of the rezoning.
From their questions, it was clear that the supervisor have given a lot of thought to the matter and seemed to wrestle with the close juxtaposition of commercial uses with homes. There are other places in the county—even the uber upscale Kinloch-where similar development may be in the offing.
District 2 supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr. asked about vacating the end of Mills Road, to prevent its future use as an access road to the 600 acre parcel behind Bellview Gardens. This seems to indicate that development efforts for land surrounding Bellview Gardens should include access other than Mills Road.
Alvarez also observed that the proposed high quality and relatively low intensity development might be better than alternatives that would come along later. He also said that it would set a high standard for future projects. By approving this application, uncertainty about the property will be eliminated.
Residents pointed out that this rezoning request was the first to reach the supervisors, previous attempts being shot down at the planning commission level, and that a rejection by the supervisors would send a signal to the bank that holds the land that it will not be commercially developed any time soon.
District 1 supervisor Susan Lascollette pointed out that the supervisors cannot prevent anyone from filing a rezoning application. Given the desirable location of the Mills Road land, it could well come up year after year until rezoned.
The condition of the pavement on Mills Road was brought up both by residents, who contend that it is only tar and gravel and unable to withstand the traffic generated by the proposed office use. Kinter said that he had dug next to the road and it has good underlayment and several layers of asphalt. He also observed that it had withstood construction traffic of heavy vehicles when the new homes were built. He said that his group is prepared to bring the road up to VDOT standards, which could include widening it.
Principal planner Tom Coleman explained that the developer must submit an engineering study of the road as part of the building permit process.
Residents contended that Kinter and his associate Mike Carroll have been maneuvering to secure this rezoning for some time. Some of them contended that the rezoning violates the eminent domain amendment just approved to the Virginia State Constitution.
Eminent domain is when government takes private property and conveys it to another party for development. The Bellview Gardens issue is a zoning case. The transfer of the land is from its current owner, a bank as the result of foreclosure, and Kinter’s LLC. This is a private transaction between two parties. The county’s only involvement is to approve the change of land use.
Bellview Gardens residents contended that the project will have a negative impact on their property values Kinter contended that it will have no impact.
Minnick asked what sort of use would be favored by Bellview Gardens’ residents for the land in question. The answer was that they don’t know, perhaps a library, but nothing for a good while. Some contended that any kind of residential use is preferable to commercial or office.
Following the public hearing and a protected discussion among the supervisors and residents, there was a long pause. Then Minnick made the motion.
The fallout from this decision will be interesting. This was the first really contentious matter this board has handled. They listened, they discussed and, at the end, they decided.