Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Location, location, location

The May 2 meeting of the Goochland County Planning Commission was devoid of the drama that plagued these sessions in recent months. This could be due to its current members—all appointed by the sitting supervisors—or the items on the agenda.

Some were:

A conditional use permit application was filed by Tamra and Douglas Adams for their 126 acre property at the corner of Fairgrounds Road and Route 250. They plan to host weddings; establish an equestrian facility and bed and breakfast; and expand the existing Montessori school located there.

Designated a rural enhancement area, the proposed uses are ideal for this location. Unlike the change in use of Dover Hall on Manakin Road to a commercial event venue, whose public hearing drew many irate neighbors, there was no opposition to the Adams’ proposal.

According to environmental planner Leigh Dunn, who made the staff presentation on the matter, the property has been the site of wedding and similar events for the past few years without the blessing of the county. No complaints of any sort have been made by its neighbors about these activities.

As the property currently has limited septic capacity porta- potties are required for larger gatherings. Health department and other code requirements must be observed. Dunn said that some additional parking spaces will be created. Outdoor activities will cease at 11 p.m. and no fireworks will be allowed. Open air music will be “aimed” away from neighboring homes. Other requirements will be dealt with by staff in the plan of development process.

The Commissioners voted unanimously to approve this CUP for a ten year period.

Pouncey Tract Partners filed an application to rezone 49 acres in the extreme northeast corner of Goochland to residential planned unit development (RPUD) from its current zoning, which includes M-1, B-1 and A-2. The intent is to build no more than 124 homes that target the 55 plus age group.

Scott Gaeser, managing partner of the applicant, contended that, although the county’s current comprehensive land use plan designates this area for commercial and industrial use, the market disagrees.

The only new construction there was the Aw Shucks complex about two years ago, which also extended the Tuckahoe Creek water and sewer lines to the edge of the TCSD.

Meanwhile, across the county borders in both Henrico and Hanover, residential development oozes westward. Gaeser said that it is time for Goochland’s comp plan to reflect the reality of the ground—that the northwest corner is best suited for homes rather than industry.

Gaeser explained that the homes will be built in the woods with commercial uses nearby. They will be energy efficient and include exterior maintenance.

Located near a rock quarry, the new community, the Parke at Pouncey Tract, will provide full disclosure of that fact in all of its marketing and closing documents. This should prevent homeowners from complaining about the occasional blasting that is part of the quarry mining operation, as happened with buyers of high end homes nearby in Henrico. (Did those people really never wonder where all those gravel-filled dump trucks driving along Pouncey Tract Road came from?)

The application included cash proffers of $3,473 per unit, with no contribution for schools or roads. Gaeser contended that very few children will live in the proposed community, even though state law requires that a percentage of the homes be available without age restrictions.

“No one moves to that part of Goochland to put their kids in school with a new Henrico elementary school a mile down the road,” he said.

Improvements already made to Pouncey Tract Road near Aw Shucks and interior roads built for the residential development will provide more transportation benefits to the county than a cash payment, Gaeser contended.

In the middle of the staff presentation, additional proffers were distributed to the Commissioners by principal planner Tom Coleman. This action harkens back to the bad old days when land use proffers were written on the fly during meetings so that the commissioners, and public, had no time to review them before voting.

Joe Andrews, District 4, requested a deadline for proffer submissions so they can be read and understood by the Commissioners before public hearings. In his latest arrogant disregard, Coleman said that the new proffers had been received two days before the meeting and had not been included in the packet. Andrews declared that it is not “asking too much to have them included in the packet.”

Duncan Van Ness, a principal in the group that developed the Aw Shucks property, spoke in support of Gaeser’s application. He is party to the agreement that paid to extend TCSD utility lines to POuncey Tract Road in return for the first nine commercial connection fees. Van Ness contended that the change to residential connection fees would reduce his reimbursement for extending the utility lines by about half a million dollars.

Gaeser said that he was not involved in that agreement. However, he said that the portion of the subject property that will remain in commercial use contains up to 14 parcels, which could enable Van Ness to recoup his investment.

The Commission agreed that the utility connection agreement was outside of its purview and voted unanimously to recommend approval of the rezoning.

The real question here is why was this matter even brought up to the planning commission? The connection fee agreement involved the county, Van Ness, and the Economic Development Authority. County staff should have dealt with this in another venue rather than leave him no option but to ask the question during a zoning hearing.

It will be interesting to see how the supervisors deal with this proposal. If they agree to the residential rezoning in an area designated for business and industrial use will it open the flood gates for home building and reduce business opportunities in the TCSD? Homes cost the county far more in services than they generate in tax revenue, unlike land used for business or agricultural purposes.

If the supervisors decline to approve the change will this corner of the county continue to lie fallow? If the proposal is rejected could the transition to residential use threaten future commercial or industrial uses there?

Then, there is the proffer question. Will the supervisors insist on the full cash proffer for every rezoned residential lot even though few children are expected to be added to the school population?

According to Gaeser, the other three Parke communities in the county, although not age restricted, have added very few children to the school system, yet paid full cash proffers.

The more than 300 upscale apartments currently under construction in West Creek are not assessed cash proffers because the land was rezoned before the cash proffer policy was established. Few children are expected to live there.

Sometime in the not too distant future, Goochland needs to build an elementary school in the eastern part of the county. The existing elementary schools, all built around a half century ago, also need to be replaced or seriously renovated. Cash proffers, which generate $7,040 per residential building permit, are a small fraction of the cost of building a school.

Currently, there is much discussion in the region about cash proffers. Some contend that they are needed to help defray infrastructure cost of new residential development. Others believe that they only make homes more expensive. Henrico does not use cash proffers; schools and public libraries seem to pop out of the ground there like mushroom after a spring rain.

A review of the cash proffer policy is in order especially with regard to the creation of multi-family zoning categories. Luxury apartments may not generate many school children, but town houses, for instance, will.










S. E. Warwick said...

An alert reader pointed out that a five acre parcel of land in West Creek, whose value could be around $1 million, was proffered to the county as a site for a future fire-rescue station in connection with the apartments. Perhaps in kind donations of land, or roads, would be a valid alternative to cash proffers.

John D. Wright said...

I find the argument that cash proffers for development of "The Parke at...." are unnecessary given past effects on student enrollment short sighted. There is only one opportunity for the county to collect proffers on homes/buildings, yet the structures will likely remain for generations. Who can say how many students per household there may be after a home is sold several times and surrounding market conditions change?