Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The shape of things to come

Items on the August 1 agenda of the Goochland Planning Commission hinted at the spectrum of economic development options in the county.

On the one hand the Commission recommended approval of a conditional use permit for a modest auto repair business on Davis Mill Road in the upper end of the county. On the other hand a conceptual master plan for three 60,000 square foot medical office buildings in West Creek with was blessed. Both will bring jobs and revenue to the county. Each is located in an appropriate setting.

Due to the absence of Commissioners John Myers, District 1 and Derek Murray, District 3, any votes taken had to be unanimous. The three members present, Chair Tom Rockecharlie, District 5, Joe Andrews, District 4, and Matt Brewer, District 2 constituted a quorum.

A rezoning application deferred after discussion at the July 11 meeting for 59 acres located on the east side of Hockett Road from A-1 (agricultural limited) to RPUD (residential planned unit development) presented restated conditions that included construction of left and right turn lanes. Following the July public hearing, the Commission expressed concern that the initial application lacked a provision for these turn lanes.

The proposed subdivision, expected to be named Swanson Ridge, will have 100 homes at build out. As the county requires two access points for communities with more than 50 homes, a second entrance must be established after the 49th home is completed. The applicant, Atack Properties ME Tech Park Partners, LLC, explained during the July hearings that it is negotiating with the owners of the parcel to the north to create a road and second entrance that is roughly opposite the Parke at Centerville. In July, representatives of the applicant contended that this access point, whose existence was somewhat speculative at that point, would handle most of the Swanson Ridge traffic. To their credit the Commissioners prefer a bird in the hand.

In addition to building the turn lanes at the start of construction on the subdivision, the applicant pledged to prepay $22,000 of cash proffers to help fund signalization of the Hockett/Broad Street Road intersection. Monies to fund this needed--but in the eyes of VDOT speculative--traffic light have also been contributed by Broadview Shopping Center and other landowners.

Citizens rose to commend the Commissioners for ensuring the safety of those who live in the Hockett Road corridor by standing fast on the turn lane issue and the developers for acceding to the wishes of area residents. Several observed that the Hockett Road corridor is the logical place for residential growth in the Goochland, but the county must insist that appropriate infrastructure improvements be part of future rezonings. Establishing high development standards will result in attractive communities, increased land values and profitable ventures for developers.

An application for a CUP to build a cell tower on a 25 acre parcel of land on Sheppard Town Road was deferred to September following opposition by neighbors of the property in question.

The need for the tower, interference with electronics in the homes of nearby residents; negative effects on property values; questions about the ownership of the road leading to the tower; and traffic were concerns mentioned by those who opposed the tower. Commissioners also had questions about vegetative buffers that shield the mechanics of the tower from view.

Rockecharlie observed that cell towers have tended to be located in areas somewhat separated from homes. The proposed tower site is near several homes. He also had concerns about the access road and said that he would like to see the matter deferred to the September meeting so that all Planning Commissioners could consider the application.

Brewer asked for clarification about ownership of land surrounding the tower parcel and potential for timbering that could remove the trees concealing the tower’s mechanical equipment from view.

Andrews moved to recommend approval of the CUP. His motion died for lack of a second. A motion for deferral made by Brewer was unanimously accepted.

This Planning Commission comes to meetings prepared to deal with the issues before it. While the Commission works efficiently it does not overlook its charge of ensuring good land use practices while safeguarding the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens. Comments made by the Commissioners are on point and not tangential blathering.

There are thorny land use issues ahead, but approaching them head on with a view toward a fair resolution bodes well for the future.







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