Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Land use matters

Goochland County’s planning commission—reduced to five members earlier this year—does its homework and plows through agenda items in an effective and efficient manner. This is a nice change from the past.
The downturn in the real estate market drastically reduced the number of rezoning and other land use issues in Goochland. Things slowed down so much that the commission met only on an as needed basis. Now, activity has started to ratchet up as plans of development and residential rezoning applications trickle in.
Perhaps the most significant change in these applications compared to development of old is that lot sizes are now described in square feet rather than acreage. (There are 43,560 square feet in an acre.)
At the Commission’s October 3 meeting, it approved tentative plans of development for Section 8 of Kinloch and The Parke at Pouncey Tract.
It also recommended approval of rezoning 73.69 acres on the north side of Tuckahoe Creek Parkway from A-2 to Residential Planned Unit Development (RPUD) to permit construction of 115 homes in a community designated at Tuckahoe Creek. Under RPUD regulations, up to 146 lots could be created on this parcel.
(Note to county, please encourage names that do not include Tuckahoe or Manakin, to avoid future confusion. It’s bad enough that the Postal Service zip codes lump a huge portion of eastern Goochland into the non-geographical Manakin-Sabot entity. There is no Manakin-Sabot. Manakin is on Route 6 and Sabot, also near Route 6, no longer exists. Some folks who live on the eastern edge of the county have Richmond zip codes. Widespread use of GPS reinforces this fiction.)
The density of the proposed Tuckahoe Creek community requires public water and sewer and cannot proceed unless and until this parcel becomes part of the TCSD. A separate initiative to accomplish this will appear on the Board of Supervisors’ agenda in the near future.
Lots in Tuckahoe Creek would be between 70 and 90 feet in width. The applicant contended that upscale housing options in Goochland for those who do not have the ability or inclination to maintain large yards are in short supply. The homes, whose size has not yet been determined, are expected to be priced in the $6-800,000 range. Speakers raised concerns about Tuckahoe Creek having an adverse effect on property values on the Kinloch coach homes, which are also on small lots.
As this parcel is currently in land use, rezoning would result in immediate increased revenue for the county before one teaspoon of dirt is moved. Full cash proffers were included in the application with the expectation that these homes would add 58 students to the county school population. This too is a major change from the olden days when developers contended that folks who buy expensive houses had no impact on the school population.
Properties on Hermitage Road that abut this parcel are several acres each. While the proposal includes vegetative buffers, owners of neighboring land raised concerns that construction of a mandated retention pond will require clear cutting near the eastern boundary, destroy their privacy and reduce property values.
Parties involved in developing Tuckahoe Creek include Tommy Pruitt and William Goodwin who were involved in high quality projects including Keswick Farms and Kiowah Island.
The supervisors are expected to take up this application at their December meeting.
The recurring toothache issue of electronic signage crept into the discussion as the commission addressed a proposed sign for the HCA West Creek Emergency Center. The proposed sign, essentially a dreadful pole mounted billboard that announces the wait at the ER, an image of which was not included in the packet, is intended to help people find their way to the facility located near Rt. 288. This seems to be smaller version of the billboard that glowers over the train yard on Interstate 64.
Although the commission recommended approval of the sign, which is intended only for hospital-like entities, the efficacy of the sign in solving the problem was discussed. It was initiated to help patients find their way to the West Creek emergency Center, which is quite visible from Rte. 288. Figuring out how to get there is another matter.
The proposed sign, which would seriously degrade the view shed, gives no clue how to get there. Installation of more road level directional signage--think blue signs with a big H and arrows pointing in the right direction--would seem to be more effective in solving this problem. Proponents of the sign didn’t quite explain how it would help motorists find their way to the emergency center. The discussion lacked justification for the electronic notice of the waiting time in the ER. Do they believe that folks will pop in for medical if there is a short wait? Not nearly enough information there.
A similar emergency medical facility operated by Bon Secours on Midlothian Turnpike just off of Rt. 288 in Chesterfield has a similar problem but refrains from degrading the landscape with eyesore devices to attract customers.
While the language for the West Creek Emergency Center is extremely narrow, it might be the proverbial camel nose under the tent for future attempts to permit tawdry and annoying signage in Goochland. Electronic signs, like those on Broad Street in Short Pump, do little other than declare desperation for customers. We do not need that here.
The Commission also recommended approval of new setback regulations to eliminate confusion caused by current rules.
An extension of an existing conditional use application for Applegarth Farm on Shallow Well Road was given a thumbs up as was a new CUP application for Clear Choice Auto Brokers to operate a used car dealership in Courthouse Village.
An ordinance to codify “dark sky” lighting requirements, which has been in the works for a while was discussed and passed on to the supervisors. Regulations proposed apply only to new construction and will not require creation of “light police” for enforcement. This is the result of a great deal of thought and hard work by staff and former and current planning commissioners and some supervisors.
Questions posed by commissioners during the meeting indicated that they were familiar with the matters at hand. Comments were short and to the point.

All of the above business was conducted in one hour and 32 minutes.

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