Monday, March 17, 2014

Storage wars

Recent economic development in Goochland County has been a mixed bag. Apartments and medical offices under construction in West Creek opposite the Wawa on Broad Street Road  are setting a high standard for projects that follow.

The McDonald's in Centerville, which may get built if winter ever ends, signifies that a national corporation believes it can make money there.  According to hints offered by Matt Ryan, the county's economic development director, other major companies are starting to show interest in Goochland. Aside from a closed session meeting at a recent supervisors' meeting to discuss a business prospect, little seems to be happening. Given the confidential nature of these negotiations, that could be an erroneous assumption.

At the March 5 planning commission meeting, two applications for large self storage facilities were recommended for approval, signaling some action.

The first, located a stone's throw east of Rt. 288 on the north side of Broad Street Road, was deferred from last month to clarify the height of the proposed building reatlive to Rt. 288.  Tom Kinter, speaking on behalf of the applicant, also contended that the proposed self storage facility would increase the assesed value of the property --characterized as difficult to develop due to its location and narrow configuaration--to more than $4 million.  The proposed structure will be a few feet higher than the roadway, which the commission apparently found acceptable.

Joe Andrews, District 4, cast the sole dissenting vote on that application.

The second case proposes to build a two story, approximately 33,000 square foot self storage facility on the southeast corner of the intersection of Rt. 6 and Blair Road next to Classic Kitchens. According to the staff report, the exterior dimendions of the proposed building  are 100 by 174 feet, with the longer side facing Rt. 6. The front of Classic Kitchens is 100 feet.

The facility will be accessed from Blair Road and Rt. 6 corridor overlay district standards require extensive landscaping to soften the  exterior.

One neighboring property owner spoke against the proposal contending that it would have a negative impact on nearby property and exacerbate exisitng traffic issues. 

Scott Gaeser, speaking on behalf of the applicant, David Milligan, said that other proposals for the subject property, includng a convenience store, were rejected in the past  becasue their uses were deemed to be too intense for the area.  A self storage facility constructed of high quality materials and adhering to the overlay guidelines would increase the value of the parcel on Rt. 6 and add little traffic or noise to the area, he contended. The commission unanimously recommended approval.

Public hearings on both applications are expected to be held at the April 21 supervisors's meeting.

Staff reports for both applications mentioned that self storage facilities generate little traffic. The Rt. 6 facility would seem to be a good compromise for the area, developing it for low key commercial use. Given the location of the proposal in Centerville--behind and opposite VDOT staging area--it's hard to envision what else might work there.

If these applications are approved by the supervisors following an expected public hearing on April 21, Goochland will be overflowing with self storage facilities. The new ones will drastically increase assesed values of their sites. The parcel by Rt. 288 would probably remain low value real estate for the forseeable future, as would the Rt. 6 property.

Classic Kitchens like a diamond in the rough from its neighboring properties, which could use spiffing up, but enjoy grandfatherd exemptions from overlay standards. Another high quality building, regardlessof its use might lead to improvements there.

Rt. 6 does not seem to hold any exciting economic develoment propects. Those hopes were probably irrevocably dashed decades ago when the county rejected overtures to build Johnston Willis Hospital there.

The Broad Street Road corridor in the Centerville Village, which extends from the Henrico line to just west of Manakin Road, is another matter.  The announcement that Cabela's will locate just east of the  Goochland border, coupled with the expected location of a Bon Secours emergency facility in the vicinity of its big, blue sign in the same area, could dramatically alter the land use dynamic for property located between Broad Street Road and Interstate 64. The stub of Three Chopt Road left after  Rt.288 was  built currently provides access for a few homes. There seems to be no reason that, adhering to all legal procedures, the road and all adjoining land could be combined into one large parcel that could be attractively, and profitably for all involved, developed.

Property owners are well within their rights to develop their land as they see fit, within certain perameters.

So, do the supervisors hold tightly to the metaphorical birds in their hands, or hope for something better?  There is real pressure for the supervisors to change the perception left over from the bad old days that Goochland is a difficult place to do business.  If they reject too many proposals, the applications will stop coming.Neighboring jurisdictions are also eager to attract new revenues.

While we all hope for "Better" things than self-storage facilities, specifics have been lacking. 
The question "what would you like to see in Centerville?" Is often answered with "I don't know, but not that."

If the rising tide of the national economy will indeed "lift all boats," it is vital that Goochland's vessel is seaworthy.

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