Tuesday, April 29, 2014
A tale of two warehouses
After adoptiong the annual budget, the Goochland Board of Supervisors turned its attention to public hearings on April 21.
Two applications, which at first glance seem similar, but, upon closer examination, are very different, were the lead-off items.
The first matter addressed rezoning and a conditional use permit(CUP) for land just east of Route 288, north of Broad Street Road in the Centerville Village. The applicant, Three Broad, LLC, represented by Tom Kinter, wants to rezone several contiguous parcels to B-1 (Business, general,) and obtain a CUP to allegedly allow construction of a three story, 58,000 square foot self-storage warehouse.
Kinter’s presentation included detailed elevations (pretty pictures) of a warehouse, whose roof is taller than the travel lanes of Rt. 288. How much higher still seems to be in question. The planning commission deferred the project earlier in the year for this very reason, eventually voting 4-1 to recommend approval. Joe Andrews, who represents District 4 on the planning commissioner, was in dissent.
Photos used in the April 21 presentation clearly show trees on the property, which loom over Rt. 288. Surely, someone on staff, or in Kinter’s operation, could measure one of those trees for a height comparison.
As the supervisors worked their way through the presentation, Ned Creasey, District 3, observed that the wording of the CUP application was open ended and could allow a dry cleaner, or about nine other uses, if the warehouse didn’t pan out. Creasey also suggested a balloon test to illustrate the actual height.
Currently, there is a for sale sign on Broad Street Road offering the 3.5 acres in question as zoned B-3, even though the entire parcel has not yet been rezoned. The county sign, announcing pending land use action for the property, seems to have disappeared.
Bob Minnick, District 4, which includes the subject property, raised concerns about traffic impacts of alternate uses. (The traffic study included in Kinter’s applications was based solely on the self-store warehouse.) As the site is part of the arterial management study currently underway, Minnick asked that no action be taken without preliminary findings from the study.
Minnick also wanted a sunset provision on the CUP; mandating expiration if no construction was underway within a certain period after the effective date of the CUP.
Kinter was instrumental in the “urgent” rezoning of lots on the west side of Mills Road in early 2012. At that time, he intimated that there was strong interest in medical offices on the site. To date, only a “for sale” sign has sprouted on that site, while medical office buildings are under active construction on the south side of Broad Street Road in West Creek.
Minnick was not impressed by the $37,000 in new taxes and a handful of jobs that Kinter contended the warehouse would generate, and was unsure about the economic development impact of approving a building with more square footage than Dover Hall 100 yards from Broad Street Road. Minnick contended that there are too many unresolved questions about the project and suggested a 60 day deferral, which could include a “balloon test” to gauge the actual height of the proposed warehouse, and clean up matters.
Kinter, who said he was "committed" to a warehouse, seemed ready to agree to just about anything to secure approval, asked that the decision not be put off for too long. The matter was unanimously deferred until the Board’s June 3 meeting.
A few days later, the Wegman’s grocery chain announced that it will join iconic sporting goods retailer Cabela’s in the West Broad Marketplace planned for the north side of Broad Street, just east of the Henrico line, barely a mile from Rt. 288. This should increase interest in land in the Broad Street Road corridor. The parcel facing Broad on the east side of Mills Road is on the market for more than $2 million.
This warehouse would join a motley assortment of utilitarian businesses on the north side of Broad Street Road. Currently, VDOT is using the corner as a staging area for construction on Interstate 64.
The next agenda item concerned rezoning and a CUP to allow construction of a self-storage warehouse on the eastern side of Blair Road at its intersection with Patterson Avenue. These applications, also for rezoning and CUP, were filed by Goochland resident Randy Milligan, who owns the property and intends to operate the business himself. He was represented in the hearing by local developer Scott Gaeser.
As one of a very few short cuts between River Road and Patterson Avenue, Blair Road is heavily used. Construction of the extensive Collegiate Schools athletic complex nearby a few years ago coupled with residential growth, has exacerbated traffic issues on the narrow to lane road.
The corner in question, just west of Classic Kitchens, would be an ideal location for a convenience store. Indeed, at least one rezoning for that kind of use was rejected years ago. Parcels to the east have been in commercial use for some time. Land on the west side of Blair Road is a cemetery.
Nearby residents raised concerns about increased traffic at an already overburdened intersection. Gaeser contended that self-storage warehouses generate little traffic, and would not add to rush hour congestion. He said that the proposed warehouse would be the least intense use commercial use for the property.
Access to the warehouse will be off of Blair Road, as mandated by VDOT. Gaeser said that the warehouse will be heavily landscaped to soften its appearance on Patterson Avenue and necessary turn lanes, as well as easements for possible future turn lanes will be provided. All storm water runoff will be contained on the property and outside lighting will conform to the county’s “dark sky” provisions.The supervisors unanimously approved this project citing local ownership and low intensity commercial use.
Given the potential for high value commercial development in the Broad Street Road corridor, the supervisors are wise to defer action on vague land use changes. However, they must balance concern about the impact of a particular parcel on development of a wider area, like the Centerville Village, with protection of individual property rights.