Sunday, January 17, 2016

Banding together


Beware! This sign indicates a pending change in land use

Folks who live in the Manakin and Rockville Roads corridor remain vigilant about a pending rezoning application. This proposal would permit at least 100 homes (the exact number seems fluid) in a community called The Glenns at Rockville. Neighbors fear the drastic increase of traffic on narrow, winding roads will make an already dangerous situation more deadly. (Eight fatal wrecks have occurred here since 1991.) They also believe that dropping high density housing on farmland will destroy the area’s rural character.

The Goochland Planning Commission unanimously rejected the application at its November meeting following a lengthy public hearing replete with opposition.

A small group of citizens have worked very hard to keep their neighbors aware of the issue.

The Board of Supervisors has the final say on approval of this matter. (The application, which was expected to be addressed at the supervisors’ February meeting, has now been deferred until at least March 2.)

On January 14, a general meeting, attended by 115 people, discussed ways to let let the supervisors know they oppose the proposal, and all of its ramifications. Contact information for all supervisors was distributed. Everyone present was urged to visit the Goochland County website to keep tabs on rezoning proposals.

There were complaints about the county’s new yellow road signs announcing pending land use changes. The font is too small to read easily while driving by—especially on narrow, winding roads as you dodge deer, cows, bicyclists and bad drivers. (If you see one, call 556-5860 for information.)

This group met with VDOT and secured a commitment for a traffic study on Manakin and Rockville Roads that is expected to be finished in the summer.

At a December, 2015 session with supervisors Bob Minnick, District 4, who is 2016 chair; Ken Peterson, District 5; and county staff they learned about the rezoning process.

On January 11, the developer, Wilton Acquisitions, which does not yet own the subject property, met with them to unveil a revised plan. This version of The Glenns has fewer homes, none of which have direct access to the main “connector” between Manakin and Ashland Roads. Details about this plan were vague according to those who attended. GOMM did not.

The connector road was touted by Wilton as helping fire-rescue access Rockville Road from Company 3 in Centerville. A former volunteer pointed out that St. Matthew’s Lane does that. He also contended that more homes will exacerbate the rising call volume and falling volunteer numbers that stress fire-rescue service.

Wilton allegedly said that he has already spent approximately $100 thousand dollars on this project. Goochland County is under no obligation to make a developer whole if his plan falls through.

The passion expressed by these folks who took time out of their busy schedules is commendable. However, some of the comments indicate a scary indifference and ignorance to things going on in Goochland. A lot of us moved here for peace and just to be left alone, but inattention has consequences.
One woman, quite riled by the whole thing, angrily inquired when the supervisors are next up for election. (They were reelected in November, 2015 after running with no opposition. In Virginia we vote for someone every year in early November.)

Another person mentioned that her son wants to move to Goochland but did not want to put his children in our bad schools. Goochland Schools are constantly being recognized for excellence. (However, if we keep this a secret, maybe no one will want to move here.)

Although Wilton contends that his target market is the 55 plus age group, the long term impact on school enrollment must not be overlooked. As presented at the planning commission, homes in The Glenns are two story and large enough to accommodate an “occupied nest”. While the first buyers of these homes might be retirees, resales will be snapped up by families, especially if the planned new elementary school is built in the eastern end of the county.

A younger man who moved here a few years ago because he wanted land, pointed out that his contemporaries have little interest in maintaining acreage and want to settle in high density neighborhoods where someone else mows the lawn.

Others said they want to see what a housing development with small lots looks like. The Parke at Saddle Creek, which is in the Centerville Village, off of Manakin Road just south of Broad Street Road has homes built on a fraction of an acre.

Many people denounced “spot zoning”--rezoning parcels of land for uses that are different from those around them--as a great evil. By that definition, the communities of Wheatlands, Fords, Windy Run, Nuckols Forest, and Nelwood Estates are spot zoning. Granted, they were developed years ago, but why were those subdivisions okay and this is not?

Another person declared that high density housing development has to be stopped or it will sprout all over the county. Wrong. High density housing cannot function without public water and sewer, found only in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District, which includes the Centerville Village.

Any land owner has the right to apply for rezoning. The supervisors are required to give the application a fair hearing, but are under no obligation whatsoever to approve it. The supervisors generally do not comment about a rezoning application until it is before them. Given these facts, it’s hard to understand why so many people assume that this rezoning application will be approved.

Many people at the meeting were learning about the county’s 2035 Comprehensive Land Use Plan for the first time, even though its latest revision was in process for about two years before approval last summer. The supervisors were practically begging for citizen input. Few people pay attention to land use matters until the bulldozers are on the lot next door.

Having said all that, these citizens are to be commended for organizing their objection to this rezoning application. Continual citizen engagement is vital to the proper function of local government.

Setting a precedent for high density in this area is yet another unexplored consequence of the requested rezoning. There is a larger parcel of land to the north of The Glenns eligible for public utilities that could also be developed if the Wilton application is approved.

When making their decision, the supervisors need to look at the larger picture. Subdivisions that have been approved on Hockett and Seay Roads must be considered. It’s hard to see why the county should approve even more homes with unbuilt subdivisions “on the books” just waiting to break ground. Hockett Road, though still not wonderful, is better able to handle increased traffic than Manakin and Rockville Roads.

Instead of developing the land north of Broad Street Road piecemeal under the auspices of Will E. Nilly, landowners and developers in the area should be encouraged to consolidate parcels into one large, attractive community perhaps with direct access to Ashland Road. This will take years to accomplish, by which time it might make sense for Centerville.

1 comment:

Pat said...

We've seen this before.

At the first hearing, there's always a large crowd and they speak against the new development. A decision is postponed, and at the next meeting there will be fewer people who turn out. If there are too many people, the decision is postponed again. This will continue until few people show up, at which time, the developer will trot out a handful of people who speak in favor of it, with few if any others speaking against it, and the board will say - 'looks like everyone is in favor - passed!'

That's how it has worked in decades past. Will it still work that way? The best thing to do is keep turning out in force, for as long as it takes, if you really don't want the development.