Monday, March 6, 2017

From auto parts to sawmills

After a month hiatus, the Goochland County Planning Commission met on March 2 to address revised applications for land on the north side of Route 6 near its intersection with Route 288, the former location of the now defunct Oak Hill Golf Club and other matters.

The agenda, however, contained other matters.

Up first was a request for a variance in the Broad View Shopping Center in Centerville to accommodate construction of an Advance Auto Parts store on the out parcel fronting on Broad Street Road across Plaza Drive from the Centerville Company 3 fire-rescue station. The Commission unanimously approved a right-of-way reduction from 50 feet to 40 feet between the subject parcel and the Dollar General Store. District 4 Commissioner John Shelhorse expressed disappointment that the new business is not an iconic coffee emporium.

Before taking up the revised applications filed by West Creek, Shelhorse stated that he has an interest in some property just west of Rt. 288. Last fall, former County Attorney Norman Sales opined that this represents no conflict of interest to prevent Shelhorse from participating in discussion and voting on the cases.

After a lengthy, and often confusing, public hearing at the January Planning Commission meeting Thomas E. “Tommy” Pruitt managing partner of West Creek requested a 60 day deferral, which was granted.

The revised, simplified West Creek applications presented on March 2 included: rezoning of two small parcels of land, totaling approximately 7.66 acres, at the edges of the southwest corner of West Creek from A-2 to M-1 so that they can be incorporated into West Creek; deletion of a West Creek proffer prohibiting retail uses within 1,000 feet of Rt. 6; requesting a second point of access to Rt. 6; and substitution of more stringent landscaping requirements included in the Rt. 6 overlay district for the “opaque green screen” requirement.

On February 15, Pruitt held a second community meeting to discuss the reasons behind the requested changes. An initial community meeting held last October included a detailed, but conceptual, drawing of the subject property that included out parcels close to Rt. 6 for restaurants, apartments, and retail, including a grocery store.

The centerpiece of discussion at the February meeting, and the Planning Commission presentation, was an aerial photo of the property. A future road, to be built as a four lane divided boulevard, connecting the subject property to West Creek Parkway was shown.

Pruitt explained that the world has changed since West Creek was zoned as a business park nearly 30 years ago. The Motorola computer chip plant expected to bring accessory businesses and corporate headquarter campuses to the 3,500 acre park never materialized. There were no land sales in West Creek between 2006 and 2012; “Not for lack of trying,” said Pruitt.

Land at “The Notch” on the north end of West Creek, opposite the Wawa on Broad Street Road was sold for apartments and medical office buildings. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery bought land in 2015 where a brewery and event center is under construction. Last year, plans to build a rehabilitation hospital there were announced.

Pruitt explained that inclusion of the two relatively small parcels of land into West Creek is essentially a housekeeping matter. One of the parcels, left over after the construction of Rt. 288, is completely surrounded by West Creek property. The other, between Rt. 6 and West Creek property will be the second access point to the property.

He contended that the property in question is the most special area of the park. Land sloping to the lake there is very beautiful and would be an excellent site for residential uses of some sort.

At the community meeting, Pruitt seemed open to condos similar to Grayson Hill or Monument Square in Henrico, rather than apartments. He reiterated that, at this time, there are no specific uses, or buyers, for the property.

Deletion of the 1,000 foot setback from Rt. 6 for retail uses was the most contentious item. Opponents said that placing commercial development close to the road would destroy the rural nature of the area and is not needed as there are vacant stores in shopping centers a few miles east.

Pruitt said that companies interested in locating in West Creek express a desire for nearby services like banks, restaurants. Retailers want highly visible locations on the main road. He also pointed out that the 1,000 foot setback requirement does not apply to other uses permitted in West Creek, including warehouses. Principal Planner Tom Coleman said that retail buildings would not be higher than two stories while other uses that could be built close to Rt. 6, including hotels and warehouses, could be “more massive” in height.

At the community meeting, area residents objected to stores “turning their backs” to Rt. 6 so that passersby by would get a view of loading docks and dumpsters. Pruitt said that West Creek design standards, would prevent that. The upscale nature of the retail users, Pruitt said, would lean toward very attractive buildings.

At this time, there are no concrete plans for this land, Pruitt said repeatedly. He speculated that it could take as many as twenty years for build out. He envisions some restaurants, perhaps an outlet for that national coffee emporium, and a top drawer grocery, though no specific companies have expressed interest. Pruitt contended that using a master plan to develop this site will result in a more attractive, successful enclave than piecemeal development. There will be areas for office, commercial, and residential. They will not be on top of each other but connect in a manner to enable internal walkability.

An observation that, as written, West Creek could locate retail close to Rt. 6 for its entire frontage, prompted Pruitt to pledge to change the application when it goes to the Board of Supervisors for final approval, so the 100 foot setback to applies only to the subject property.

Pruitt said that the entrance to this part of West Creek will be similar to those at other entrances on Tuckahoe Creek Parkway and The Notch, which feature extensive landscaping and granite markers.

After some discussion among the Commissioners, it was decided that the requested 100 foot setback will be about 182 feet from the edge of the roadway. As this is in the Rt. 6 overlay district, any development here must receive approval from the Design Review Committee, which addresses stringent landscaping, architectural standards, and lighting.

Shelhorse said that the county’s 2035 comprehensive land use plan ( directs development to designated growth areas, that should be desirable places to live and work, and include a mix of residential, commercial, and recreational uses. West Creek has been on the books for almost 30 years with seventy-five percent of the usable land untouched. This will enhance the tax base to generate revenue to fund services including schools and fire-rescue and be a firewall to protect the remaining rural 85 percent of the county.

The Commissioners unanimously recommended the items for approval.

In January, the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on an ordinance revision addressing sawmills. Questions raised caused the supervisors to return the ordinance to staff and the Planning Commission for clarification.

The proposed ordinance creates three categories for different kinds of sawmills: sawmill mobile (by right in A-1 and A-2); sawmill minor(by right with standards in A-1 and A-2); and sawmill commercial (CUP in A-1 and M-2). See the Planning Commission packet, available on the county website The Commissioners unanimously recommended the revised ordinance for approval.

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