Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Changing horses mid-stream

Goochland County is growing, especially in West Creek and the Broad Street Road corridor of the Centerville Village. Last week, citizens raised serious objections to rezoning applications.

Any landowner has the right to apply for a zoning change. This involves a lengthy and sometimes expensive process that includes community meetings and public hearings before the planning commission and supervisors. There is no guarantee than any application for a land use change will be approved.

During the citizen comment period in at the Supervisors’ August 1 evening session, two adjacent property owners opposed a rezoning application, which has not yet made it to the planning commission, for the Hunt Club Hill subdivision on the south side of Three Chopt Road between Broad Street and Manakin Roads.

First zoned for residential use in early 2003, Hunt Club Hill, near the Deep Run Hunt Club, was an early example of rural preservation (RP) zoning. The plan “on the books” for this community contains bridle trails and continued agricultural use of the open space (preservation tract).

The rezoning application in the works would increase the number of allowed homes from 34 to 49—if more than 50 homes are in a subdivision, a second entrance must be provided— with far less open space and no bridle trails.
Under current zoning, this portion of Hunt Club Hill would not change. Homes would be built behind the tree line

Three Chopt Road is narrow and often used as a cut through between Broad Street and Manakin Roads. Both termini involve tricky turns onto busy roads. After years of discussion and engineering studies, VDOT improvements to the Three Chopt/Manakin Road intersection resulted in a new pipe under Manakin Road to control storm water without inundating homes on the east side of Manakin Road; removal of a large tree on the corner; deepening the ditch on the west side; and adding about a yard of new pavement.

This section of road is also the only access to the Alvis Dairy Farm, one of the largest agricultural operations in the county and lined with crop fields and livestock operations.

The approved version of Hunt Club Hill  has home sites nestled in the woods with little or no change to the view shed of trees and fields. There is no sound rationale for adding 15 more homes and shrinking the open space. More about this if it proceeds through the rezoning process.

Residents of Creekmore, an upscale community of charming custom homes nestled up to the Richmond Country Club, turned out to the August 3 planning commission meeting in force to protest a rezoning application for land that sits between their homes and Route 6 filed by the Creekmore Group, LLC.

(District 4 Planning Commissioner John Shelhorse is, according to the application, the managing member of Creekmore Group LLC. Accordingly, he recused himself from all discussion and voting on the matter, and left the room during deliberations.)

When Creekmore was created in 2002, the parcels along Rt. 6 were rezoned residential office (RO) for five, five thousand square foot office buildings, which  never materialized. An application to change the zoning from RO-residential office to B-1, business general was accompanied by an application for a conditional use permit to build a 48,000 square foot two story self-storage facility and two five thousand square foot single story office buildings on the site. The proposal would represent a potential square footage 58,000 square feet, more than double that currently allowed.

The self-storage facility would be of the same design and materials as one recently built on the corner of Blair Road and Rt.6, but larger. (A year or so ago, a rezoning application for retail use of land on Rt. 6 east of Creekmore was rejected after vigorous position from homeowners. Town homes are currently under construction on that property.)

The county’s comprehensive land use plan  designates this area for office use, no retail, compatible with the surrounding area only.

The rezoning application touts a ”tree save” area to preserve existing trees between the proposed self-store and nearby homes. As one resident pointed out, those trees are deciduous and provide screening for only a portion of the year. The back of her home would have a semi-obscured view of  bay doors at the rear of a metal building.

Creekmore homeowners understood when they purchased their property that residential scale office buildings had been approved between the community and Route 6 and prefer that configuration to the new proposal. Protestations by the applicant that the new plan would generate far less traffic fell on deaf ears.

Opponents contended that rezoning the subject property would set a precedent for additional B-1 zoning along Rt. 6. A recent decision by the supervisors to permit mixed use on the former Oak Hill golf course property at the intersection of Rts. 288 and 6, which is  part of the West Creek business park, was interpreted by many long term residents as a betrayal of the county’s implied promise to keep commercial development off of Rt. 6.  Existing  commercial development on Rt. 6. east of Creekmore includes the aforementioned self-store, a kitchen showroom and other modest businesses.

A petition signed by 121 people opposing the change in land use was presented to the commission at the beginning of the hearing.

Objections included a negative impact on property values, which Creekmore homeowners contended have not yet rebounded to pre-recession levels, run off,  type of materials stored; truck noise, and unknown consequences if the storage business should fail.

Darvin Satterwhite, presenting the applications for the Creekmore Group contended that the new proposal is better because it includes more screening, fewer parking spaces, and would generate far less traffic than the current zoning.

In essence, Creekmore homeowners believe that it is unfair to change the zoning after people invested their money to purchase expensive homes based on an understanding that residential scale offices only could be built between their community and Rt. 6.

As one person put it “these (Creekmore) homes would not have been built if there was a warehouse there. This could set a precedent to create a “warehouse row” along Rt. 6, which is not in keeping with rural character. I bought my house in the good faith that the developer would keep his word.”

The commissioners, some of whom visited homes at the edge of Creekmore to gauge the impact of the proposal, agreed with the homeowners and voted 4-0 to deny recommendation of approval. The application can now move to the supervisors for final disposition.

Commission chair Tom Rockecharlie District 5, said that people who buy homes on a certain premise expect to be protected from changes like this. He also said that the proposed buildings are not residential in scale.

Matt Brewer, District 2 said that the land near Creekmore is not the right location for this type of facility.

In both of these instances, little has changed since the current zoning was put in place. There is no compelling reason to add more homes in Hunt Club Hill. Demand for commercial property on Rt. 6 west of Rt. 288 has yet to be proven.  Even dressed up with nicer building materials and landscaping, self-storage facilities are still warehouses and should be located in industrial, rather than residential, areas.

The current zoning for both of these properties still seems appropriate. Improving market appeal is not sufficient justification for altering the character of established areas and changing horses in midstream.

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