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Newport News planning staff says no to rezoning for furniture store

Reema Amin

City planning officials are recommending against a rezoning request that would allow a nearly 40,000-square-foot furniture store to open on Bland Boulevard near the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport.

The planning commission is expected to vote on the rezoning next week, on Wednesday. The City Council will make the final decision.

The national chain, Rooms To Go, is eyeing 615 Bland Blvd. to house its first Hampton Roads location, according to an application submitted with the city on Nov. 7. It would buy the land from an LLC that's partially run by W.M. Jordan's CEO, John Lawson, who is requesting the rezoning of 3.4 acres from light industrial to commercial for the store.

But in an analysis made public on Wednesday, planning staff says the rezoning goes against the city's comprehensive plan by flipping land that was meant to be preserved for industrial purposes, not commercial. The city's Department of Economic Development said that land must be preserved in the city for manufacturing, according to the analysis provided in the Newport News Planning Commission's agenda for next week.

The analysis also says that the Peninsula Airport Commission showed support for the rezoning, but that the request "lacks substantial proffers that would address very important information like traffic improvements."

A traffic study shows that the furniture store won't have too much congestion, but it could become a problem if a new business opens there in the future, the analysis said.

"The creation of a new parcel requires an entrance directly from Jefferson Avenue as the new parcel is not accessible from any other roads," the planning staff's analysis said. "This has the potential to exacerbate existing traffic congestion at the main airport access which as pointed out in the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport Master Plan Update (2014), is a major concern with no short term solutions."

Staff also wrote that there is no landscaping being proposed that would buffer the store from surrounding sites.

The city's departments of codes compliance, public works, public utilities, fire, police, parks and recreation and tourism had no objection to the potential rezoning.

Lawson couldn't be reached for comment on Thursday.

Rooms To Go has showrooms in the Glen Allen area of Richmond, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Puerto Rico. Lawson said last month that if the rezoning was granted, he hoped W.M. Jordan would get the nod to the contractor on the project.

Amin can be reached by phone at 757-247-4890.

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