The York County Planning Commission voted 5-2 not to approve a residential development application from Busch Properties Inc. on Wednesday at about 10:15 p.m. The application will be heard by the county's Board of Supervisors on Oct. 21 and the board may still decide to approve the application, said Commissioner Melissa S. Magowan.
During the public hearing on Wednesday commissioners heard from county planners and private developers about the merits and shortfalls of the 77-acre residential development along with a second application for a 32-acre commercial development near Water Country USA.
Representatives with Mid-Atlantic Communities LLC, the contract purchaser, said the two applications, one for residential properties and another for commercial, met the mixed-use objectives of the county. County planners said the two separate applications did not. The county designated much of the region "mixed-use" to have self-contained parcels with residential and commercial buildings. The two separate applications didn't include any triggers to require both residential and commercial to be built, according to Principal Planner Tim Cross.
"We as staff are recommending that you deny the (planned development) application," said York County Planner Earl Anderson.
County planners also said that the new residential development would mean three York County public schools — Magruder Elementary, Queens Lake Middle School and Bruton High School — would be impacted by an additional 101 students and that traffic would increase by 1,705 vehicle trips per day. Even without the proposed residential development called Whittaker's Mill, Magruder Elementary will be at capacity shortly because of all the approved developments, Anderson said.
There are ways to mitigate an increase in school children such as building a new school or expanding an existing one, Anderson said, but Busch Properties did not offer a way to mitigate the increase in school children.
Commissioners reacted differently to the public school capacity dilemma.
Commissioner Mark B. Suiter said he had visited Magruder Elementary and that there was a school psychologist meeting with kids in a janator's closet and a music group meeting on the stage.
"We can squeeze in five more, but when we have another 50 I don't know where they would go," he said.
Commissioner Glenn A. Brazelton said that whether there was a new development or not the county needed a new school.
Current demand drives solutions, Brazelton said. Although it might be challenging with "our tax base," it might be the case that a school is needed sooner than later, he said.
The first application calls for 77 acres to be zoned Planned Development Residential to build about 110 town houses and 112 single-family homes. The applicant offered the county $500,000 to help the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation build an access road between the residential properties and the proposed 32-acre commercial area. The developers said the road linking the two parcels together would make the projects satisfy the mixed-use requirement. The development also includes about 8 acres divided into three parks, a clubhouse and a pool.
The second application proposes that 32 acres be developed commercially and offers to provide a 50-foot right-of-way for the road between the residential development and the commercial area. Normally, the county and/or VDOT would have to buy the right-of-way land from the developer. The planners said they supported developing the 32-acre land commercially because that is what it's already zoned for.
Greg Davis, the attorney for Mid-Atlantic Communities said, "This is the right use for this piece of land. Our report shows a positive fiscal impact from the development."
The single-family homes would cost from $300,000 to $500,000 and the town houses would cost from $225,000 to $295,000.
Davis said that once there were people living in the area, retail would follow.
Lamont Myers, manager of Mid-Atlantic Communities, said if one looks at the 77-acre residential development in context of the entire region, which has a major shopping area — the Marquis — and will likely have commercial property on the 32-acre parcel, one can see that the residential development would be "complementary" to the region.
"You have to look at the larger context," Myers said. "You have to look at how these properties fit the overall interchange area."
Myers said that the 32 acres is great for commercial development because it is visible, whereas the 77 acres "just doesn't have commercial visibility."
Anderson also mentioned the Naval Weapons Station's request that the county wait to approve the residential development until a joint land-use study is completed. The Naval Weapons Station said it couldn't guarantee that the development wouldn't negatively affect training at Jones Pond. Davis said Mid-Atlantic Communities responded to this concern by providing space between the residential properties and the Naval Weapons Station.
About 25 people attended the meeting and developers spent time before the meeting addressing neighbors' concerns. By 10:35 p.m., the commissioners had not voted on the second application for commercial development.
Somers can be reached by phone at 757-298-5176.