Board of Supervisors to take another look at Oakland Pointe proposal

Staff writer

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider an Oakland Pointe proposal with fewer units at its work session Tuesday.

Tuesday’s meeting will be part two of the Board of Supervisors consideration of a rezoning application to convert 14.5 acres of land zoned general agricultural to multi-family residential as a precursor to an apartment complex in Norge.

Supervisors voted to defer a decision on the application Feb. 12. The board had hoped the applicant, Connelly Development LLC, would return with a proposal for fewer units.

And return with fewer units Connelly did — the new proposal has a complex of 119 units, which is about 6 percent smaller than the previous proposal of a 126-unit complex.

“As a result of this density reduction, the impacts of the project will be proportionately reduced,” Tim Trant, the attorney who filed the application on behalf of the applicant, said in an email to James City County staff. “We are not altering the proposed amenities or mitigation measures in any way.”

Trant provided the email to The Virginia Gazette when asked for comment for this story.

Trant noted the reduced footprint negatively impacts the project’s ability to address the county’s housing needs and likelihood of earning tax credits needed to build the project. He said the reduction is the largest decrease the project can sustain and still be viable.

“As we indicated at the Board of Supervisors public hearing, reducing the number of units impacts the project’s competitiveness in the tax credit application scoring,” he said.

County supervisors reached on Friday had mixed feelings about the new proposal.

“I guess I would say surprised and disappointed,” Supervisor John McGlennon said about the proposal. He said he didn’t have a specific unit number in mind, but had hoped for a smaller number of units than the new proposal has.

Supervisor Jim Icenhour was more positive. “I would say it is a step in the right direction.”

Ruth Larson was out of town when she was reached for comment, and she wanted to weigh the amended proposal over the weekend before commenting.

“I do appreciate that they took a second look,” Larson said.

Supervisor Sue Sadler declined to comment, saying she hasn’t had a chance to review the proposal. Her colleague Supervisor Michael Hipple didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Though no county studies of the amended proposal’s impacts were publicly available Friday, fewer units would presumably ease some of the problems critics voiced concern about with the project, such as traffic and schools.

Critics have worried the complex will worsen traffic conditions in the area. The complex is expected to house more school-aged children, which critics said would place a greater burden on the schools and create a tax burden on county residents.

When county staff reviewed the 126-unit proposal, it estimated 912 daily car trips and 39 school children would be created by that project.

“My concern is that this is going to create a number of issues on all levels for schools,” Supervisor Sue Sadler said at the Feb.12 meeting.

County staff estimated the 126-unit Oakland Pointe would have a negative fiscal impact of $463,425 annually. Ted Figura Consulting, which did a fiscal study for the applicant, found the 126 apartments would have a negative fiscal impact of about $124,300 annually.

The work session is open to the public, but there won’t be a public hearing on the application. Nor will there be a public comment period at the meeting, according to the meeting agenda.

Delays have kept the Oakland Pointe proposal on the docket of one county board or another for more than a year. In December, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the project.

The property, which is inside the Primary Service Area, that would be rezoned is between Oakland Estates and Richmond Road. The PSA is an area of the county destined for development because it either has or is expected to have utilities.

Buildings in the development would be up to 40 feet tall. That height will require a wavier, and the board is expected to consider that request Tuesday as well. Another rezoning request for a little than than half an acre of land would allow for the creation of an access road onto Oakland Drive.

Initially, the project had its access road feed directly onto Richmond Road. The change was made after area residents’ feedback to improve the traffic flow. The application proposes safety improvements to the Richmond Road and Oakland Drive intersection.

A 2016 county study found there isn’t enough housing for low- and moderate-income residents in the county.

There are more than 8,000 households, or about a third of total households, in James City that can’t afford their housing costs without sacrificing other expenses, such as medical care and food, according to data collected by the county’s affordable housing task force.

The applicant proposes rental rates ranging from $495 for a two-bedroom unit with one-and-a-half baths, to $940 for a three-bedroom unit with two baths. James City’s median gross rent (rent plus utilities) was estimated to be $1,148 per month, according to the 2016 housing study.

“I hope we may agree that we love our community and care for the people who live and work in it and want all to have a good quality of life,” said Lisa Marston, who owns the land where the apartments would be built, during the public hearing earlier this month.

Want to go?

When: 4 p.m. Tuesday

Where: 101 Mounts Bay Road, county government center board room.

Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, jojacobs@vagazette.com, @jajacobs_

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