Supervisors clear the way for Oakland Pointe

Staff writer

The Board of Supervisors voted to approve a rezoning application needed to set the stage for Oakland Pointe, a proposed apartment complex to be built in the Norge area, at its work session Tuesday.

The 4-1 decision rezones a total of 14.5 acres of land from general agricultural to multi-family residential. The change allows for the construction of a 119-unit apartment complex proposed by the applicant Connelly Development LLC. Supervisor Sue Sadler cast the nay vote.

Supervisors who voted in favor of the complex called it a tough decision, but one that would help address the county’s housing challenges.

“We’ve looked at this project in several different ways … It’s not going to totally take care of anything,” Supervisor Michael Hipple said, noting the project isn’t a silver bullet-solution to the county’s housing problems, but a start.

“If we don’t start now, when?” he said. “This is a project we need in James City County.”

“I like the concept of this project, I think it meets a lot of the requirements I think we need to be concerned about,” Supervisor John McGlennon said.

“There are still things about the scale of it that gives me pause,” he said, noting concerns about school and traffic impacts and that he would prefer a complex on the order of 80 units.

Sadler cited concerns about new school children generated by the complex and how they would affect the school district.

“I’m still looking at the school numbers as a huge concern for me,” Sadler said.

Based on the original 126-unit proposal, county staff estimated the complex would create 912 daily car trips and add 39 new school children. County staff estimated the 126-unit version would have a negative fiscal impact of $463,425 annually. Ted Figura Consulting, which did a fiscal study for the applicant, found the initial proposal would have a negative fiscal impact of about $124,300 annually. Updated impact projections weren’t publicly available Tuesday.

The resolution also approved a height wavier for 40-foot buildings and rezoned a parcel slightly less than half an acre to build an access road onto Oakland Drive. The application proposes safety improvements to the Richmond Road and Oakland Drive intersection. The rezoned land is between the Oakland Estates neighborhood and Richmond Road.

Supervisors’ sentiments reflected the arguments of county residents on both sides of a debate that’s raged for more than a year in public forums and government meetings. Supporters saw the apartments as a way to provide affordable housing in a county that’s lacking it, while opponents targeted the apartments’ fiscal impact, school impact and perceived threat to the county’s rural character.

The Board of Supervisors had intended to render a decision on the application at its regular monthly meeting Feb. 12. That decision was delayed until Tuesday in hopes the applicant could trim the number of housing units down from its initial pitch of 126 units to create a more palatable proposal.

“We’ve done the best we can with the tools we have that balances those criteria,” Tim Trant said. Trant is an attorney who filed the application on behalf of Connelly Development.

During the pubic hearing at the Feb. 12 meeting, almost 40 people weighed in on the proposal, with the number of supporters and opponents about evenly matched. There was no public comment or hearing Tuesday.

In December, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the project.

The property is inside the county’s Primary Service Area, which is a zone of the county intended for development because it has or is expected to have utilities.

Oakland Pointe is expected to add to the county’s meager affordable housing stock. In 2016, a county study found there wasn’t enough housing for low- and moderate-income people.

A third of households in the county, or more than 8,000 households, can’t afford housing costs without skimping on medical care, food or similar expenses, according to data collected by the county’s Affordable Housing Task Force.

Oakland Pointe is expected to have rental rates that range 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.

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

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