Planning Commission approves next step in townhouse development

The Williamsburg Planning Commission recommended the approval of a request by Holly Hills, LLC to change the zoning classification of 6.8 acres of land at 200 Brookwood Drive to build 38 new townhouses in the city at its May 16 meeting.

The rezoning request was put forward by developers Hatcher and John Cale, and would remove proffers set on the property as part of the city’s 2008 comprehensive plan, which limit the amount of amount of homes allowed to be constructed on the land to 20. The new zoning ordinance would allow Holly Hills, LLC to exceed that limitation, permitting a maximum of eight homes to be built per net acre.

If approved by City Council, the new townhomes would be constructed near Route 199 and the Holly Hills Carriage Homes. Once put in place, the new proffers would also require Holly Hills, LLC to pay $60,000 to the city as reimbursement for the construction of a sidewalk connecting the Holly Hills Carriage Homes to Jamestown Road.

Daniel Quarles, an attorney at the meeting representing the developer, says that the multifamily dwelling district RM-1 zoning designation that the land is currently classified as would typically allow the proposed construction by right. The only restrictions are the proffers set in 2008, which he says are outdated when compared to the city’s current comprehensive plan.

“The request is very simple, I think it’s a reasonable request, and I think it’s one that really ought to be non-controversial,” said Quarles. “The situation is that there’s this special condition on this property that limits the developer to the 20 units, so our request is simply to be relieved of that 20-unit limitation so that the property can be developed to the density allowed by the RM-1 designation.”

Around 35 Holly Hills Carriage Homes residents were in attendance at the public hearing, with many voicing their concerns about the proposed townhomes.

Pamela Legere cited safety concerns, saying that the townhomes will bring more cars into the already-busy intersection of Brookwood Drive and Route 199, which could result in more traffic and accidents. She also worries about how the new properties could affect property values at the Carriage Homes.

“Our property values are also a big concern. Having homes of a lesser value will bring down our property values,” said Legere. “With all the new luxury townhomes being built in the city, do we really need more?”

Susan Langston says she has been a resident at the Carriage Homes for 12 years. She supported the development when it was originally proposed as a commercial area in 2008, but takes issue with the new townhome project.

“We have had the promise of the development of that area for 10 years, and we want that development to take place, but I’m objecting to the change,” said Langston. “Just because the number 38 is permitted does not mean that it is the best that you can do for us. The proposals that we have seen include too much density to match and compliment our area.”

Jeffrey Klee, the Planning Commision’s 1st vice-chair, says he approves of the zoning request, but hopes to mend the mistrust between Carriage Homes residents and the body.

“Leaving this at RM-1 and removing the proffer seems like a reasonable thing,” said Klee. “The concerns that so many of you have can be addressed and will be addressed as part of the development process when this project goes before the Architectural Review Board, but I’m sympathetic, and I hope that there’s a way to rebuild some trust here.”

Elaine McBeth, the commission’s chairwoman, cast the lone dissenting vote at the hearing. She says she opposed the rezoning request because of the Carriage Homes, which weren’t yet built when the 6.8 acre plot was originally designated as an RM-1 district in 1991.

“While it is RM-1, there is now a community there, the Holly Hills Carriage Homes weren’t there in 1991,” said McBeth. “I do think that the idea that the current development should be in some concert with the existing agreement, which is also an RM-1 district, and that needs to be reflected.”

In other business, the commission also unanimously approved a request from W-JCC Schools for a special-use permit to extend the usage of a temporary classroom trailer at Matthew Whaley Elementary School until 2022, citing an increased student population.

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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