I would like to address the article by Nancy Cottrell Kruse in favor of the Oakland Pointe Apartment proposal (“Oakland Point project fills a gaping need”) published recently in The Virginia Gazette. I agree with her that the county needs more affordable housing; however, it is important we accomplish our affordable housing goals in a way that makes sense both to ensure consistency with the Comprehensive Plan, as well as balancing this worthwhile purpose with other goals of our land-use policies and the concerns of county residents.
Unfortunately, when viewed as part of this wider analysis, this proposal does not make sense.
First, Ms. Kruse states that “economic arguments alone” conclude the project is a win-win for county residents. Curiously, she does not mention the most direct and obvious economic aspect of this project -- the negative fiscal impact of $463,425 per year (revised downward from a $635,000 earlier in the Planning Commission review process). It is likely this impact is understated, as it assumes 39 children in the development will be enrolled in county schools, when a smaller development located nearby (Station at Norge) has approximately 73 school-age children.
This estimate also does not include the county’s costs to monitor and enforce the easement agreement, which contains ongoing obligations for the developer to maintain certain land improvements in and around the development. The overall result is that the sheer size and density of this project will cost taxpayers a significant amount of money annually.
Ms. Kruse then states the complex is well situated to take advantage of public transportation routes and easy access to jobs. Although the complex is within walking distance of a few stores, this section of Norge remains semi-rural to rural.
A specific goal of the Comp Plan is to “[s]upport the provision of mixed cost and affordable/workforce housing near employment centers and transportation hubs.” I cannot recall this area of Norge ever being described as an “employment center” or a “transportation hub.” Why is this important? Because locating affordable housing in areas with high transportation/commuting costs wholly defeats the purpose as lower housing costs shift to increased transportation costs.
Lastly, Ms. Kruse states all traffic issues have been addressed. This is, in fact, not the case. A number of Planning Commissioners expressed concern with this proposed complex’s impact on traffic at the Dec. 8, 2018, hearing, and local residents also expressed disbelief, from their first-hand experience, that the Virginia Department of Transportation would approve a quadrupling of traffic through the Oakland Drive/Richmond Road intersection without major restructuring. However, the essential problem with the traffic analysis concerns the complex’s future impact on traffic given the ongoing development in the surrounding area.
In closing, I would like to reiterate that there is no question that we need to increase the availability of affordable and workforce housing within the county; however, we need to ensure we do so in a manner that is consistent with the Comp Plan and other county policies, as well as with common sense. The costs of getting this wrong are too high, not just in terms of increased taxpayer dollars or increased traffic congestion, but in terms of irreversible losses of open land/green space in the upper county. Unfortunately, when viewed in these terms, the Oakland Pointe Apartment complex does not make sense.