JCC residents should oppose proposed apartments

This week, the James City County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on a proposal to rezone 14.5 acres at 7581 Richmond Road in Norge (next to the Crosswalk Church west of the Richmond Road/Croaker Road intersection) to build the Oakland Pointe apartments.

It is imperative that citizens concerned with the preservation of the upper county's rural character, as well as the added taxpayer expense that will accompany this project, attend this meeting and make their voices heard.

The applicant, Connelly Development, LLC of Lexington, S.C., has asked that the property be rezoned from its current designation as A-1 general agricultural to R-5 multi-family residential district for the purpose of constructing a 126-unit subsidized apartment complex. This hearing will be the culmination of a process that began when the original rezoning application was submitted for review in February. Through a series of postponements and, at one point, a withdrawal of the application, this has turned into a 10-month process.

Members of the community, myself included, have asked our friends and neighbors to get involved in this matter and to present their concerns about this project, as we understand both the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors want the public to attend and participate in the meetings. The challenge is that this matter has been planned for consideration or on the agenda for at least five separate Planning Commission meetings. Each time the application is rescheduled, the more inclined members of the community are/will be to skip the next meeting, believing the matter will be postponed, again.

This is especially true during the holidays, which is why a number of residents requested this matter be postponed until next year. County leadership informed us that, by official policy, once the matter is advertised it must be opened at the next Planning Commission meeting.

So it is imperative citizens attend the Dec. 5 Planning Commission meeting and provide feedback. For those not inclined to speak, there will be community members outside the meeting with a petition stating opposition to the development and reinforcing the message to county leadership that the green spaces and rural character of the upper County must be preserved. Citizens may also contact commission members or supervisors directly.

This matter has also engendered a broader discussion within the community, bringing needed attention to development plans for upper James City County. Even so, it is important to remember this proposed development will affect all members of the county, regardless of where they reside. Planners estimate the Oakland Pointe complex will result in an annual negative fiscal impact to the county of $464,000 for public schools and other municipal services.

The complex will complicate local traffic concerns, adding an estimated 887 “daily trips” within the county. And although the complex will increase the availability of affordable housing in the community, as the project qualifies for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, the economics of this program incentivizes builders to maximize the density of approved developments.

We all have an interest in zoning decisions that are consistent with the character of the surrounding land. In this case, the proposal for a six-building complex will not only require rezoning the site from its current agricultural designation, but will require waivers or “density bonus points” from county leadership, as it will exceed both county building height and units per acre density standards.

Finally, as we are all concerned about our environment, this complex will be within the Yarmouth Creek Watershed and will be next to existing wetlands located on the property.

For these reasons, we ask for your support in opposing this request for rezoning. Due to the importance of this issue, please make the commitment to attend the Planning Commission meeting and exercise your rights as a citizen of this County by making your voice heard.

The JCC Planning Commission meets at 6 p.m. Dec. 5 at 101 Mounts Bay Road, Building F.

Patrick McCaffery

James City County

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