PEC Requests Denial of Rezoning Request within the Germanna Wilderness Area Plan

Signature Series Development site plan image

The Orange County Planning Commission held a public hearing on Oct. 1, 2020 for a rezoning requested by Signature Series Development, LLC. The application would rezone a 75.8-acre parcel from ‘C-2 Conditional’ and ‘R-4 Conditional’ to ‘Planned Development – Mixed Use’ along Route 3 located in the Germanna Wilderness Area Plan (near the Somerset Farms subdivision and Germanna Community College).

The property was previously rezoned in 2013 to accommodate 330 townhomes and 200,000 square feet of commercial space built in conjunction. That rezoning (which the applicant admitted was speculative at the time) was approved with a cash proffer of $300,000 offered to mitigate fiscal impacts incurred by the county.

The current rezoning proposal would allow the applicant to build 330 townhomes and 100 condominiums/apartments prior to constructing any commercial properties. As well, the applicant has made no adjustment to the proffered amount, even though they are adding 100 housing units and the commercial aspect of the proposal is in doubt.

The rezoning application does not require any commercial real estate to be developed. Without having the ability to hold the developer to commercial development (which assists in offsetting some of the residential impacts), there is a potential for this rezoning to result in the county bearing the cost of up to 172 townhomes before receiving the $300,000 cash proffer.

The planning commission will solicit written comments through Friday, Oct. 9, at 5 p.m., limited to one page per person, no more than 500 words. A commission vote is expected on October 15, 2020.

PEC Comments to the Orange County Planning Commission

Re: Signature Series Development, LLC (REZ 20-01)

Dear Ms. Thornton and Planning Commission,

The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) respectfully submits these comments, regarding the Signature Series Development, LLC request for rezoning (REZ 20-01) Tax Map Parcel 4-3 from C-2 Conditional and R-4 Conditional to Planned Development – Mixed Use (PDM). 

PEC requests that you deny REZ 20-01 in its current form. We recommend that commercial requirements be phased into this project as portions of the residential development are constructed. 

The Germanna Wilderness Area Plan (GWAP) intends to create:

A Place to Live, Work, and Play with a higher standard of design and development which is a self-contained, complete community that is appealing to current and prospective residents and is a place clearly differentiated from other places. It will be a dynamic destination that results in an economic engine for the entire County.

Prior to the construction of any commercial spaces, REZ 20-01 has requested the ability to construct 230 townhomes and 100 apartment/condominium units. In addition to the GWAP’s intent, the Applicant’s existing proffers, approved in 2013, stipulate that “No residential plats can be recorded, nor can any Residential Construction commence within the R-4 portion of the property until at least 25% of the Commercial Component has attained Occupancy Permitting (at least 59,375 square feet).” However, the applicant stated during the Oct. 1 Planning Commission meeting that “most commercial that we’ve contacted does not want to come unless there are already existing houses in place.” This raises the question as to whether the applicant will ever develop commercial real estate associated with REZ 20-01.

The financial information provided in the application is inaccurate, as it dates back to 2011 and has not been appropriately updated to reflect current economic factors. Additionally, due to the Applicant’s request to construct 330 residences prior to any commercial space, the financial information does not appropriately reflect tax implications; without the guarantee of commercial tax revenue, REZ 20-01 would result in a negative economic impact for Orange County. Nothing in the application guarantees any commercial would ever be constructed, regardless of how many units are ultimately built. Furthermore, the current cash proffer ($300,000) suggests the county would bear the cost of up to 172 townhome units before receiving any offsetting funds. 

It is for these reasons that we request you deny REZ 20-01.

Thank you for taking the time to review the PEC’s concerns on this important matter. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or requests for additional information.


Christopher Hawk
Land Use Representative – The Piedmont Environmental Council
11395 Constitution Highway
PO Box 195
Montpelier Station, Virginia 22957