Taxpayers asked to subsidize developer profits for speculative rezoning – 230 townhomes and 220,000ft2 of commercial retail.
Public Hearing before the Planning Commission on February 21, 7:00 pm at the Gordon Building – 112 West Main St. Orange, VA.
In 2006, Signature Series LLC proposed to rezone 75.8 acres from Agricultural (A) to multifamily residential (R-4) and general commercial (C-2), allowing for 230 townhomes and some 240,000 ft2 of commercial retail. The proffers associated with that proposal were $7,000 less than what our proffer policy calls for. Proffers are offered by a developer to a county to offset the costs for infrastructure (schools, fire, police, etc.). Now, some 6-1/2 years after being denied that request, they are proposing roughly the same speculative rezoning request. Only this time, they are asking the citizens to pony up and subsidize their potential profits at even a greater rate.
Relatively little has changed with the design offered from 2006. The proposal still includes 230 townhomes. At 220,000ft2 the commercial retail portion has shrunk a bit, down 20,000ft2 from the original proposal. But the layout and implications are pretty much the same.
In addition to the townhomes, the proposal includes 74,000ft2 of specialty retail, 120,000ft2 shopping center, 22,400ft2 of high turn-over sit down restaurants, and a 3,200ft2 dive-in bank. The applicant is proffering design standards, but with no real details. But we do see details regarding setbacks of structures – only 100 feet from Route 3 and 50 feet from Route 708. This type of design offers little in the way of meaningful contribution to the character of our growth area and falls outside of the focus area of the recent Wilderness Gateway Study.
The original proffers from 2006 included land for a 5,000ft2 county building, $2.3 million dollars or $9,819 per townhome and an additional $500,000 was proffered towards county schools. This proposal includes the land for the 5,000ft2 county building (shown on the design as a police station). But that is where the similarities in proffers stop. The applicant states the townhomes will produce 42 students and suggests the cost to the county is $4,590 per student. They offer $187,500 ($1,500 per unit for the first 125 units) as the total cash proffer for the impact. That is more than $4.2 million dollars short of the identified costs to the county. This cost would be borne by Orange County residents.
Wilderness Gateway Study
The County has been participating in the Wilderness Gateway Study and has recently embraced the study, at least in concept. The Study was an effort to seek balance on both the type and location of future development in the Route 3 growth area in a manner that was protective of the County’s largest draw for tourism – the Wilderness Battlefield. It also offered information and guidance on the opportunities for commercial growth for the future. The study focused residential and commercial development in a town center. Though several concepts have been discussed in that arena, none demonstrated this level of growth at that end of the County. Furthermore, the study provided data on retail opportunities. It concluded that the new Walmart would soak up most of the future potential over the next twenty years, leaving less than 8,000ft2 of retail opportunity over that time. This proposal is for twenty times that number and of the type that would detract from the overall plan to strengthen the corridor by creating an environment that is attractive both to residents and new business. This type of development is a detriment to the existing community and the future of the growth area as a whole.
Attend the Hearing
Please attend the hearing on the 21 st and urge the Planning Commission reject this speculative request. We will be following this application closely and will alert you of any changes.