Lake District Mixed Use proposal a mixed mess

The proposed rezoning of 323 acres for a Mixed Use development on U.S. 33 at the Henrico County line has been churning through the planning process for 18 months. At the June 20 Planning Commission public hearing, Commissioners voted to defer action on the case for 30 days. Bob Nelson, Chickahominy District resident, hit dead center with analysis submitted to the Hanover Planning Office:

LAKE DISTRICT, C-24-17 — FACT CHECK AND COMMENTS

  1. The Lake District Will Not Preserve Rural Character

Claim – The Lake District will preserve rural character by allowing growth in one large development.

Discussion — Approval of the 520 unit mixed use Rutland development in 2004 occurred before  Giles Farm – 442 units, Cool Spring West – 276 units, and the mixed use Caldwell Park or “New Rutland” project – 532 units, 200,000 square feet (sf) commercial. A total of 1,250 additional units, all within about a mile of Rutland. (Additional residential developments of less than 200 units within a mile of Rutland were approved before and after Caldwell Park.)

The most comparable project, Caldwell Park, was approved 11 years after Rutland and before completion of Rutland’s residential development. It is more intensely developed than Rutland.

Almost 700 additional acres of land can be developed along the SSA Route 33 corridor if the Lake District is approved. See attached. The Lake District and the 36” inch sewer line extension through the property is a dagger pointed up Route 33 to the rural heart of Hanover, creating a new problem corridor.

Conclusion — The claimed preservation of rural character by limiting development to one mixed use project is false. Hanover’s history with mixed use developments does not support it, nor does the development of Short Pump. The Lake District cannot be viewed as a one-time development, will not preserve Hanover’s rural character, and will spawn mixed use and other development along Route 33.

  1. The Density Is Not 5.5 Units/Acre

Claim – The applicant and the staff’s report state that the proposed density for the project is 5.5 units/acre.

Discussion — The 5.5 unit/acre calculation is simply the total number of residential units (1,787) divided by the gross acreage (323.3). Neither the staff report nor the applicant discuss Comp Plan or mixed use and multi-use provisions related to density or population growth issues.

Residential land bays 3, 4, and 6 contain 1,055 units. Using reasonable acreage estimates, the density in these areas is between 16.3 and 20.3 units/acre. See attached. The highest one, 20.3 units/acre, is based on the applicant’s submission. See pdf page 180 of the staff report.

Conclusion — The density of the residential only sections of the Lake District is unacceptably urban and substantially exceeds Hanover’s 15 unit/acre maximum. While it may be appropriate for Short Pump or Richmond, it is patently excessive for the Route 33 corridor and Hanover County generally.

  1. The Scale and Scope of Housing Development Is Unacceptable

Claim – The Lake District will provide attractive housing for its residents.

Discussion — 970 apartments will be located in 17 buildings, with first floor commercial in 12 of them and parking lots throughout land bays 4 and 9. 817 townhouses, stacked or unstacked, will be built row upon row, along streets and narrow alleys, in land bays 3 and 6. The urban size, scale, and scope of the housing projects is incompatible with existing development in Hanover County, particularly along Route 33.

Conclusion — The Lake District provides ultra-dense, urban housing incompatible with the Route 33 corridor and Hanover County.

  1. The Economic Development Is Unknown and Speculative

Claim – The designation of land bays 1, 2, 7, and 8 for economic development is acceptable.

Discussion — The applicant has proffered M-1 uses for these land bays. These include manufacturing; transportation and warehousing; professional, scientific, and technical services; hotels and motels (conditional use permit); and professional offices.

650,000 sf of general and corporate office space in these land bays, plus 42,000 sf programmed for land bay 5, is assumed to be developed for 59 businesses and requires the construction of an assumed 16 buildings.  While not so limited by the M-1 use proffer, only office space uses are projected by the applicant; and the assumed development appears not to be reflected in its proffered phasing plan. Otherwise the proffer for these land bays merely states that construction will be in accordance with general conditions and architectural standards in the master plan.

The applicant has not provided concrete plans for developing these areas, only an assumed one. The applicant will apparently rely on the county to attract prospects and does not indicate that it will be taking an active role in marketing the land bays.

Without knowing specific M-1 uses for any acreage within the land bays, it is impossible to assess the economic benefits which would be received by the county or the economic burdens which would be imposed on the county. Examples of uses which may be less desirable would be Commonwealth of Virginia (or similar) entities not subject to Hanover taxes, such as the recent ABC warehouse at issue in Riverstone, or a Fed Ex facility with major traffic impacts.

The future economic development of land bays 1, 2, 7, and 8 is speculative and immature. This A-1 land should not be approved for M-1 uses. An assumed plan for economic development does not provide a basis to approve the Lake District’s proposal. If and when the county or the applicant identifies businesses and uses for these land bays, applications can be filed and considered for approval by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.

Conclusion — Unknown and speculative future economic development of land bays 1, 2, 7, and 8 does not provide a basis to approve the project. It provides a reason to deny it.

  1. Open Space and Undevelopable Land, Environmental Impacts

Claim – The applicant is providing almost 100 acres of open space.

Discussion — Staff calculates that 85.85 acres of open space would be provided and notes that some is double counted. That is less than the 97.14 acres of undevelopable land, including the lake, dam inundation area, streams, wetlands, and steep slopes calculated by the applicant.

Conclusion –The applicant is developing every acre it can and maybe some undevelopable land as well. The environmental consequences of Lake District development have not been assessed, are likely to be unacceptable, and should not be deferred to construction plan reviews.

Dated: June 18, 2019

Bob Nelson, Chickahominy District

 

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