Saturday, June 9, 2007

If You Build It (They) Will Come

Lately I am reminded of the words, "If You build it, he will come" from the movie Field of Dreams, but these days it has little to do with baseball in Chesterfield. In my mind, it has more to do with planning and growth in the county. According to estimates we are expected to build some 10, 000 new residential lots in Chesterfield by the end of 2007. By "new" I mean those yet to be zoned for such use but have been asked for in plans. In addition to the new lots, there is also still an inventory of over 40,000 lots in Chesterfield that are currently ready for development and have come through the planning process successfully but have as yet been built upon.

In listening to the main stream media reports regarding the economy and national home sales it appears as though Chesterfield will have a surplus of inventory by years end. In fairness, Chesterfield and the Metro Richmond area has continued to beat the national average of homes sales/starts for quite some time, however some have expressed the view that the peak in the market is well behind us. For the record, I am not a real estate expert. That said, however, what I see at least in Chesterfield's Midlothian district is home sales are appearing to slow way down. I say this because as a long time resident in the area I have seen homes sell extremely fast the last two years but now are staying on the market much much longer.

Another aspect is the fact that sellers are reducing their home prices for the first time in years. I have seen a property located in the James River High School area reduce its selling price twice already, where early last year the home would have sold above the original asking price fairly easily. This trend is a by product of changing market conditions and above all else inventory.

The more inventory that remian for sell and longer it takes to move said inventory the lower prices will become. We have seen this before at brief period in the markets housing history. The looming challenege however, is the fact that the County is experiencing large growth in "New" construction. In the end this to could effect existing home sale values and the number sold in the coming year.

The biggest question most new families are looking at are schools and services. Lets face it, home values have not been a high priority per say largely due to the fact that a predominant number of new residents are coming to Chesterfield from the Northeast United States where home values are much higher. Chesterfield is seen a a great value, especially say to a family of four coming from New Jersey where not only are the values of their homes there higher, but their taxes are drastically higher than Chesterfield across the board. Simple speak: our cost of living is more reasonable and you get more home for your money. To continue a true growth reality, however, we have yet truly faced lack of schools and services to accomodate such new plans that as a county we have currently before us.

All that said. Chesterfield faces a tremondous amount of planning issues going forward with the new residential inventory that could be phased in. Setting aside all the commercial developments of the day, Chesterfield is looking at new residential communities such as Roseland (5,140 lots) Magnolia Green (4,886 lots) Branner Station (4,688 lots) Harpers Mill (2,392 lots) are the ones that are significant in terms of size and are currently in the planning stages. Of course all of these lots will not be built at once and will be phased in over the next ten to fifteen years, nonetheless all of the zoning in up for planning in 2007-08. These issues do not consider the vast number of other additional projects before the Planning Commission that incude areas of Swift Creek Village, lots along Lake Chesdin, and along the corridors of Route 360, Route 60 and down towards Chester.

One aspect that really has not been addressed, though in terms of development may Branner Station is the proposed solution, is the planned expansion of the Ft. Lee military installation of the next five to ten years. This base will draw more military to Chesterfield, which currently is home to some 26% of military personnel stationed at Ft. Lee. Chesterfield will not only be tasked with planning for the expansion impacts, but also looking at an overcrowding of schools as it is in the county.

Chesterfield continues to build and build, but I still have doubts that with every piece of planning approved that the powers that be some how have a real disconnect with the results and the simple fatct remains that"If you build it (they) will come"--we had better prepare for their arrival alot better than we have in the last five years or we may just become another Fairfax.


Anonymous said...

Much of what you are saying is indeed true. I think we are just building too fast. The average home value in the county is 175,962 and the median income is 67,228. That puts the county a full ten thousand dollars ahead of say Henrico. The average assessement increased 16.6% but is still in line with other counties. The issue is the more high-end homes we build in Chesterfield the more likely our averages will increase. Its as if the planners are saying we do not want affordable single-family housing anymore. If you look at Henrico they have more condos/townhomes units than Chesterfield and Chesterfield has larger homes with larger lots which cost more money. We are bring ing in more residents from all over but are not keeping pace with services and roads as we should. The only way to do that is to have the business community pay its share. Chesterfield's business tax and fees on business is so over the top Pro-business that down the line there will be crisis in revenues. If we allow the next elected officials to not increase business tax/fees nor cash proffers on the lots you addressed by developers, we as a county will fall behind in funding services further. Note: we are already planning to promise certain developments like Cloverleaf (Chippenham Place) and Magnolia Green and possibly Watkins Center virtually a free lunch in terms of proffers.

Anonymous said...

We have our citizens on Planning to thank for all this with the help of the Board and now one of the planners in Jack Wilson wants to be a Supervisor. Ain'tthat grand.

Dave said...

I find it interesting that no one really is covering the totality of all these planning issues before the Commission and the Board of Supervisors pro-gowth or be dammed attitude. It seems to me that if the local government is overwhelmed with pending zoning cases that it should take a step back and consider that things are moving entirely to fast. Did these guys even budget money to expand the staff to assist with all these cases.
Wouldn't be something if we simply halted new business and phased in smart growth and maybe just maybe property values would increase instead of leaving remnants of the previous decades sprawl.