Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Planning Commission: Roseland and Charter Colony

It was impressive last night to witness the interest in the issues regarding the way in which we are growing here in Chesterfield and in particular the issue of the Roseland community and the implementation of impact fees.

Chesterfield saw the Planning Commission finally end its nights session close to 1AM this morning after hearing from residents concerned over the zoning approval of Roseland. I walked away from the hearing feeling really confident that most residents see the value that Roseland will bring to Chesterfield with its mixed use plan and even those opposed to the case as it stands today are supportive of the project generally and simply want some input in some modifications to the plan that will address their concerns as current homeowners.

The issue of current homeowners I believe is a significant one. Far too many times has the Board approved zoning big developments without really in my opnion considering the "real" impacts on current residents who may live adjacent to the zoning. Roseland is by far the best project to come along so far here in Chesterfield and rivals only Brandermill when it was first designed some thirty years ago. There are lessons to be learned from Brandermill to be sure, but one of the most important is the necessity of communication between developers, community and local government in a consorted effort to get the project right for the benefit of all those concerned. That of course can be a very tall order.

No one debates the value Roseland will bring to the community. The debate is over whether the developers should be allowed to place hotels and office buildings at the fringes of its 1400 acres backing up on the homes of residents of Charter Colony. These homeowners purchased their homes for the same reasons that the developers of Roseland hope will bring new residents to its project. Charter Colony residents deserve the opportunity to keep the aesthetic appeal of its neighboorhood that has existed since its creation as a residential community without the potential pitfalls of having large scale buildings, some proposed 12 stories high, within such close proximity to their personal green space (ie backyards).

Many residents of Charter Colony complained last night of the notification process and how they were only learning of the proposals as late as last Thursday. My obvious observation was that none of speakers have been reading Alter of Freedom. I spoke with countless folks who genuinely were unaware of not only the proposals but my blog as well. It reaffirmed to me why it is I blog in the first place. We must recognize that our government is not in the business of dissimilating information to the masses.

The Planning Commission in the end voted down the approval of the zoning case and based on the information addressed by Chairman Dan Gecker (Midlothian) it was largely due to the fact that changes to the plan made during the very day of the hearing did not allow the Commission the opportunity to make an informed opinion. There were some 24 "bullet" concerns that were twindles to two yesterday morning without really a focused staff report looking into all the changes .

The most interesting point to remember is the Roseland case is a "double" advertised case like so many because of our overworked and understaffed planning infrastructure working on all these cases. What does this mean? It means that though the Planning Commission has voted down the case, the Board of Supervisors will hear the same case next week and may and most likely will draw a different conclusion. We have seen this before. Our Board has not been so inclined to heed the guidance of the Planning Commission in the recent months with regard to zonings.

I think last night also provided a lesson in government. Mr. Gecker many times referenced the fact that this zoning and others before the Commission are not contributing to a transperant government and at times implied he was not even sure what it was they all were looking at before them in terms of the modifications. Furthermore, the turnout was also very impressive.
I must admit however, I was disappointed in hearing so many residents complain of lack of communication and ignorance of what the Roseland project could bring. There have been four public forums and many articles by Julian Walker of the RTD and Greg Pearson of the Observer bullet pointing these projects for almost a year now. This case proves yet again the requiremnt of all of us in our Homeowner Associations and the building of coalitions between neighborhoods in driving the debate. The deciders of these issues have long been able to sit and determine our growth without being held accountable.

The Board will here this case before the Election and it will be interesting how they will come down in light of the reservations expressed by of Charter Colony, which are certainly legitimate concerns that Roseland could potentially address before the next meeting. The developers last night expressed very little interest in pushing the case back for further review by the County so it will be interesting to see the power play before the Board. The opposition to the current plan will also have some time to increase its ranks before next week as well.

I do not live in Charter Colony but can honestly understand their position. There needs to be accomadation to existing neighborhoods in any plan of this magnitude. The developers have said that Roseland will be connectable with Charter Colony in order for residents there to take advantage of the mixed use environment of Roseland without having to get into their automobiles through walking trails and paths winding through the project and into its Old Town section.

Roseland was the dream of those who worked to design the RT 288 corridor and in fact some of those like Will Shemake who had lost to Manoli Loupassi in the Republican firehouse primary for the nomination to run against delegate Katherine Waddell earlier this year spoke at the hearing and addressed what he saw as Roselands fit within the Chesterfield Comprehensive Plan.

On balance I hope the Roseland project will move forward and with a few directed modifications to the existing plan it would certainly be endorsed by the greater community. My concern is far too many residents are playing catch up to the realities of the descisions being made by the BOS and find themselves experiencing the impacts of those realities uncomfortable.

My advice is to get involved in the process folks. If you believe that existing homeowners should be given every opportunity to work with the developers of the Roseland before the Board approves the zoning than call your Supervisor ASAP. As fast as our county is growing we may all at some point be in the position of those residents of Charter Colony.

In fact I am currently investigating what the impacts will be on Midlothian and the Robious Road corridor with the extension of Cranbeck Road toward Chesterfield Towne Center and the zoning for a new Costco store on that extension.


Anonymous said...

I am fully confident in Sowers and the project at Roseland I just wonder if a project is going to take 20 to 30 years to come about why is there just a rush to judgement in terms of zoning. Even if it is true that Charter Colony homeowners are just now learning about it it begs the question why the parties can't simply get back together and work things out. I know due to State law the Commission could not defer the case, but it seems to me there should be some other remedy.

Anonymous said...

Jaeckle seeking the Supervisor of Bermuda seat is in favor of Roselands plan but all the potential winners in Bermuda, Hart and Wallace as well, all seem to have reservations as to Branner Station. Is this a situation of "not in my back yard mentality" in terms of zonings of this size.

Anonymous said...

We (Roseland) have a meeting with Charter Colony residents (specifically the Mallory Village section) on Saturday morning at 11:00am on Lundy Terrace to discuss their concerns. We will be making a proposal that we are confident will ease their concerns about building heights. The challenge for us, as developers, is that, in cases like this, residents do not have the confidence that developers will listen to their concerns and work with them on finding a solution. Many of these Charter Colony residents received notification of at least three of our town hall style meetings over the last year, yet we were only made aware of their building height concern at a meeting on Sunday, October 14th. Had we been aware of their concerns we would certainly have made changes to our plan well before the planning commission meeting. We are sure the Charter Colony issue can and will be resolved this weekend.

When considering why we, as developers, want to move this project forward, you have to understand that we have a long and hard road even after the zoning process is complete. Engineering, design and plan approval can take years to complete before even the infrastructure can begin. We have taken on considerable risk and exposure by producing such intensive planning even before the zoning application was filed nearly a year ago, and have actually been working with the County for over two years on our plan. We ask the Board to consider the case now because we believe the case is ready to be heard and considered. After the merits of the case are scrutinized, which did not happen at the Planning Commission, the consensus will be affirmation that Roseland is good for Chesterfield County, and should be allowed to move forward and become a reality.

Thanks for the opportunity to post on your weblog.

Casey Sowers

AlterofFreedom said...

Casey Sowers:
I want to thank you for tsking the time to inform the readers here your position. In an election year as focused on "Smart Growth" as this cycle has become, many are forgetting that alot of our developers are just that "our" developers. They are from right here in the County. So when we get the campaign literature about excessive developers I think our politicians do a disservice to the community by clouding thingsd at time with such rhetoric.
While I believe we certainly need more from our business community in terms of its 19% mix in terms of carrying the financial burden, I have always felt that your project was certainly a model to be hled up not just for Chesterfield by the entire Commonwealth. I cannot underscore how impressive your work has been on this and fully realize that the concerns of Charter Colony will be heard. These of course afterall will be Roselands neighboors. In a project that will certainly take two to three decades to complete it is important for the community to come together and tackle these issues together along with the you and future developers for the benefit of all parties involved.
I fully believe in Roselands success, but hope that the Planning Commission hearing can stand as a lesson for the future in terms of the needs of real communication on both sides. residents need to engage the process where it permits and be involved and not ignore the opportunties that were provided by the town hall forum regarding Roseland. I admit that at times these forums are not adequetely advertised in the general media but if citizens demand these things they will in the future.
I hope that this blog fills a little of the void that can be left in our community in terms of the communication.
I thank you for your contribution and am glad that another meeting has been scheduled to address concerns.

Anonymous said...

If I recall residents of the City had the same kind of issue when the zoning for Stony Point Fashion Park was approved. Residents living behind Stony Point Shopping Center and down toward Cherokee Road faced the same issue of Condo style apartments and a Hotel backing up through the tree lines visually. Now of course there are more homes goin in there along Huguenot. maybe reps from Roseland and Charter Colony should walk that area and get a visual as to exactly what 1K feet is and what they really can expect to be looking at atop there tree lines.

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that the distance between Charter Colony residences along Lundy and Roseland is more like 500 feet of space.
It appears as though the "remedy" addressed by the first comment while be the vote by the Board. Unfortunately, this is how our government has been working with double advertised cases.
I still applaud Roseland for continuing the dialogue but in the end the BOS could simply vote for the plan before them on Wednesday.
It will be interesting to see the vote of Don Sowder.

Anonymous said...

It has been Sowder pattern to support the developers. He will approve the plan for Roseland.
Another point I want to make is I got a not so factual or misleading mailer from the campaign for Dan Gecker who is opposing Sowder. He stated that Sowder voted to "raise out taxes".
I was there when Sowder supported the proposal to lower the tax rate and he voted for it.
If the Gecker campaign istrying to imply that because he did not support the .95cent thresold and opted for the plan for 97 cents that he is a tax raiser I do not think that flies. The rate Sowder endorsed was lower than the intitial property tax rate and therefor Sowder LOWERED taxes on residents.
If this is how Gecker plans to lead as a Supervisor then he whole idea of "planning not politics" is BS because politics is exactly what he is playing with when looking at Sowders record.

I would hope AofF would follow up on this and get to the truth.

AlterofFreedom said...

As you know Mr. Sowder is mt district Supervisor, however I have as yet received the mailer that you have referenced.

I can hoestly tell you that Mr. Gecker and Mr. Loupassi are winning the mailer wars. I have as yet not received a single mailer from Mr. Sowder's campaign.

I did receive one mailer from Friends of Gecker on Thursday "Who Will Stand up to the Powerful" that I had some issue with but as far as mailers go it was pretty tame.

I just think both the Board and the Planning Commission need to both take responsibility for the increased power of the developers over the last ten years and the fcat it appears as if we have the two not working from the same page hurts the process.

The Fall Festival is today (both the Village and greenfield have them I think)so I am sure we may get a chance to see some of these candidates, at least the ones from Midlothian but hopefully there will be some Sheriff candidates because I have quite a few things questions before I can make an honest determination in that race.


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