Saturday, December 1, 2007

Two Robious Road Zoning Cases Could Impact Corridor

If you are traveling along the Robious Road Corridor this weekend you will undoubtedly see those pesky little blue zoning awareness signs scattered about with the phone numbers so small you have to pull over in traffic to write down the number to call to get information regarding the case.

I liken this to the small ad that an establishment is required by law to notify the public that they plan to sell alcohol. It is listed so small in the paper and has to be by law that no one really notices. It may just be that both of these things really are intended not to get much notice by the general public nor does anyone really want the public to notice until its too late to do much about it.

The two most pressing issues along Robious Road are two zoning cases or measures which could make road congestion and noise related concerns even worse. Robious has seen increased traffic resulting from its widening in the last ten years as route connecting Midlothian Tnpk to Huguenot Road and beyond to the Powhatan County line. The intersection of Huguenot and Robious has always been one of those with increased traffic pressure. Currently there are commercial development projects along the eastern portion of Robious Road approaching the intersection that will bring strip type retail opposite the Huguenot Shopping Center, which itself has seen expansion in recent years with Great Big Greenhouse's operation. Further back Robious has seen condo style housing and assisted living (Sunrise Asssited)) go in at the corner of Robious and Cranbeck Road where the first of these zoning cases may be taking root.

In an attempt possibly to alleviate the cogestion at the Huguenot and Robious intersection, zoning is considering the extension of the road all the way to Chesterfield Towne Center. This extension would allow for the creation and zoning of more commercial properties which is likely its intent. In fact, it will be required if there is to be the new Costco store that is being considered. Connecting Huguenot to Chestefield Towne Center via the Cranbeck roadway on balance may look attractive from a Powerpoint perspective, but concerning the impacts on Robious Road itself and the surrounding area of neighboorhoods there is plenty of room for concern.

A canvass during the election cycle showed that 90% of the people asked living in the Greenfield, Settlers Landing, Heritage Village, Heritage Commons and Bon Air Terrace communities were unaware of the potential plan. Once communicated about the potential for such an extension some 80% opposed such measures. 80%.

I certainly hope that Mr. Gecker, the newly elected Supervisor for the District of Midlothian, pays particular notice to this percentage as he managed to secure the precincts in this area in his bid for election. This extension would directly impact everyone of those voters on a daily basis and a petition may be planned joining all these communities in addressing this issue.

This may be the first test of the new Planning Commission and Board in this area as much of the quadrant has already experienced its fast growth stages of development. The standby that the land is already zoned commercial and the plan is suitable and meets the Comphrehensive Plan jargon may be on the horizon. If I recall correctly I believe the residents of these precincts sent the message in the election that the so-called Comprehensive Plan needed to be revised, this could be the first opportunity where residents will be given the opportunity to remind those new Board members of the message.

The second is a zoning for the intersection of Corner Rock Road and Robious which is along the western corridor of Robious Road and is the means by which many residents of the Roxshire community enter the Robious roadway. This intersection ahs long needed a traffic light. If you have ever traveled this roadway at 6PM you will often see that the left turn lane from westbound has never been long enough to accomodate traffic during rush hour. It appears as if the zoning is for the purposes of residential homes fronting Robiouis Road along the southern side at Corner Rock. This should be a rezoning increasing the number of homes per acre that may be built if I understand it correctly. For arguement sake, say the land has the ability to add fifty for homes with two cars per household resulting in 100 additional cars accessing that intersection would contribute to the road congestion further along the corridor. Certainly, any development here would require a light be built at this intersection and if not then certainly should not be approved. Corner Rock Road itself is virtually an unlined narrow road accessing the subdivision about a half mile back off Robious. This case could certainly benefit the area with certain conditions like the traffic light, but the other factor is many residents of Roxshire like the fact that the current dynamic buffers them from the noise and congestion of Robious Road.

Both of these cases will increase the congestion along the corridor to be sure. The question lies in what benefit would the cases bring to the community. The arguement to me lies in community value not comprehensive plan or zoning guidelines that are applicable. I realize thats not very politically correct, but should we not be asking our Supervisors to demonstrate or defend the value that future projects will bring to our community while also addressing potential impacts. Should we not be cautious about adding fifty or more new homes to an area that aleady has overcrowded schools? If the average home in Chesterfield has 1.53 children do we have the room for those children now in local schools like Robuious Elementary and Middle School or James River High to accomodate education or are we simply hoping we can fit them in somewhere. Seventy five students does not seem like much but if you want to keep class sizes to twenty five that is THREE classes which require THREE rooms per period to educate them.

And is the Cranbeck extension merely an attempt to prop up access to Chesterfield Towne Center resulting from the perception that it may be adversely affected by thwe Watkins Center project?

12 comments:

Rem said...

Just a thought.

How do you compensate private landowners who want to develop their property within the existing zoning framework and the surrounding citizens would prefer otherwise? Im not sitting in judgment on the reasons for their opposition, just wanting to explore the ramifications of their actions and how this could be accomplished fairly.

One solution is for the affected communities to gather and create a special tax district whereby they would purchase the property to be set aside as an easement or whatever and pay for it through an addendum to their personal property tax. Just like landowners in Va Beach and Sandbridge do to get beach replenishment.

The question then becomes an economic one, when the 80% you mention can decide for themselves if the cost of denying the existing landowner the right to develop their propetry is really worth the cost.

As it stands now,complaining to the BOS costs them relatively little and the property owner much. I think every protest to a zoning case that falls within the compreshensive plan should begin with "how much are you willing to pay for it to be otherwise?"

On a more personal note, cases like these could be considered as prime examples for creating more greenspace, parks etc and would benefit the entire county instead of just a few neighborhoods. I hope that any revisit of the comprehensive plan would take that into consideration and kill two birds with one stone so to speak.

Because our county has seen fit to allow development to proceed without any thought to pedistrian or bike traffic, the roads are that much more congested and unsafe for all involved.

Anonymous said...

I would not any issue with a person building upon the land they own, but the fact is when you devlop land with multiple dwellings you are no longer a mland owner per say but a business developing property. The owner most likely has held the property for some time and has sold it to a developer contingent upon getting approval for it to be zoned r-12 or whatever. In my view that person has now enterned a for profit domain as a business enterprise and the greater community should look at it from that view not whether this is one landowner not being able to do with his/her property what they will.
Commercial building comes under a different landscape than that of a single owner building on the property.

Jim said...

Your point in addressing schools is good one.
The School Board officials should be brought in with any zoning cases for residential development in a better way. It is the budget of the schools that has to planned out going forward based on real numbers of students not some fancy formula.
If there is not space currently available for students then no zonings should be approved for development. In this case the individual landowner must realize that though they may wish to develop the property it should not be done if the County is not prepared for the implications of such an event.
If sewer or power were unavailable we would require some measures be taken before a zoning case could go forward. Why is school crowding not considered in the same light? Our schools are in the state they are in with crowding due to this rush to develop acreage to generate the tax revenues from the housing to fuel the pot as the Board hides the real economic condition of county resources.
In the end if we do not have space for the children we should not approve any more new homes until we do or at the very least create another source of revenue like the impact fee to cover the costs by these units that would result in the school board having to expand buildings or buy more trailers.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see how Dan Gecker responds to these issues once he is on the other side of the issue. I do not think that he supported the commercial aspects of that side of Robious Road outside of the higher end aprtment style housing at Robious and Cranbeck. That said I was informed that he supports the extension of the Cranbeck and was making that a point during the zoning case before when the issue of a Costco Store was raised last year.
Again that was when he was a Planner now he will be a Supervisor come January. Be careful what you wish for I guess.

Anonymous said...

Folks growth is not going away regardless of what people may think with the election results. Much of what the new BOS will face has been before the County for some time in the planning department. There will not be much new for awhile and many like Dan Gecker and Art Warren should be well versed on many of these projects.
I wonder of the 13% commercial/industrial how much is in the Bermuda area compared to say other parts of the County? I know there is a reearch technology park that needs some road infrastructure to coonect to interstates and wonder just how they are going to get that funding.

Jody L. Wilcox said...

Durfree and Gecker have a very small window of opportunity with these upcoming zoning cases to show that they will do as they said they will....growth is not bad in and of itself and when no growth candidates approve good growth or any growth for that matter they are still breaking their campaign promises.

Anonymous said...

Gecker was not a "no growth" candidate for Supervisor. As a Planning Commissioner he sought to work to revise the comprehensive plan to be better suited for the county's future. He supports growth, but is issue is he has no way of being able to fund the budget without approving many of these plans for development. He will not impose impact fees nor will he seek to increase property tax revenue which leaves him and Durfee boxed with either increasing proffers which they pledged not to do most lilkely to get the developer support or approval more zoning cases to lock in the revenue that will be provided by the buildout.

Rem said...

Most candidates were smart enough to declare themselves as pro "smart growth". Whatever that means.

The one candidate whom came closest to promising "no growth" was Ree Hart. Her campaign literature made it seem like she was a no growth candidate but the fine print really said "as long as it paid for itself".

Dont anybody fool themselves. Growth is going west as fast as it can. There is no mystery. The whole county is going to infill. I can only hope our "leaders" will present us with a road and school plan to accomodate it and how much it will cost and when do we start being proactive about it.

I read a statement from Marshall Trammel this past week in the village news about dealing with growth and in a nutshell, his attitude is we will always be behind the curve with overcrowded schools. To me, that points up a lack of vision and capable leadership.

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Rem said...

Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones.

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