Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Roseland Case Deferred 90 days

While many of us have kept an eye on the Roseland zoning plans and case over the course of the last year, the developers finally had the opportunity to come before the Board of Supervisors and bring their case for zoning before the County.

The Planning Commission in my view failed to sieze the opportunity of deferring the zoning case which would have prevented or at least extended the time frame before the case would reach the Board and provided for more discussion/communication with residents along the Woolridge Road area. Do not get me wrong, I believe that the developers in this case have extended their hands to local communities over the course of the last year but there still remain some issues that should be addressed by both the developers and the residents together. The Planning Commission failed to provide more time for this to occur and the case was sent to the Board.

After roughly twenty speakers, mostly in favor of deferment of the case, addressed the Board of Supervisors and in the end Ms. Durfee, (I) Supervisor Matoaca District spoke at length regarding the case and hit on quite a few points, including the communication with residents, as well as some of the more smart growth centric issues in the case. She proposed that the Board defer the case for ninety days for continued review and the motion passed the Board with one exception, Mrs. Jaeckle, (R) Supervisor Bermuda District. Jaeckle voiced her feeling that the parties would be able to work issues out over a thirty day period and if needed could seek further deferment if required but that to give a ninety day deferment would result in the review taking the entire period of time which could result in some of the business interests with regard to economic development (code for signed leasing agreements/intents) to be forgone by the business community due the the length of time this project is taking to get zoning approval.

The most striking point is most County residents probably where unaware that this case involves both the Midlothian and Matoaca Districts. Durfee took the lead in addressing much of the issue at hand, but Daniel Gecker, (I) Supervisor Midlothian, had very little to input regarding the case other than he would support Ms. Durfee's wishes for seeking the ninety day deferment. Gecker has been involved in this case since its inception as the former Planning Commissioner for the Midlothian District when this development was first proposed. In fact, Mr. Gecker has been involved with most of the major new growth projects being built out in Chesterfield, including Crossland's Cloverleaf project, Watkins Centre, Magnolia Green and much of the commercial zonings like the Shops at Stonehenge along the Route 60 corridor. His few words were striking given the fact that the impacts on the Village of Midlothian with regard to the Roseland project could be substantial and virtually be a catalyst for the area to lose its charm and historical village plan.

I have said this quite a few times and it cannot go without saying that the integrity of the five or so Chesterfield Villages will be tested in the coming years with regard to zoning cases. If one want to see the future for Chester one only has to look to Midlothian and the major factor protecting Bon Air is the City and the lack of land available around it and no one should forget that with the enormous amount of growth coming to the Ft. Lee area in the next ten plus years that Ettrick could also see such measures taken to support the areas growth.

In the end, while happy with the reasoning behind the deferment I have to admit that I still remain very concerned with the wake that the case will leave behind upon approval. I think the project on its merits should ultimately gain full approval and the Sowers folks have done a tremendous job at bringing a very modern development before the Board but my concern has always been what the true impacts will be on the greater community at large. These issues in terms of a zoning case or planning by the developers are honestly not really the developers issues as much as they are our leadership on the Board. We are trusting that upon build out of this development that our Board will plan for such impacts that may result from such a large scale project. These impacts will certainly be on our schools, whose budget was just reduced some six million dollars and our roads which our Board as little to offer up in terms of relief.

Even if we see a build out in three phases over fifteen years, we are still talking about adding 5K new homes (which amounts to ten thousand new cars) every five years and though the schools are included in the case for elementary I wonder for example what answer the Board has for say pre-schools and daycare centers which virtually throughout the Midlothian District all have waiting lists even today before the build outs of Roseland and the countless other projects. I realize the politicians will say its the private sectors responsibility to look to service those needs in the coming years, but I just cannot help but see there being a shrinking piece of undeveloped pie being seen in the greater Midlothian community which could result in pushing many services upon that of the Clover Hill and Matoaca Districts along RT 360 which is already overburdened with poor commercial zonings and of course excessive traffic counts year over year.

So while a realist and know that this Board will pass the Roseland development, I think the greater question will be if they are able to secure their political futures should they fail to midigate alot of the impacts on services, including the issue of the Upper Swift Creek Plan and our water quality in Swift Creek that could be threatened with continued development throughout Midlothian and Matoaca. I keep a picture of Lake Chesdin from just last year that demonstrates just what can happen to our water levels during a dryer year and though we may be experiencing some great rains so far this year, we cannot forget about what can happen when low rainfall occurs or we experience something even worse than 2007.

The folks at GBS Holding which will oversee the Roseland development feel the project will reduce the collective dependency on the automobile once the it is fully phased and even has the potential of adding a light rail down the road. The County Planning Department estimates that the project will bring about 77K additional car trips per day on County serviced roadways, which may certainly have been a concern of Wayne Bass, Planning Commissioner for Matoaca, who sought additional time for review of the project but could not get any support on the Planning Commission for a deferment.

"I know I am fighting a stacked deck up here"- Wayne Bass, Planning Commission

"This is well planned and smartly developed"- R.J. Gulley, Chairman Planning Commission

Yeah, Mr. Bass I think you were right. The deck may very well have been stacked, but because the 1500 acre project is mostly in your district you would have thought that you would have gotten the support of the remianing Commissioners for a deferment.

"It takes time to analyze this large a development for Chesterfield County to determine if its appropriate"- M. Durfee, Supervisor Matoaca District

"We think Roseland is a poster child for responsible growth"- Casey Sowers, GBS Holdings
"We are satisfied that the case meets and exceeds all reasonable standards"- Casey Sowers, GBS Holdings

"Sprawl is about the misuse of resources" Dave Anderson, Developer Engineer, GBS Holdings


John said...

If you were listening last night or tuning in on the access channel you would have heard Dan Gecker's point regarding his involvement with not only the Roseland issue but also the Crossland. Gecker challenged Crossland last year to refine its case and shape in a manner that it would gain approval once all the underlying concerns with the site were addressed. He mentioned going to Charlotte to meet with those developers of the project and working with them on such a crucial revitalization project for the County and maybe spent more concentration on that endeavor than say the Roseland case.

James said...

Certainly we have witnessed some rather excessive growth by any standard. Route 360 WEst is cluttered with commercialization and it has contributed to the sprawl issues of Route 360 East leading into Richmond. That area will suffer the same conditions that Route 60 and the Crossland site has been selected to remedy.
These two arteries of traffic and the results which have followed could not have been in the minds of those creating the Comprehensive Plan but nonetheless the arteries were allowed to be developed in the pattern of Route 250(Broad Street) in the West End. The idea then was if a brick and mortar opened up there (Route 250), Chesterfield needed one here on one of its arteries as well and what transpired was nothing more than mirror arteries.
Roseland offers something different though. And while I agree in kind with many of want Alter has suggested here and in most posts, it goes without saying that this project has to be taken in the context of the future and not the past with regard to the zoning approval.
It will bring some increased pains but in the end it will create a different "town setting" feel we have lost with our dependence on the automobile.
My only real concern is the notion that there will be limited parking throughout "Main Street" area where shops and retail will go. How will residents of other communities be able to patronage these areas if there is no parking available on site to gain access. T
There is an element of exclusivity tone that disturbs me given the role of the public and County in this endeavor.

Will said...

Our patience with this Board will start to run thin if it should fail to address and deliver on the very premise of the campaigns that were run last year.

Someone explain to me how different things would stand today if the previous board were still in power. Would they have cut the School Board budget by some six million by reducing the tax rate. Given they just reduced last year I doubt they would have again so quickly given the economic situation of the budget looking out two years and by not doing the School Board would have remained fully funded for 08/09.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the Planning Commission may decide to force a delay of game on the developers as well. Eventhough there was only one dissenting vote in March before being kicked up to the Board it will now return to the PC with much more politics involved.This process was begun in early 2006 and now two years later it is apparent that this project is no where closer to being settled. So much for ending the politics as promised by these newly elected officials.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that the group that will benefit most from all of this is the developers behind Magnolia Green having been approved and development being underway.

Did they have to jump through the same hurdles as Roseland has had to deal with given the size and magnitude of that planned community?

I think that one is in Durfee's backyard as well and eventhough she may may not have been on the Board at the time of that zoning approval I cannot help but wonder why the same parameters are not being used to judge this case.

Other than politics that is.

Bob Olsen said...

To answerer a number of commenter’s:
Will, I assume is Will Sumate the Lawyer for the Developers involved, Consider the source.
Anonymous May 4, it’s not politics It’s a cautious approach to not repeat the mistakes of the past. Besides, in today’s market they won’t sell any time soon anyway.
Anonymous May 5, Get Real, Magnolia Green was zoned before there were even proffers! They didn’t have to jump the hoops because the previous administrations let the developers have what ever they wanted. It’s not fair to try to lay this on Durfee. It will, I believe be required to pay a transportation impact fee that the General Assembly just allowed last year.

Anonymous said...

That would mean that Magnolia was zoned prior to 1989 when the cash proffer policy was first passed by Chesterfield.
It strikes me uncanny how land zoned, if indeed Magnolia was zoned prior to 1989, can somehow usurp any present day situation involving the comprehensive planning for the County in 2008.

The implication is because the land was bought and zoned before 1989 that pre-1989 use restrictions or codes should be used since its approval then for zoning. Seems to me if thats the case then thats the issue. If land is zoned for development there should certainly be a time frame set at the time of zoning before a developer or owner must resubmit new zoning plans before the County. How is it a developer is allowed in this case to sit on land zoned for twenty years before build out begins and is not held to the same standard as current proposed developments.
Anyone who believes that Magnolia Green was ever held to the scrutiny as Roseland has the past two years is completely out of the loop with regard to this. Magnolia got a virtual pass for its 4K potential homes.
And if the arguement is these homes will not be built for sometime regarding Roseland then why not not zone the property accordingly for them and let them sit on it until they decide to build out like the developers as you say had the land for Magnolia Green zoned before 1989 and did not begin until 2007.
Roseland is being used a political wedge issue by the likes of Marlene Durfee and others because it is expedient to do so given the campaigns that were run for office to begin with. They must continue to play the smart growth fiddle or be criticized for being no different than the previous Board, eventhough as many have contended this proposal for Roseland is by far the best proposal the County as ever seen since the Brandermill development of the 1970's.
The developers have answered every question and concern and met with Charter Colony residents at least a half a dozen times to address those areas of concern. I wonder just how many people or groups Magnolia was required to meet with?
To say that "politics" is not being played here is simply flat out naive at best.
And Durfee referecnes to the Upper Swift Creek Plan on this case strike me as rather confusing given such a small part of this project is even impacted by that plan to begin with.
How about then we stop playing games with Upper Swift Creek Plan and watershed and fix that now as promised by these new Boardmembers so that everything else with have the barometer at which to gauge the impact of future growth or make provision for guidelines in the palnning set by the determination of the watershed.
Yeah, there's a thought. Start solving issues instead of deferring them or sending them back to the Planning Commission at every whim and stop playing politics with the School Boards budget and not the Boards own.

John said...

And do not forget Anonymous about Branner Station, as many residential units but 1/3 the amount of commercial space in the project.

Roseland is being held to an entirely different standard than Branner Station or Magnolia Green and to some that seems to be just fine if they are proponents of curbing growth, any growth that is.

The Roseland proposal is a case study on what is the right way of future development in Chesterfield.
It will be interesting to see if this Board can manage to screw it up. They seem to be on their way.

Bob Olsen said...

Anonymous May 6, as implausible as it may seem, in the state of Virginia once you receive zoning, it is considered an inheritable right. The proffers that existed at the time of the zoning are what they pay, no matter when they are actually built. That is Virginia Law. That is why it is So Critical to have Impact Fees passed by the General Assembly.
Under Impact Fee laws, the developer would pay the fee applicable when the homes came on line, rather then when zoned. Still playing catch-up, but now a little closer to the actual cost.
In January of 1989, The Chesterfield Board of Supervisors announced that they were going to implement cash proffers for zoning as enacted by the Virginia General Assembly during the 1988 session. The critical mistake was the Board would not implement until June 1 1989. During the month of May, 30,000 lots including, Magnolia Green were zoned with NO proffers. It will take years to clean out this inventory.
Two sessions ago the General Assembly authorized transportation impact fees. Magnolia Green will be paying those to off set the cost of roads for the impact of the development. A special tax district was set up including the Magnolia Green.
As for the cautious approach to Roseland, my personal opinion is that the Board sees how these major developments can affect the county many years after rezoning. They see what happened with Magnolia Green, and don’t want something similar to happen with Roseland. I believe its Prudence Not Politics

AlterofFreedom said...

Mr. Olsen makes some pretty impressive points here that have to be considered. There must, as with any case or policy, be a matter in which a balance of "prudence" and "politics" is employed in these matters. The reality is there will be no way to satisfy the agruements of everyone or community when it comes to paying for or even keeping up with the impacts of growth.
The fact remains our County planning officials have been backlogged and overburdened with case loads for years for zonings and developments. This in my opinion should have been the alarm to curb some of the growth and slow not speed up the process for zoning cases. Far too many cases were approved without proper transparency of impact, especially in Matoaca and Midlothian. There has been little relative expansion of the Bermuda or Dale areas in terms of new residential growth when compared to other areas. This should have been remedied long ago with public officials seeking to balance the County.
If you go to the Chesterfield Government website there some really excellant info with regard to business and homes in graph and map form that bears all of this out. When you see where the population is centered now versus say twenty years ago you will get the picture. Twenty years from now there will be little growth in Midlothian as much of the area will already have been built out, think Bon Air--there is no land available in any quantity for large development. Many will call this a product of "sprawl effect" but it truly is a matter of poor balance of planning and zonings.
The Magnolia case and its long held zoning is certainly an example of where there is a gap between the reality and the intent of the laws and policies. I have been a supporter on this blog for impact fees and an increase in cash proffers.
It is my understanding this Board will be considering cash proffers again this year and raising them from 15,600 is long over due. I do not think holding up the case of Roseland is somehow delivering the people what it wants in terms of curbing growth per say as would raising the fee structure. We are already sitting on excess inventory let along a rise in the foreclosures coming on line and an increase in the cash proffer may result in two things: a decrease in the number of the homes being newly constructed or at least slow them down or as a result of the increased costs cause the developers to build smaller homes as a means of bringing the price points back in line with the market. Of course any fees will be passed on to consumers as will be the arguement by developers as an "artificial tax" but if a consumer wishes to spend 500K plus for a home I think the arguement is baseless. Conversely, the increased fees may cause higher priced homes to be constructed given the margins on smaller (less than 2000 sq feet)could be impacted by such an increase but I think the issue is even at 15,600 these smaller homes are few and far between in terms of construction. Sadly, apparently the Board and PC have been content with Townhomes to fill this void in the zonings.
The Roseland case is offering some things as we know in lieu of the cash proffers which is more beneficial than anyhting hence proposed. By letting the developers take control of the roads and school build out, it relieves the County from having to either come up with a means to provide such measures or attemtping to pass another bond offering---which we all know is coming by 2012 anyway. The case should be approved on its merits based on the planning not based on anything else given the fact the zoing case is exceeding any other proposed developed area in the State in terms of all the tenents of controlled planning.
Had Magnolia's process been the same as Roseland's with the same criteria it seems, that case would certainly not be requiring "special districts" or "transportation authorities". The attention that Roseland seems to be getting is greater than that of say the Cloverleaf Mall project because though it is a great case is not in this market really feeling a present need ;like say the revitilization of Cloverleaf, in the eyes of the Board---maybe that is the prudence factor Bob is referring. Nonetheless, the delay in the Roseland case is also at the very least an admission by the Board of the failures of the past and even that of Magnolia Green in the process.

Bob Olsen said...

Amen Alter, You hit it exactly right. You can't change history,but you can change the future! Quite a few of Chesterfield's problems, and the Nation also, are because we don't learn from our past mistakes. So we are doomed to make them again! Roseland will be a good zoning case in the final vote. But let's not push it through because the investors want a quick return on their money. Roseland has some great Ideas that could work. But as I said earlier Prudence Not Politics. Thanks Alter