By Pauline Hovey, Field Officer
The Greene County Planning Commission unanimously denied the Fried Companies’ request to rezone its development off US 29 and Preddy Creek Road from residential to planned unit development (PUD) at a December 21st public hearing. When asked after the meeting whether he would pursue his company’s request with the incoming Board of Supervisors, Steve Jones, Fried’s chief operating officer, said he was uncertain what direction the company will take from here.
Fried Companies has been attempting to address changes in the real estate market by asking the county for more flexibility in changing its planned residential development from 800 single-family homes on one-acre lots to 1180 homes, 580 of which would be townhomes. The thought is that less expensive townhomes on smaller lots would provide more diverse and affordable housing for county residents and create more rooftops, which would be attractive to commercial development. Jones explained this would be a 20-year project, with the first single-family home being built in 2014. “It’s a long-haul project,” Jones said, “and we believe it’s consistent with the county’s vision for the comp plan.”
Among the proffers Fried Companies offered for the rezoning included cash proffers of $1,500 per unit, a public use area of 3 acres set aside on the property, and a connector road through the development, connecting Preddy Creek Road and US 29, which Jones said would alleviate the additional traffic created by the development and help ease traffic concerns of residents already meeting heavy traffic on their morning commute along Preddy Creek Road. Other benefits the county would experience as a result of this rezoning, according to Jones, include increased revenue through tap fees and property taxes that the additional townhomes would generate.
Although there was a full house in attendance, only a handful of residents spoke against the rezoning. However, the Planning Department had received numerous letters and emails from residents opposed to the rezoning. Residents questioned Fried’s statistics concerning vehicle traffic and number of school children a development this size would incur. Most were concerned with the traffic along Preddy Creek Road—a narrow winding and dangerously curved road on which drivers sometimes travel at unsafe speeds. Brian Higgins, of the Piedmont Environmental Council, also addressed environmental concerns affecting Preddy Creek Park, which has trails abutting the proposed development.
In addition to opponents, three county resident business owners spoke in favor of the rezoning, citing the county’s need for commercial growth, which will be enhanced and encouraged by “more rooftops” in the county. “We need potential new customers for our business,” said Larry Dudding, a Stanardsville resident and State Farm insurance agent who is a member of the Greene County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Authority board.
Commissioner Bill Martin said he “appreciate the diversification of the housing stock, but the main issue here revolves around Preddy Creek Road. It’s an unsafe road right now. I can’t see an additional 380 townhomes without VDOT making improvements to the roads.”
Chairman Norman Slezak agreed, noting that his major concern with this request is the traffic on Preddy Creek Road and how it will affect the quality of life for residents in that area.
Commissioner Frank Steele said he was also concerned about the impact on schools and the environment. He suggested the county would have to raise taxes to meet the increase in services needed for the additional residents in that area. “I think it will cost us more than the revenue [the project] will generate.”
Jones argued that “the commercial development won’t come without increased rooftops. You need a mix.”
The commissioners had an easier and shorter time deciding to approve the rezoning application to amend proffers for Ted Corp, Inc., Greenecroft LLC, located on Rte. 33 West. The proffers that the Board of Supervisors had accepted back in 2004 required the development to consist of a maximum of 21 1-acre commercial parcels. The company was requesting an amendment to allow greater flexibility in the use and design of the commercial property.
Commissioner Martin said he was “pleased to see the developer is maintaining 30 percent commercial. This will be our first mixed-use PUD.” Chairman Slezak was also pleased with this model, and the commissioners unanimously approved the application.
During the meeting, Commissioner Davis Lamb excused himself from the proceedings, citing conflict of interest since he will begin serving in his new position on the Board of Supervisors in January.
Pauline Hovey is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.
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