By Pauline Hovey, Field Officer
After a two-hour public hearing on Tuesday (2/28) evening, the Greene County Board of Supervisors approved, by a vote of 3-2, a controversial planned unit development (PUD) on Route 29 north that will bring townhomes to Greene County.
“This will put us in a unique market position that nobody’s serving right now,” Steve Jones, chief operating officer of Fried Companies, Inc., said after the meeting. “We think this is a better project that will provide more market diversity. There already are many single family options out there.”
The applicant BlueMarle LLC/Missus LLC/Fried Companies’ had requested a rezoning that would allow the developer to change its model from an approved 800 unit by-right subdivision to a PUD of 1,180 dwelling units, to include no more than 600 single family homes and 580 townhomes. This request has raised the ire and interest of local residents and businesses over the past several months, attested by the standing-room-only crowd that turned out for the public hearing.
Of particular interest here and in the Board’s recent denial of Greenecroft’s application to amend proffers is that both decisions are in opposition to the Planning Commission’s recommendations. The Planning Commission had unanimously recommended approval of Greenecroft’s request, which also would have brought townhomes to the county and created less controversy among residents, and unanimously recommended denial of the BlueMarle/Fried Companies’ request.
About a dozen people on either side of the issue addressed the board, with many local business owners supporting the rezoning request because of the anticipated increase in their business and boon to the local economy the additional homes would bring. Referring to Fried Companies’ proposal to build the additional 380 homes over a 20-year period, Alan Pyle, owner of The Lafayette Inn in Stanardsville, said, “The question is, what do we have to gain for the extra 19 new homes per year?” Pyle noted the developer already has approval for 800 by-right homes on that site, so the traffic will increase regardless. But, he argued, if supervisors did not approve this PUD, they would not only not receive needed proffers but would eventually pass on the county’s water and sewer financial needs to taxpayers.
Pyle’s sentiments were echoed by other business interests such as the owners of the local Dunkin Donuts, Fabio’s Restaurant, and Anytime Fitness; Jim Kuznar of the Blue Ridge Homebuilders Association; Harry Daniel, principal of the Greene County Tech Center; and Don Pamenter representing the Economic Development Authority board.
Those speaking against the rezoning were concerned about the additional traffic, the condition and safety of Preddy Creek Road, the increased need for fire and rescue services, the impact on the school system, and the county’s growing water and sewer needs. Some suggested the board take time to consider all options, including additional proffers, before approving the request.
“The capacity of the sewer plant will be reached without these additional homes,” warned Andrea Wilkinson, of the Ruckersville Citizens Council.
Former supervisor Carl Schmitt had several issues with the proposal, including the unneeded increased residential potential, noting that Greene County “is second only to Albemarle in population density,” and the public water supply. “We don’t even have the permit application approved yet,” he said of the water impoundment project. “Few people appreciate the difficult situation we’re in.”
Based on the number of townhomes expected to be built as a result of the rezoning, the applicant estimates the county will receive $7.6 million in tap fees. This amount is based on Greene’s current $20,000 combined water and sewer hookup fees. Proffers offered are $1.6 million in transportation improvements, three acres of land dedicated to public use, $570,000 in cash, and $1,500 per single family unit for the first three units. The developer is proffering a connector road running east to west, from Preddy Creek Road at its intersection with Autumn Oaks Lane through the development emptying onto Route 29. Although Jones said they would build the connector road, which was recommended in a traffic impact study, before any homes are constructed, the road is contingent upon VDOT’s approval of a traffic signal and entrance location on Route 29. Jones argued it would relieve the congestion on Matthew Mill Road that residents experience during commuter hours. “VDOT supports this connector road and is on record as saying the improvements they’re making to 607 will not be enough to alleviate traffic,” he said.
But local residents challenged that claim and many were particularly concerned about adding any vehicles to the already dangerous Preddy Creek Road—the site of numerous accidents and a few deaths. Greg Krystyniak, a licensed engineer and resident, expressed concern about the road’s current condition and suggested more proffers were needed to fix the road before allowing any increased traffic.
After the lengthy hearing, Supervisors Eddied Deane (at-large) and David Cox (Monroe) voted without hesitation to approve the project. Chairman Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville), despite noting some positive considerations about the project, voted against it, as did Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville).
When the vote came to Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway), he wavered before approving the project. When the Free Enterprise Forum asked him later about his hesitation, Frydl said, “I thought it was the least bad of two bad choices. It was a tradeoff for the county to get some things we need from this decision and obtain more than we’ll lose. With the sewer plant debt looming and the future water impoundment, this will help offset payments. We’ll get 15 to 20 water sewer taps at a time with the townhomes.”
At the same time, Frydl is concerned about the board not following any written cash proffer policy and handling this on an individual basis. “It’s setting a precedent, making it difficult to make such decisions in the future,” he said.
Pauline Hovey is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.
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Photo Credits: Greene County