Fluvanna BOS Approves Poplar Ridge Rezoning

By Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

After two years of applications, Hotel Street Capital LLC has finally amended the previous Rivanna Ridge property zoning.

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors approved the zoning amendment and also a special use permit with two 3-2 votes, with Don Weaver (Cunningham District) and Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) dissenting both times during the Aug. 6 meeting.

PoplarmapThe location, just north of the Village of Palmyra and bordering Camp Friendship, was previously zoned in 2009 for about 60 hotel rooms and 250 residential units.

Rivanna Ridge failed before even submitting a final site plan. Thomas Ross, current applicant, started the rezoning application in July 2012. Originally the proposal was a planned unit development of over 900 homes known as Walker’s Ridge. The final amendment proposal was for same number units as Rivanna Ridge but all residential and no condominiums.

The approved proposal, Poplar Ridge, is for 156 single-family attached units and 175 single-family detached units. Commercial space is maximized at 74,000 square feet. The development will use mass drain fields and common wells.

The special use permit allows for the common utilities needed for the sewer and water. The zoning amendment keeps the R-3 zoning and same number of total units on the 230 acre property but just changes how the units are allocated.

The public hearing had 19 people speak, 18 spoke against the property while one spoke in generalities and took neither side. Supervisors were also given a petition with over 1,500 signatures against approving the project and accompanying SUP.

“Residential growth has put us in this problem,” said Al Talley referencing the county’s growing tax rate.

Carolyn Talley added, “This isn’t an issue that divides our county…everyone is against it.”

Chuck Ackenbom, founder and owner of Camp Friendship, was worried on the impact the project would have on his neighboring business, “I think this proposal is too big for Fluvanna County.”

Ackenbom previously owned the property and sold the main portion, 222 acres, for $2.18 million in 2008 according to the county’s online property information system.

Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) took issue with Ackenbom complaining about the proposal, “I think the (sale proceeds of the property) was more important to Camp Friendship, that’s my opinion.”

Area residents raised concern to how the drain fields and common wells would affect the Rivanna River and area wells, respectively.

Former Supervisor Marvin Moss was chairman on the board when the property was previously zoned R-3. One proffer in that zoning was the county required connection to the proposed extension of the Palmyra water system. The system never expanded and does not have the excess capacity it once was projected to have. It currently only services government facilities.

Moss said no one took issue with the previous zoning change because central water was required. He said the SUP for central wells was too risky to the area. “You have the correct zoning for it now,” Moss told the board.

Supervisor Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) countered later in the meeting that centralized water down Route 15 would have the opposite effect that residents wanting to keep Fluvanna rural would want.

“You wouldn’t be happy if we had water and sewer,” O’Brien told the crowd after the public hearing ended. “We probably would’ve approved 900 homes (Walker’s Ridge).”

Weaver thought the amendment would violate a tenant of county policy that rezoning should not have an impact on the surrounding area. “If you want to keep Fluvanna rural, then we don’t want this place,” said Weaver.

Weaver mentioned there were no perk tests or test wells to give enough evidence the mass drain fields and community wells would sustain the project. The applicant provided expert opinion based on studies that the property should be able to handle both sewer and water levels needed.

Ullenbruch and Supervisor Chair Mozell Booker (Fork Union) noted that if the Department of Environmental Control and Virginia Department of Health determine the drain fields and wells to not be sufficient, the project would not proceed.

Sheridan agreed with Weaver. “There’s too many open-ended questions on this,” said Sheridan.

The interesting aspect of the approval was Ullenbruch, an elected Republican, sided with Booker and O’Brien on the vote. While both Booker and O’Brien ran as independents, both are viewed on the more liberal leaning side of the board. Ullenbruch typically votes closer with Weaver.

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bryan-rothamelThe Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

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