POWHATAN – Applications for two proposed mixed use developments – including one that could potentially bring one of the largest and densest residential projects in the county’s recent history – are currently under review by the Powhatan County Planning Commission.

A public hearing was held on Tuesday, Aug. 6 regarding a rezoning case for East West Communities, which could ultimately see some commercial development and up to 249 homes built on a 120-acre site on the north side of Page Road at its intersection with U.S. Route 60 (adjacent to the Chesterfield County line). This project, called the Ellis Farm Development, would include single-family detached, duplex, and townhouse dwellings, said Andrew Pompei, planning director.

Citing the need for more information, the planning commission decided to defer the case until its next meeting at 7 p.m. on Sept. 3.

During the group’s workshop, they also heard updates and asked for more information about a rezoning case for another mixed use development nearby, Donnelly Creek. Markel Eagle Partners LLC has submitted an application to rezone a 53-acre site along Route 60 at its intersection with Holly Hills Road and along Page Road at its intersection with Old Powhatan Estates, Pompei said.

This project proposes a residential area that could accommodate up to 85 single-family detached dwellings with an average of 1.7 homes per acre. No action was taken on the project during the workshop.

In the last 10 to 15 years, the largest approved subdivisions in Powhatan have been: Tilman’s Farm, up to 145 lots (average lot size: 5.01 acres); Aston, up to 135 lots (average lot size: 5.02 acres), and Westlake at Mill Mount, up to 103 lots (average lot size: 4.83 acres).

The only newer subdivisions that were comparable in terms of lot size were Bel Crest, up to 64 lots (average lot size: .28 acres) and Bel Bridge, up to 46 lots (average lot size: .21 acres), he said.

Some older subdivisions come closer to the proposed projects’ numbers. According to GIS data, there are Branchway Forest, up to 136 lots (average lot size: 3.68 acres); Holly Hills, 172 lots (average lot size: 0.72 acres), and Chestnut Oaks, up to 221 lots (average lot size: 1.78 acres).

While nine people spoke in opposition to the East West Communities project during its public hearing, the planning commission did not express outright support or opposition to it or the other proposed development. Instead they asked for more data to consider, with special emphasis on impacts on school enrollment, emergency services, and traffic on Route 60.

They also were highly interested in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s position on proposals made by the East West Communities group to re-align and signalize Page Road. Currently, VDOT does not support the developer’s suggestion of adding a four-way signalized intersection at the proposed re-alignment of Page Road near the county line even if the developer is willing to pay for the improvement, according to the meeting documents.

In recent meetings, VDOT representatives have talked about four-way stops as a hurdle to traffic flow and discussed how the agency is looking at innovative strategies to solve traffic problems instead.

The applicant has already proceeded with a signal justification report, which planning commission members said they want to see.

Ellis Farm Development

The specific request before the planning commission regarding the East West Communities project is to rezone all or part of four parcels currently zoned Agricultural-10 (A-10) to Commerce Center Planned Development (CC-PD) and Village Residential Planned Development (VR-PD).

Of the approximately 120.68 acres that would be rezoned, about 6.98 acres would be rezoned to CC-PD and approximately 113.7 acres would be rezoned to VR-PD, which permits residential densities of up to four dwelling units per acre developed in accordance with a master plan.

In the Village Residential section of the project, a minimum of 23 acres would be open space or have an easement over them precluding alteration, clearing, building and disturbance, according to the company’s proposal. At least 9 acres of the open space set aside would be dedicated to active recreational areas. In the Commerce Center portion, a minimum of 1 acre would be open space or have an easement over it.

Before the public hearing, Chris Shust with Balzer and Associates spoke for the development, talking about the quality of East West Communities’ previous projects and the advantages this proposed one could bring to the county. Numbered among those were the proposed improvement to Page Road; bringing water and sewer to the north side of Route 60; committing to building a new pump station; generating an estimated $3 million in utility connection fees for the county, and generating an additional $1 million a year in real estate taxes.

Shust also addressed concerns that have been raised about the community pushing the school enrollment to capacity. He said numbers used for projections are conservative and would likely not trigger pushing the county’s public schools to capacity.

The nine residents who spoke during the public hearing raised a wide range of concerns regarding this project. Some of the concerns they expressed included: increased traffic on an already burdened Page Road and on Route 60 not only from new residents but all of the people who provide them with services; putting a burden on Route 711 from additional traffic using that road to enter the county; pushing the public schools closer to capacity and triggering the need to build new schools; putting a large burden on the county’s water capacity; putting a strain on emergency services resources; having a negative impact on the historic rural road, and damaging the character of the area.

Most of the questions the planning commission members asked were centered around getting more data to help them in their decision. They talked with Kyle Bates, the VDOT Chesterfield residency engineer, who was reluctant to give an opinion on the project until the signal justification report was completed. They spoke with Dr. Eric Jones, superintendent, who explained the schools’ current capacities and how the new developments might impact but not necessarily push the schools over their capacities based on current projections.

They also asked for more information regarding the potential impact on fire and rescue services and the need for more data from the utilities department regarding water usage.

Donnelly Creek

The Donnelly Creek project proposal asks the county to rezone five parcels totaling 53.32 acres from A-10 and General Commercial, Pompei said. Of that combined property, about 49.82 acres would be rezoned to Village Residential Planned Development with proffered conditions, accommodating up to 85 dwelling units, and 3.50 acres would be rezoned to Commerce Center (CC) with proffered conditions.

The proffered conditions the company proposes include having a maximum of 85 detached homes with at least 50 percent of them having a first-floor bedroom and full bathroom; a cash proffer of $2,720 per home, and construction of a new connector road from Page Road to Route 60, said Nathalie Croft, director of land planning with Eagle Construction.

Donnelly Creek would be comprised of three distinct residential districts: The Village (smaller lots with alley access), The Parke (wider lots with streets that use a more curvilinear design) and The Estate Lot (currently no timeline or plan to develop). The community would feature two separate parks, The Village Green and Donnelly Park and Preserve, she said. During a brief presentation, Croft put special emphasis on how the project would create a village feel where open space design is key.

The planning commission also asked about the traffic study regarding this project, the reactions by neighbors to the stub roads in the project, and the timeline for phasing in the commercial development as part of the project.

Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.

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