The Chesterfield County Planning Commission has signed off on an online used car seller’s plans to build a storage lot for thousands of vehicles on a wooded tract near Interstate 95.
On Tuesday, the commission voted unanimously to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve Carvana’s plans to build a 191,000-square-foot vehicle inspection facility and a storage lot for 9,000 cars off Woods Edge Road, just east of I-95.
The commission’s quick vote stood in stark contrast to last month, when the panel did not have the votes needed to advance the plan after a three-hour public hearing in which two dozen residents criticized the proposal.
The plan now goes to the Board of Supervisors, which has the final say on whether to allow Carvana to build the facility, where vehicles would be inspected and undergo maintenance ahead of online purchases.
Residents who live in subdivisions across the street from the 184-acre tract say they’re worried about congestion in their neighborhood as vehicles are hauled in and out of the site by trucks, and as employees take the cars on test drives.
“The traffic is already terrible. It’s hard to get in and out of the subdivision now,” resident Julie Newcomb said after the commission’s vote. “I worry about the noise their process will generate, and I worry about the lighting.”
Congestion also concerns Andre Artis, a nearby resident who said the road already has traffic from commuters and an elementary school.
“You can see that traffic has picked up there already, and it’s only a two-lane road,” he said.
Carvana officials have said that test drives and car deliveries to the site would use an access road on the southern end of Woods Edge Road that is away from the entryways to residential subdivisions farther north on the road. The officials also have said they have taken steps to shield the view of the facility from neighbors by using fencing on Woods Edge Road and existing vegetation.
Todd Ward, a Carvana representative, has said that the facility would employ about 400 to 500 people.
Carvana has said the property will not have any of the company’s car vending machines and that the general public will not be allowed on the site.
Residents also have raised concerns over the fate of Civil War earthworks on the property that are thought to have been part of the Howlett Line — a series of trenches built in 1864 by Confederate forces as they sought to keep Union Gen. Benjamin Butler from reaching Richmond.
A larger earthwork would be cleared from the site if Carvana’s facility was to be built.
Andrew Condlin, an attorney for the company, said at last month’s hearing that while one of the site’s three 19th-century earthworks would be disturbed, two other Civil War earthworks on the property would not be touched by the development.
Condlin added that under the company’s plans, Carvana would allow members of the Chesterfield Historical Society to visit the site to photograph and inspect the earthworks at least two weeks before land is cleared on that part of the site.
Condlin also has noted that the property is already zoned for industrial use, with the current zoning allowing warehouses, self-storage facilities and park-and-ride lots, among other uses.
Last month, the Planning Commission deadlocked 2-2 on a pair of votes — one to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the Carvana proposal and another recommending that the plan be denied.
The votes were taken on a night when Planning Commission member Peppy Jones was not present because he was traveling.
Member Craig Stariha said at last month’s meeting that the panel needed more time to consider Carvana’s plans before issuing a recommendation to supervisors.
On Tuesday, commission member Gib Sloan made the motion to recommend approval of the Carvana plan as part of a measure that also called for county officials to examine potential safety improvements to Woods Edge Road.
Sloan’s motion, which passed on a 5-0 voice vote, called for planning officials to consider what steps should be taken to minimize the sound and lighting impact of Carvana’s proposed facility.
The plan requires that the Board of Supervisors approve rezoning the entire site to light industrial use and that supervisors approve a conditional-use permit for the development.