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The James City County Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to OK the draft of the county’s comprehensive plan update, sending the document to the board of supervisors for final approval.
The plan is a lengthy text detailing how the county should manage growth in the coming years, assigning designations to all land in the county for what kind of development — if any — should occur on the land. Proposals to develop land are always considered against the land’s designation in the plan, making the plan an important document for the county’s future.
State law mandates each municipality in Virginia to create a plan and update it every five years. The draft update differs from the current plan largely in a series of proposed changes to designations on land at 10 sites throughout the county.
A few large designation changes were proposed in the draft plan, which the commissioners voted on separately at Wednesday’s meeting:
- The owner of Colonial Heritage applied to have 220 acres of land near 499 Jolly Pond Road changed from rural lands to low density residential. The designation change would also expand the county’s Primary Service Area to encompass the land, where the final 50 homes of the development are slated to be built. Expanding the PSA would allow for public water and sewer to serve the land. The commission voted 5-2 to approve the change, with commissioners Heath Richardson (Stonehouse) and Rich Krapf (Powhatan) voting no.
- Xanterra, which owns Kingsmill, wants to change the designation of land near 8515 Pocahontas Trail and The Woods golf course to clear the way for the development of 81 homes. The designation change would alter the land from limited industry and conservation to low density residential. Though the designation would change under the draft of the plan, Xanterra would still have to file an application to rezone the land for the houses, which it has not yet done. The commissioners voted 5-1 to approve an amended version of the plan, with Commissioner John Wright (At-Large) voting no. Commissioner Tim O’Connor (At-Large) abstained from the vote because of professional connections to Xanterra.
- BASF Corporation, a German chemical company, applied to change the designation on about 678 acres at 8961 Pocahontas Trail along the James River near the Newport News line from general industry to mixed use. The company once operated a chemical plant on the land, but that closed in 1994 and the land has been vacant ever since. The company has created a conceptual plan to develop a resort on the land, however no formal application for any resort has been filed. The commission voted 4-3 to recommend against the change, with Richardson, Krapf, O’Connor and Christopher Basic (Berkeley) representing the no votes. Look for a more detailed story on this application in Monday’s WYDaily.
Krapf and Richardson both opposed the Colonial Heritage application because of how it would affect the PSA. The county uses the PSA as its primary growth management tool: Land inside the PSA is eligible for services like water and sewer, while land outside is considered more rural and is not eligible.
Colonial Heritage wants to add the 50 homes slated for development on the 220 acres to existing utility lines in the already developed portion of the neighborhood. Basic, Wright and Robin Bledsoe (Jamestown) all agreed that leaving the 50 homes outside the PSA and requiring them to use a central well and septic systems was not worth the cost.
“I have serious concerns at this point in time with central wells,” Bledsoe said. “They are very expensive. They never make money. And the county is the one that ends up dealing with that. Septic tanks are something I would like to see us do away with whenever possible. Fifty septic tanks pumping into the ground is concerning to me at a number of levels.”
Four residents of Kingsmill used the public comment period of Wednesday’s meeting to decry the Xanterra proposal. They were concerned about a potential rezoning of The Woods golf course, with a couple saying that Xanterra representatives said last month there were no pending plans for any new development in Kingsmill.
By voting yes, the commissioners endorsed a plan from the James City County Planning Division that seeks to change the designation of 72.3 acres of land near Busch Gardens to low-density residential, while leaving the industrial designation on The Woods golf course land. An additional 46.6 undeveloped acres attached to the application would be changed to park, public or semi-public open space. That change would help protect sensitive environmental features on the land.
The unanimous vote approved most of the rest of the proposed designation changes as well as the text of the comprehensive plan. Two proposals to add a combined 348.9 acres of undeveloped and farm lands at 8491 Richmond Road near Toano to the PSA as part of the comprehensive plan update have been deferred pending a decision from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality pertaining to how much water the county’s water utility may draw from underground aquifers.
Other designation changes acted upon by the commissioners Wednesday are as follows:
- The commissioners voted to recommend the board approve changing the designation of about 60 acres north of Interstate 64 by the Old Stage Road exit (227) from general business and low density residential to mixed use. The Hazelwood Family owns the land and suggests large-scale commercial projects like hotels, big box retail and restaurants. The commissioners voted to recommend the board approve changing the designation of about 290 acres of the Hazelwood land on the other side of Interstate 64 from mixed use and rural lands to economic opportunity. In its application, the family says this land has good interstate visibility and is a prime site for corporate offices, manufacturing, light industrial and similar uses. The land in this application is centered around 8400 Barnes Road.
- An application was recommended for approval to change the designation of 2.42 acres of land at 7809 Croaker Road, located across the street from the James City County Library, from low-density residential to mixed use. Its owner believes the land is better suited to a small business than a home.
- An application was recommended for denial to change the designation on 35.6 undeveloped acres on 4450 Powhatan Parkway in the Powhatan Secondary neighborhood from low-density residential to moderate density residential. The owner of the land has in the past tried to develop rental condominiums on the land, however the project has not come to fruition.
A full version of the draft text of the comprehensive plan is available here. It will next be considered by the James City County Board of Supervisors, which has the final say over all of the proposed designation changes. A date for the board to consider the plan has not yet been set.