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A 1.56-acre parcel of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation-owned land across Pocahontas Trail from Carter’s Grove took a step closer toward hitting the open market Tuesday.
The James City County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the foundation’s request to remove the land from the county’s Agricultural and Forestal District program. The land’s presence in the program would have made it difficult to sell to commercial developers.
The AFD Program is used for preservation of farming and forestry lands. The 1.56-acre parcel, located at 8766 Pocahontas Trail, was in an AFD along with Carter’s Grove, but since Carter’s Grove has been sold to Samuel M. Mencoff — who has no interest in the small parcel and left it in the foundation’s ownership during the sale of Carter’s Grove — the foundation wishes to divest itself of the property.
Now that the property is out of the AFD, the foundation can try to sell the property to someone interested in building something on the land. Its limited business zoning allows for a range of commercial uses.
“We believe the best use of parcel is to be sold for commercial development, [like a general merchandise store or pharmacy],” Mark Duncan, the foundation’s director of community, college and government relations told the supervisors. “These services are largely absent from the Grove community, and a withdrawal would provide the opportunity to offer this public service sooner.”
Duncan said there is currently no imminent sale of the land or development as it has been “hamstrung” by the AFD.
Supervisor John McGlennon (Roberts), whose district encompasses Carter’s Grove and the 1.56-acre parcel, said there is no likelihood the land will ever be used in a way that is consistent with the AFD program. The land was originally added to the AFD so the driveway to Carter’s Grove would be screened by trees.
He said the commercial enterprises suggested by Duncan are “very needed” in Grove.
Supervisor Michael Hipple (Powhatan), the chairman of the board, also voiced support for the removal before the board voted. Duncan was the only speaker during a public hearing for the removal.
The land is located at the intersection of Pocahontas Trail and Wisteria Gardens Drive. Its neighbors on the northern side of Pocahontas Trail are The Stuff Store to the west and 7-Eleven to the east.
AFDs have terms of four to 10 years. The AFD featuring the 1.56-acre parcel and the 317.7 acres of Carter’s Grove expired in September, prior to the sale to Mencoff. The foundation applied to renew the AFD, as having the AFD in place was considered prudent for a potential sale of the property, which was on the market at the time, Keith Johnson, the foundation’s director of property management, told the James City County Planning Commission in April.
A few criteria exist for whether a property can be removed from an AFD. A change of circumstances — which has typically been interpreted as the death of a property owner — counts, as does a request that serves a public purpose rather than the interest of the property owner. It can also not damage or disrupt the existing district.
By voting to approve the removal, the supervisors indicated they agreed with the foundation that a change in ownership counts as a change of circumstances and the development of a commercial service on the land serves the public interest.