Monday, January 17, 2022

Planning Commission recommends affordable townhome project in Forest Heights

Wayne Harbin Builder Inc. has submitted an application to develop 6015 Richmond Road, requesting the county amend previously adopted proffers and master plan for Forest Heights, allowing the builder to add 46 “affordable” townhomes, a mini-storage facility and a residential dwelling unit for a storage unit caretaker. (WYDaily/Courtesy JCC)
Wayne Harbin Builder Inc. has submitted an application to develop 6015 Richmond Road, requesting the county amend previously adopted proffers and master plan for Forest Heights, allowing the builder to add 46 “affordable” townhomes, a mini-storage facility and a residential dwelling unit for a storage unit caretaker. (WYDaily/Courtesy JCC)

A company is proposing building up to 46 townhomes in Forest Heights.

Wayne Harbin Builder Inc. has submitted an application to develop 6015 Richmond Road, requesting the county amend previously adopted proffers and master plan for Forest Heights, allowing the builder to add 46 “affordable” townhomes, a mini-storage facility and a residential dwelling unit for a storage unit caretaker, according to Planning Commission documents.

The property is located in Forest Heights and designated as a mixed-use zoning.

The James City County Planning Commission had a public hearing on the proposal Wednesday. About a half-dozen people spoke, most of whom were in favor of the project.

After the public hearing, the Planning Commission voted 4-1 to recommend the Board of Supervisors approve the project with some stipulations, including recommending the board set aside a construction phasing policy for the parcel.

“There is far more good in this application than not,” commission Chairman Jack Haldeman said. “It’s a good project, it’s in the right place.”

The application will now tentatively move to the Board of Supervisors meeting on Jun 11 at 5 p.m.

When the Forest Heights mixed use development was approved in 2011, it was subject to proffers and conditions under the master plan for Forest Heights.

Proffers are certain conditions a developer agrees to meet that are “for the protection of the community” and set when a development is approved, according to the Virginia Association of Counties. They are no longer allowed under law for residential developments in Virginia, but previously-agreed upon proffers are still enforced.

In a report filed with Wednesday’s agenda documents, staff did not recommend the Planning Commission approve the proposal.

Staff said the proposal is not consistent with the Board of Supervisors’ mixed use construction phasing policy, and would have a negative fiscal impact on the county.

The parcel is unique because its master plan requires it to have 80 percent residential and 20 percent commercial development, as well as a phasing-in of construction over a set period of time.

“I don’t think this was ever intended to be a traditional mixed use development,” the applicant’s attorney Vernon Geddy said of the Forest Heights proposal.

The development overall would generate a $39,101 annual negative fiscal impact: the residential would generate a $48,782 negative impact, while the proposed storage facility would generate a positive impact of $9,681.

The builder said they would be willing to work with county staff to adjust their application before the Board of Supervisors meeting.

On the other hand, staff found certain aspects favorable, including the addition of affordable housing and a minimal impact on surrounding zoning and development.

Wayne Harbin Builder has previously built affordable housing in the county, and partnered with Habitat for Humanity since 2006, owner Doug Harbin said during the meeting.

“It’s our representation to give back to the county,” said Wayne Harbin of Wayne Harbin Builder during the public hearing.

History of Forest Heights development

In 2011, the Board of Supervisors rezoned 47.1 acres of Forest heights to be a mixed-use designation.

Through that rezoning, the county was able to make infrastructure improvements, widen Forest Heights Road and add pedestrian amenities.

The Salvation Army, the owner of the property, originally intended to build new offices, a community meeting space and gym and more. Planning staff said it no longer intends to pursue that development.

Agenda documents state the Salvation Army has not pursued the development of those non-residential uses, but has proposed the additional townhomes and self-storage facility for that part of the parcel instead.

Salvation Army intends to sell the land and supports adding affordable housing on the parcel, Lt. Jeremy Lind of the Salvation Army said.

“That’s something we can get behind,” Lind said.

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Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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