Wednesday, February 21, 2024

“It’s a Solution Looking for a Problem,” Residents Concerned Over JCC Rezoning

Stonehouse Elementary
James City County residents are raising concerns over the Hazelwood Farm rezoning.(WYDaily/Courtesy Olivia Doiron)

JAMES CITY COUNTY — Residents in James City County (JCC) are expressing concern over an ongoing effort by the Hazelwood Farms, LLC property owners to rezone around 328 acres in the County for a new development called, The Enterprise Center.

Additionally, Hazelwood Farms has applied for a special use permit (SUP) to build another development, The Village Center, on approximately 79 acres.

The Enterprise Center would include up to nearly three million square feet of warehouse and industrial use, up to 75,000 square feet of commercial use and up to 250 residential dwelling units.

The Center would be located on Old Stage Road and on a portion of Barnes Road, located south of I-64, and would include apartments, multiple-family dwellings, fast food restaurants, truck terminals, extension of public water and sewer facilities, textile manufacturing structures, and a convenience store.

The Village Center, which would also be located on Old Stage Road, would include around 510,000 square feet of commercial development.

JCC residents living in the residential areas around the project are less than pleased with the current plans.

Darlene Prevish, a resident on Old Stage Road, said that when she first heard about the potential rezoning, she was immediately concerned about the impact of the development on the surrounding communities.

Prevish said that the County did not do an adequate job of communicating the plans to all of the residents who would be impacted by the rezoning.

“Of all the people who were going to be affected by this, I would say maybe 20 people were notified,” Prevish said.

Prevish connected with a number of other residents in nearby areas that would be impacted by the rezoning, including the subdivisions of Meadow Lake, Stonehouse Glen and Fire Tower Road. Together, they have been vocally opposed to the new plans.

Mike Ballard, another resident concerned with how the industrial park and residential development will impact traffic and schools, said that they are fearful of people wanting to change their community.

“The overwhelming activity in the future has brought up concerns in regards to traffic and noise that comes with all that commercial environment,” he said.

Prevish said that she is concerned with the addition of more entertainment venues, restaurants, commercial properties and other retail outlets.

“If you drive down Main Street of New Town, it’s empty,” she said. “Why are we going to go and build something that will probably end up just like that in five years?”

Josh Mathias, a resident of Fenwick Hill, located across the street from Stonehouse Elementary School, noted that, according to the 2019 JCC Comprehensive Plan Survey, 78.5 percent of residents felt that it was more important to preserve farmland in the County than to have more development.

Additionally, 54.4 percent of residents think It is important to have less development in the County, even if it means paying more in taxes.

Mathias described the proposal as, “a solution looking for a problem.”

“The 2019 survey is a clear indicator of the residents’ lack of interest in more development,” he said. “Development only for the purpose of tax revenue is misguided and not in line with the wishes of the County’s residents. There is no desire for more development in this part of the County.”

Sharon Oakley, a resident on Old Stage Road, is particularly concerned about the traffic safety issues that she and other members of the community feel are not adequately addressed in the County’s traffic impact analysis.

While the County staff analysis found that the traffic impact is mitigated, Oakley questions those findings.

“The stretch of road between Farmers Drive and I-64 has a 400 percent above state average injury and fatality rate,” she said. “As a result, we’ve seen a lot of accidents. It took a double fatality almost a year ago exactly for VDOT to reduce the speed limit by just 5 miles per hour.”

Oakley noted that Route 30 is the default alternate when there is traffic on I-64, and that cars can be seen crawling for miles down Route 30.

“And that is before we add 24,000 trips generated by this development,” she said.

Oakley emphasized that there needs to be better planning for the traffic impact that she believes is likely to happen.

Gaston Smith, another resident who lives across the street from where The Enterprise Center is proposed to be located, expressed concern over the additional traffic to what he already sees while taking his son to Stonehouse Elementary School, which is at maximum capacity.

“Traffic is lined up all the way down Route 60, and that’s without adding an additional 200 apartment complexes,” he said.

On Oct. 6, the JCC Planning Commission heard the proposals for the The Enterprise Center and Village Center.

Thomas Wysong, JCC Senior Planner, told the planning commission that the proposed rezoning and SUP for The Enterprise Center would overall not negatively impact surrounding development.

He also said that the development of the property is consistent with the recommended Land Use in the current 2035 Comprehensive Plan and the draft 2045 Comprehensive Plan.

The planning commission felt that The Enterprise Center needed a better-prepared plan.

While The Village Center was approved with conditions and will next go to the JCC Board of Supervisors, the planning commission postponed the consideration of The Enterprise Center until January 2022, requesting that Hazelwood Farm review and make changes to their plan.

“We are very appreciative of our neighbors’ interest in the project and respectful of their concerns,” the Hazelwood family said in a Nov. 3 statement to WYDaily. “Our intent for this project is to avoid unplanned, piecemeal development of the property after our stewardship has passed, and to position the property for a meaningful economic development opportunity to help reduce the tax burden on County residents.  We are in the process of working with our consultant team and several of our neighbors to better understand and address all legitimate concerns.”

While Prevish expressed her understanding that the Hazelwood family wants to profit from their land, she feels that most of the residents moved to the area specifically for its rural feel.

“I love this neighborhood. I chose this neighborhood because of the rural area, because on a snowy day it’s so quiet. And you see nothing but rolling land and corn fields on a beautiful spring day,” Prevish said. “And I just don’t see how people are going to drive down Interstate-64 and look over at a 500-truck terminal and a bunch of apartments and think to themselves, ‘I really wish I lived here.'”

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