JAMES CITY COUNTY — In a 3-2 vote, the James City County (JCC) Board of Supervisors approved the Hazelwood Farms’ proposed development, The Village Center, during the Tuesday, Dec. 14 meeting.
JCC citizens and members of the Board have been divided on the issue of the ongoing effort by the Hazelwood Farms, LLC property owners to rezone their land to build new developments.
Hazelwood Farms applied for a Special Use Permit (SUP) to build The Village Center on approximately 79 acres to permit up to 510,000 square feet of commercial development.
The Village Center would be located on Old Stage Road and is envisioned as an entertainment, retail, office and business support complex.
The SUP permits up to 510,000 square feet of various retail, grocery, bank, office, self-storage, restaurant, hotel, convenience store, fuel station and other commercial uses consistent with the property’s B-1 zoning, according to Thomas Wysong, senior planner for JCC.
The design guideline section of the proposal lists additional uses of the property, including in-line stores and a movie theatre.
In addition to The Village Center, Hazelwood Farms has also applied to rezone around 328 acres in the County for a new development called, The Enterprise Center, which 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.
JCC residents living in the residential areas around the property have been vocally opposed to the plans, creating a Facebook page “Save Rural James City County.”
The Board heard from members of the public, of which the majority expressed their concerns over the development.
Toano resident Josh Mathias did not agree that the types of commercial developments that are listed in the SUP are in demand across the County, pointing to the Pottery and New Town as examples.
“We all know the condition of the Pottery, and we all know that New Town is severely overbuilt that it almost looks like a ghost town sometimes,” he said. “So, I have to ask, is there really a demand for additional retail in James City County, especially in the upper portion of the county, which is generally a byway for people to get to work and back?”
Mathias also noted that, according to the 2019 JCC Comprehensive Plan Survey, 85.2 percent of residents believed that efforts to protect and preserve the County’s rural character are very important, and that 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 that it is important to have less development in the County, even if it means paying more in taxes.
Sharon Oakley, who has lived on the JCC line for 12 years, is concerned about the traffic safety issues that the development could bring on Route 30.
“The Village Center, in many ways, would be a very welcome addition to James City County,” Oakley said. “However, progress and development, as wonderful as they are, have to be done with safety and livability. There are some concerns about traffic that I don’t believe have been fully mitigated.”
She noted that it took a double fatality for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to reduce the speed limit by five miles per hour there.
Oakley said that the Board should delay approval of The Village Center and that VDOT should require both speed and crash studies to be conducted.
“This road and the Barnes Road intersection are already dangerous, and adding 16,000 daily trips will only result in more crashes, injuries, and God forbid, more fatalities,” she said.
Wysong said that for a project of this size, the applicants are required to do a traffic impact analysis that is reviewed by VDOT and the County.
The traffic study was approved, and the planning staff took the improvements from the study that would need to be implemented to mitigate the traffic, as a condition for approval.
The improvements include the signalization of route 30 Fieldstone Parkway intersection, the addition of double left turn lanes on northbound Route 30 at the property entrance and the addition of a right turn lane on southbound Route 30.
“It’s not as if the commercial development could all go in and then the transportation stuff goes in later” he said. “It’d have to go through a detailed process before ground is broken.”
Toano resident Kyle Seal noted that people move to that area for the peace and quiet, and that Toano is “not ready for this type of development.”
“If I wanted a lot of access to movie theatres and grocery stores late at night, we would have moved to Williamsburg or Newport News,” he said.
The Board went back and forth over the proposal. Supervisor Ruth Larson said that the development appeals to her because of the location.
“It’s where we should be putting, in my opinion, our commercial development,” she said.
Meanwhile, Supervisor Jim Icenhour said that he does not see a compelling need for the commercial development in that space currently, noting most of the members of the community that have reached out to him have not been in favor of it.
“I don’t see that we have a tremendous overwhelming support for it from people in the community that well be affected by it,” he said.
The Board voted 3-2 to approve The Village Center, with Larson, Sue Sadler and Chairman Michael Hipple voting in favor, and Icenhour and Supervisor John McGlennon voting against it.
The Planning Commission postponed the consideration of The Enterprise Center until January 2022, requesting that Hazelwood Farm review and make changes to their plan.
JCC resident Darlene Prevish told WYDaily that, while this was the response she and other residents expected, they intend to oppose the rezoning for The Enterprise Center.
“We were saddened that the developers only extended their community sessions to 135 members when thousands will be impacted,” she said. “We fully intend to oppose the massive overgrowth from the rezoning for the Enterprise Center and have already assembled almost 500 citizens in less than one week who are ready to fight. Please join our Facebook page, “Save Rural James City County” and watch for our website on the signage that will begin to be displayed in the community soon and help us fight this massive overgrowth we all moved here to escape.”