Friday, June 9, 2023

JCC Supervisors OK New Residential Development Near Routes 5, 199

The developer, Franciscus Homes, has shared with James City County this map of what the Promenade at John Tyler would look like. (Gregory Connolly/WYDaily)
The developer, Franciscus Homes, has shared with James City County this map of what the Promenade at John Tyler would look like. (Gregory Connolly/WYDaily)

The James City County Board of Supervisors was split Tuesday on whether to approve a new residential neighborhood behind the Williamsburg Crossing Shopping Center, with support for the project prevailing.

Developer Fransiscus Homes will build up to 190 condominiums and townhouses and 14 more units above commercial buildings in a neighborhood to be called the Promenade at John Tyler. The neighborhood will also feature parks, a swimming pool and walking paths.

Supervisors Mary Jones (Berkeley), Kevin Onizuk (Jamestown) and Michael Hipple (Powhatan) were in the majority on the 3-2 vote. Jones said the project will help revitalize the shopping center while providing affordable housing.

“We don’t want this everywhere in James City County, but this is a fitting location for this type of housing,” Jones said.

The promenade will be built on a 24.54-acre parcel of undeveloped land between the shopping center, the Riverside Healthcare Center, the Winston Terrace neighborhood and Route 199. An additional 14 live-above units could be built above proposed commercial buildings abutting Route 199 but there is not yet a timetable for when those will be constructed.

Onizuk said citizens in his district are split on the project, adding the project makes sense from a land-use perspective. Hipple renewed calls to examine how the county manages growth, noting he has also heard some citizens supporting the project and others opposing.

The proposed development will start where this Williamsburg Crossing parking lot ends. (Gregory Connolly/WYDaily)
The proposed development will start where this Williamsburg Crossing parking lot ends. (Gregory Connolly/WYDaily)

Onizuk, who is wrapping up his first full year as a supervisor, said the project is the most difficult he has yet handled due to the number of people for and against it. He cautioned the land was going to be developed one way or the other, so the real decision is not “yes or no” but “what and when.”

Supervisors John McGlennon (Roberts) and Jim Kennedy (Stonehouse) took issue with the density of the Promenade. McGlennon said 204 units were too many for the land, noting that Franciscus Homes is a quality developer but that developments like the Promenade do not make Williamsburg or James City County a special place.

Kennedy said the county has experienced rampant growth and the Promenade brings little but more residential. He said he would rather see a project that also seeks to make changes to the existing shopping center.

Several citizens opposed the project because of how it would affect Winston Terrace and the roads both in and nearby the shopping center, such as Route 199 and John Tyler Highway (Route 5). Concerns were expressed about the safety of the roads, especially with the additional strain the residents of the Promenade would create. A few speakers also opposed the density of the Promenade, which features 11 buildings of 10 condominiums each along with 40 duplexes.

Joan Lamberson, the president of the La Fontaine Homeowner’s Association, expressed concern with the density of the development and the lack of extra land. She said her neighborhood had no land to use to build extra space to store garbage and recycling, which proved to be a problem. La Fontaine is also a Franciscus Homes development.

Attorney Vernon Geddy III spoke on behalf of Franciscus Homes and told the supervisors the neighborhood is a net positive for the area. He said it will help revitalize Williamsburg Crossing — which has several vacancies — and will inject affordable housing into the county. The homes in the Promenade cost between $170,000 and $350,000, figures that all fall within the county’s defined range of affordable housing.

Geddy said the developer would rebuild Kings Way and Road A, two roads within the shopping center that are also used by La Fontaine and Riverside. Kings Way runs from John Tyler Highway back to Riverside Healthcare Center, where it meets Road A. That road runs behind the shopping center and would provide connectivity to the Promenade.

As part of that work, the two roads, which are currently private, would be brought up to Virginia Department of Transportation standards. That would allow them to be included in VDOT’s road network, transferring responsibility for maintenance to the state transportation department.

In a rebuttal to concern over how the project would affect area roads, the attorney pointed to the current commercial zoning of the land, which would allow for about 240,000 additional square feet of retail or office development without legislative approval from the supervisors. As part of the approval, the supervisors approved the developer’s request to rezone the land to a residential zoning. Residential uses tend to generate less traffic than commercial ones.

Franciscus Homes has pledged to pay the county $7,043 per unit for a total of $1,436,833 to help pay for costs the neighborhood would create for schools, the James City County Police and Fire departments, the James City Service Authority and other public services.

Franciscus Homes has developed several other neighborhoods in the Historic Triangle, including Bristol Commons and Claiborne Condos in Williamsburg and Fairway Villas and Braemar Creek in James City County.

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