Thursday, September 29, 2022

Community meeting on Oakland Pointe Apartments set for tonight

Connelly Builders, the developer who is proposing the 126-unit Oakland Pointe Apartments at 7581 Richmond Road, will host a community meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Woman’s Club of Toano. (Courtesy photo/Arch Marston)
Connelly Builders, the developer who is proposing the 126-unit Oakland Pointe Apartments at 7581 Richmond Road, will host a community meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Woman’s Club of Toano. (Courtesy photo/Arch Marston)

A proposal to build a five-building, 126-apartment affordable housing complex in Toano will be up for community discussion tonight.

Connelly Builders, the developer who is proposing the 126-unit Oakland Pointe Apartments at 7581 Richmond Road, will host a community meeting at 6 p.m. today at the Woman’s Club of Toano at 7965 Richmond Road, according to a meeting notice.

The meeting will give James City County residents the chance to ask questions and gather more information on the development.

The development is proposed for a nearly 15-acre parcel owned by Lisa Marston. The parcel has been in family of her husband, Arch Marston, since 1907 and is the last remaining piece of an original 340-acre parcel.

As proposed, the apartments would span five buildings and include more than 3.400 feet of walking trails, a sidewalk to the Candle Station Shopping Center and a clubhouse.

Some citizens have voiced their opposition to the project because of its location and potential traffic impacts. Other residents have said the project would develop rural lands that are part of the “soul” of James City County.

While the project has been met with some resistance, the family who owns the land says it will fill a dire need for affordable housing in James City County.

“Our passion is for the hardworking people in our community that make James City County such a special place to live,” Lisa Marston said. “Unfortunately, they have mostly been overlooked when it comes to having housing available that is affordable.”

Behind the family’s project

Although the 14.5-acre parcel of land has been in the Marston family for more than 110 years, Arch and Lisa Marston believe it is time to give the property new life.

The couple now lives in Ford’s Colony but is in the process of downsizing because their children are now adults.

“Unfortunately, as we have aged the property has become more than we have time to keep up with,” Lisa Marston wrote in an email Wednesday. “We are not developers, so we tried our best to find the right purchaser for the property that would do a quality job consistent with the County’s land use plans and regulations.”

The land is now zoned A1 for agriculture, but it is designated in the county’s comprehensive plan for moderate density residential land is within the primary service area — an area county officials have designated for growth.

When deciding what to do with their land, the Marstons latched onto the need for affordable housing in the area.

Local leaders have said service industry workers in Greater Williamsburg cannot afford to live in the area because of high rent and real estate costs.

According to the Planning Commission, the apartments would help fill a void in affordable housing in the county, an issue that James City County officials have been discussing for years.

Rents would be between $495 for a two-bedroom, 1.5-bath apartment and $940 for a three-bedroom, two-bath unit, Lisa Marston said.

Lisa Marston has attended several affordable housing task force meetings in James City County as well, she said.

Concerns with the development

Some James City County residents have used the Oakland Pointe Apartments project as a platform to inveigh against the increasing urbanization of the county.

Tom Hitchens points to a parcel of land that is the subject of a proposal for a 126-apartment complex. Some James City County residents are fighting to preserve the county's rural lands. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)
Tom Hitchens points to a parcel of land that is the subject of a proposal for a 126-apartment complex. Some James City County residents are fighting to preserve the county’s rural lands. (Sarah Fearing/WYDaily)

Ongoing development will continue the trend of diminishing farmland and increasing population, resident Tom Hitchens told WYDaily in March.

Although Oakland Pointe is proposed in an area designated for growth, traffic and the fiscal impact on the county budget have been concerns.

According to county planning documents, the Oakland Pointe apartments would also have a $635,589 annual negative fiscal impact because of its drain on county resources, such as area schools.

A traffic study by DRW Consultants LLC also showed there would need to be lane modifications in the area around the proposed complex to accommodate an additional 887 daily trips complex residents and guests would make.

As the application stands, Planning Department staff have not recommended the project’s approval.

The Marstons said the traffic impact analysis has been recently reviewed and approved by VDOT, and includes certain road improvements that will mitigate the additional traffic from the apartments.

Improvements include:

  • A 200-foot turn lane extension of the eastbound Route 60 left turn lane at the Croaker Road intersection.
  • A 100-foot turn lane taper at the entrance to the project
  • A 100-foot turn land with 100-foot taper on Route 60 west at Oakland Drive
  • A widening of the median crossover at Oakland Drive with the addition of centerline stripping and yield bars
  • A shoulder bike lane along Route 60 across the frontage of the property
  • A sidewalk along the frontage of the property as well as the adjacent Crosswalk Church property allowing pedestrian access to the Food Lion and CVS Pharmacy.

Arch Marston also said the project team is considering suggestions to move the project entrance to a different location.

“We are sympathetic to the concerns of the community and are in the process of reaching out to the stakeholder groups to engage in dialogue about their concerns and [plan] to host a community meeting,” the developer’s attorney, Timothy Trant II, told a WYDaily reporter in March.

Moving forward with the project

Trant said the public hearing slated for the May 2 before the Planning Commission will likely be delayed again.

The delay is due to the proximity of the community meeting to the Planning Commission meeting.

“It is hard to assess, at this point, how much more time the applicant will need but we will make that information publicly known as soon as possible,” Trant said.

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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