Thursday, December 8, 2022

Chickahominy Summerplace is on the market, meaning 160 new homes could come to Jolly Pond Road

Chickahominy Summerplace sits on the banks of Yarmouth Creek. (WYDaily/ Courtesy Commonwealth Commercial)
Chickahominy Summerplace sits on the banks of Yarmouth Creek. (WYDaily/Courtesy Commonwealth Commercial)

Nestled between the hustle and bustle of Lightfoot and the ever-present rush of the Chickahominy River lies a vast patch of forest on Jolly Pond Road.

The site is known as Chickahominy Summerplace. It is currently a parcel of 924 undeveloped and forested acres along Yarmouth Creek.

A brochure for the property points out that Summerplace has been owned by the 14th president of William & Mary, a former mayor of Newport News and the Hornsby family, some of whom may have lived in a small rustic house. Now its current owners have placed it on the market with the hopes that its future owners will see the property’s potential for residential development.

However, James City County has designated the rural property as unfit for development — and the county’s Board of Supervisors even voted down a request to allow for a rural cluster of subdivision lots in March 2017.

Because of the property’s zoning, though, the owner is allowed by right to construct homes on 3-acre lots on the property. With Summerplace on the market, more than 160 homes could be built on the property after a sale is completed.

‘Growth goes in this circle’

Commonwealth Commercial, a Richmond-based commercial real estate firm, is marketing the property on behalf of owner East West Communities. Commonwealth First Vice President Ryan Fanelli said his firm views the property, which has an asking price of $11.9 million, as one that will be most enticing to developers looking to build a residential subdivision.

“We are proactively seeking out people who are active in the industry who are building homes in the Peninsula or building lots in the state,” Fanelli said.

A residential development would be at odds with the property’s zoning designation of A-1 General Agricultural, meaning its intended use is for farming, forestry and other activities appropriate for a rural environment.

A-1 land allows for up to one housing unit per every three acres; thus, Summerplace could be the bedrock for about 160 homes. However, that does not mean a subdivision is what was envisioned for rural properties.

The Primary Service Area for James City County is highlighted in purple. Chickahominy SummerPlace is in the northwestern portion of the county, outside of the PSA. (WYDaily/ Courtesy James City County)
The Primary Service Area for James City County is highlighted in purple. Chickahominy SummerPlace is in the northwestern portion of the county, outside of the PSA. (WYDaily/ Courtesy James City County)

The county’s Board of Supervisors and planning staff have made efforts to steer residential and commercial developments to its primary service area (PSA). Portions of the county inside the PSA have been designated as zones where commercial developments should take place, because “high levels” of infrastructure like public water, sewer and other utilities and roads are already — or soon will be — in place.

By using the PSA, the county is able to make effective use of public services and facilities, improve emergency response times and spend tax dollars more efficiently, according to the James City County website.

The PSA roughly follows the Interstate 64, Richmond Road, Centreville Road, Monticello Avenue and Route 199 corridors of the county. Large swathes of the western areas of James City County, including Summerplace, lie outside the PSA and are largely rural in nature.

Developments outside of the PSA can add to the county’s operating budget, said Paul Holt, James City County’s planning director.

“The greater distances — when you’re serving fewer, less dense development — outside the PSA, then the cost to extend longer water and sewer mains and improve longer stretches of road does absolutely increase public cost,” Holt said.

When the Board of Supervisors considered a proposal to reduce the required lot size for Summerplace to allow for the construction of about 160 homes, they voted against the proposal 4-1, citing concerns over fiscal impact and density.

“The Primary Service Area has always been a tool to say, ‘Growth goes in this circle,’” Supervisor Michael Hipple said at the time before voting against the proposal. “I want to make sure what’s coming into the county pays for itself. … My biggest concern is putting more load on the citizens that are here now.”

Rural nature

It’s not just the cost — the preservation of rural, largely undeveloped land has been a priority for county officials and residents alike.

During the formation of the most recent comprehensive plan in 2015, residents made clear to county officials that the preservation of rural land is a priority, Roberts District Supervisor John McGlennon said.

“One of the things we’ve seen in our surveys and public opinion relate to the quality of life in James City County,” McGlennon said.  “People feel we retain a small-town feel, that we provide within close access to our more densely populated areas a less-developed, more rural atmosphere.”

The conversation has come up as to how best address urban developments outside the PSA and preserve rural landscapes, McGlennon said.

“We’ve had efforts to examine the question of redefining urban lands, but they’ve always gotten hung up in conflicts between competing interests — property owners that would like to sell their property for higher amounts of money versus the county’s interest in not providing services to larger geographical areas,” McGlennon said.

Recent discussions have included renewing the purchase of development rights program. The program was paused in January 2016, but it previously empowered the county to reward landowners who preserved their land from development. However, McGlennon said, the board’s options are limited when it comes to steering growth.

“The PSA has been a tool, perhaps imperfect, but the best tool we’ve had to send a message that we don’t want to see our rural lands disappear,” McGlennon said.

Fanelli said Summerplace’s vast undeveloped acreage could open the door to other developments, but he added most buyers would probably be more interested in building homes. James City County’s emphasis on the PSA may actually make Summerplace more attractive to developers.

“We look at supply and we see that James City County does not rezone very many residential properties recently, so that lack of new lot supply makes this property more desirable,” Fanelli said.

Holt said any sort of development at Summerplace would have to be reviewed by county and state staff. Streets would need to be built to Virginia Department of Transportation standards, the Health Department would review septic tanks, the James City Service Authority would review the proposed water system, and the county Fire Department would make sure the homes are safe.

However, if the developer does not need to ask for a special-use permit and designs a development to stay within current county code, they could sweep in and build a subdivision — and the county’s hands would be tied.

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