NEWPORT NEWS — City Council on Tuesday approved a rezoning application from the Christopher Newport University Foundation which would allow the university to possibly expand its student dormitories off Sweetbriar Drive.
The approximately 2.8 acres of land was previously zoned for low-residential housing and is adjacent to 7-Eleven and across the street from single family residential houses.
All seven properties 21, 23, 25, 27, 33, 35 and 37 Sweetbriar Drive, are owned by the CNU Foundation and have single family, cottage style houses.
While City Council unanimously approved the rezoning application, Saundra Cherry asked if neighbors in the surrounding communities were contacted about the possibility of the university creating additional housing for students.
Sheila McAllister, director of the planning department said the neighbors were notified, adding she was not aware of students negatively impacting the community.
Cherry said she was curious if there was data or police reports regarding the college students behaviors to which McAllister replied “not that I am aware of”.
A representative from CNU and Police Chief Steve Drew who were sitting in the audience told McAllister and the council no.
No one signed up to speak for or against the college’s proposal.
Currently, there are five dorms off Sweetbriar Drive which all make up CNU Apartments: Harrison, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Washington. According to the university’s website, the dorms opened in August 2002 and house 335 third and fourth year students.
On Sept. 4 at the city’s planning commission, Doug Hornsby, CEO of the CNU Foundation, spoke in favor of the rezoning application, noting CNU is an economic engine and he is certain that whatever is planned when it is brought in will be spectacular with appealing architecture.
He said the plan will take into account all of the good questions as to how it should look and what structures and landscapes should be between all of it.
Hornsby said the foundation has a reputation for doing projects, like the shopping center and the Starbucks and Chipotle site in a Class A standard.
“Today’s plan amendment makes sense because we own all of the land around the properties and their houses on Sweetbriar are not in good shape,” Hornsby said.
He did not elaborate further of the condition of the houses.
In May 2017, the CNU Real Estate Foundation’s plan to demolish the former Hidenwood Post Office and the Sun Trust building to create new dorms for fourth year students was approved by City Council. While the Post office building has been knocked down and the post office operations relocated to the Hiden Shopping Center, also owned by CNU, the Sun Trust building still stands.
CNU spokesman Jim Hanchett, during a July 19 interview with WYDaily, said this:
“There is no housing plan in the works at this moment for housing to be built on that land. “What may have been anticipated in 2017, as far the construction of housing on that land, is not part of the university’s immediate plan.”
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