Thursday, July 7, 2022

‘We don’t want to live in an urban setting like Newport News’: Fenton Mill opposition

Concept plan of single family homes in the Fenton Mill Master Plan. (WYDaily/ Screenshot, courtesy of LPDA)

The Preserve Fenton Mill Facebook page shows growing opposition to new proposed development in York County.

Fenton Mill Associates LLC submitted a rezoning application for a new residential community to build 836 homes off Fenton Mill Road near Interstate 64 between Newman and Barlow roads. The public hearing for the rezoning application has been postponed until further notice because of the level of opposition.

“So obviously we’re very opposed to this development,” said Tom Chamberlin, one of the committee members of the Facebook page and a volunteer with William & Mary’s police department. “We don’t believe the infrastructure up here is capable of supporting that development.”

Darci Tucker, another member of the committee and the owner of American Lives History Brought to Life, said she feels people who live in York County were drawn to it because it is surreal.

“We want to live in a rural setting,” she said. “We don’t want to live in an urban setting like Newport News.”

“Then it devalues it as a tourist site,” she added.

The narrow roads that will become easily congested and unsafe  appears to be the center of the group’s concerns.

“These are narrow roads,” said Chamberlin, a retired Newport News Shipbuilding director of quality control. “Vehicles already have a hard time passing each other.”

The Preserve Fenton Mill committee is opposed to the rezoning application because if the application is approved, the developer can increase the number of homes built on the property.

The land is currently zoned Limited Business Rural Residential and the rezoning application seeks to change the zone to planned development residential use to build 836 homes instead.

“The developer can build 270 homes,” Chamberlain said. “He has a right to do that.”

The Preserve Fenton Mill Facebook group wants to gather more information about the project and educate the community about why It’s is not good for York County.

Chamberlain said he spends a couple of hours a day reading documents such as past rezoning applications and looking at other developments. His latest project is putting in a request to VDOT to get more information about the traffic study done in January.

“What we’re trying to understand is why was it only done for a day and why not for a week or a month,” he said. “Why in January and why not a week in June?”

The Preserve Fenton Mill Facebook group was created April 26 and has 608 likes and 650 followers. The members plan to attend the developer’s open house next week.

The committee members are not the only ones opposed to the Fenton Mill plan.

Walter Zaremba, vice chairman of the York County Board of Supervisors, is also opposed to the rezoning application.

“There’s a huge opposition developing from all the folks who live on that side of I-64,” he said. “Since I represent the people who live in District 1, that includes the Fenton Mill preservation group.”

The main issue Zaremba has with the rezoning application is every 10 years York County develops a comprehensive plan and at the last update in 2013, Fenton Mill was considered rural residential with no more than one house per acre of land.

So even though Fenton Mill LLC has the right to develop in the area, he said he feels it would be a disservice to the residents to rezone the land already zoned for 120 houses.

“It has be something akin to American greed,” Zaremba said. “Now the developer wants us to ignore the comprehensive plan, ignore the zoning and allow a minimum of three houses per acre, if not more than that.”

Zaremba said the county also does not have the infrastructure and the main roads for the proposed development are all one lane.

It would also put an “incredible strain” on the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office and the York County Fire Department, Zaremba added.

“I don’t fault the developer for wanting to develop, I fault the developer for wanting to develop beyond what the county has expected,” he said.

Laurie Matthews, spokeswoman for Fenton Mill LLC, said as part of the rezoning application, they are having an open house for the community for residents who want to learn more about the project.

“It’s going to be set up as questions and answers stations,” she said. “Each station will have one of our professional consultants.”

Matthews said the consultants will talk about the master plan, environmental design, traffic considerations, public utilities and stormwater, and the entire Fenton Mill team will in attendance.

The open house will have eight, half hour sessions with a capacity of 20 people per session.

“We want to be able to give everyone enough time while also be able to social distance,” she said. “We’re having the open house and then they’ll be notified about the rezoning. We hope that those who have question or concerns come out and talk with us.”

The open house will be at the Picnic 1 Shelter at New Quarter Park, 1000 Lakeshead Drive, on June 23 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. You can register here.

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Julia Marsiglianohttp://wydaily.com
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to julia@localvoicemedia.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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