One local business is one step closer to relocating to Toano.
The James City County Planning Commission unanimously approved a special-use permit to convert a former church building into a contracting office, create an outdoor storage yard and possibly build a repair shop.
“I personally think it’s a good transitional use,” said Tim O’Conner, who represents the district at-large, adding the property transitions from the industrial part of Toano to Anderson’s Corner.
Ryan Stephenson of AES Consulting Engineers requested the special use permit on behalf of Hertzler and George Landscaping, based in Williamsburg, who plans to relocate their operations to 8251 Richmond Road.
“As the business has grown, we’ve just run out of space,” said Joe Hertzler, owner of the Hertzler and George Landscaping. “What we’re doing right now is, I’m working on this SUP so we can acquire the property and get the business relocated there.”
The 29.72-acre property is currently zoned A-1, General Agriculture and owned by Jeff Bateman and a Trustee. While part of the property borders residential areas and the CSX railroad, the permit only applies to 4.97 acres of the property off Richmond Road, according to the special-use permit application.
The area is considered “partially-developed and mostly-wooded” with two structures, including five parking spaces, according to the applicant’s community impact statement.
“The existing single-family home was converted to classrooms and office space for Lifepointe Christian Church,” according to the document. “The structures will be converted into a contractor’s office and the garage will remain for parking and storage.”
While the landscaping company does not plan to make any “exterior improvements” to the existing buildings, they do plan to make improvement to the property.
Future plans include adding more parking spots behind the existing garage, a “gravel lay-down area” and building a 4,000 square-foot building for a “repair shop and material storage, behind the office.”
Hertzler told the planning commission he hopes to later rezone the property to industrial, but for now the plan is to set up the company’s operations and at some point “circle back.”
One of the permit conditions also limits retail use, which Hertzler was not opposed to.
“I can run my operation under this special-use permit,” Hertzler said, noting there is no reason to change anything. “Obviously, there is a quite of bit of land we would like to take advantage of that way.”
In fact, if the property stayed zoned A-1, Hertzler said he would be “okay with it” but he thinks zoning it as industrial makes more sense with the county’s comprehensive plan.
“I think that we’ll be a good asset to that part of the county,“ Hertzler said. “I think this will be a great location for our business and I look forward to becoming involved with James City County in this way, sort of deepening my involvement with the county.“
There are some conditions related to the project.
According to the staff report, the applicant would have to develop a plan for “water conservation standards,” which must be approved by James City Service Authority since the property gets public water and sewer. Also, the applicant must create a bike lane along Richmond Road to accommodate bicyclists/pedestrians.
Only one person spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting before the commission voted.
Dorothy Prowant, a neighbor living next door to the property, shared her concerns, wondering how the landscaping business would impact the surrounding neighborhood’s septic system, which relies on well water, as well as the business’ future plans involving possible retail operations.
“It’s a house now, are they keeping the house, are they going to demolish the house?” she said. “I’m just concerned as the next-door neighbor.”
The special use permit application heads to the Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 9 at 5 p.m.
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