Wednesday, June 7, 2023

York County Board of Supervisors approves new apartments, church venue

The George Washington Inn. (Wydaily/Courtesy Cushman & Wakefield Thalhimer)

York County residents can expect more development in the area.

The county’s Board of Supervisors approved two separate rezoning applications which allow the applicants to repurpose two buildings: The George Washington Inn & Conference Center and the JCPenny building.

Schottenstein Realty Company submitted a rezoning application for 500, 512, 516 and 600 Merrimac Trail to turn the George Washington Inn & Conference Center into 125 apartments.

The board’s decision approved the application with a vote of 3-2.

RELATED STORY: The George Washington Inn and Conference Center will be turned into a 125-unit rental apartment building

However, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the other rezoning application — submitted by Parkway Center LLC — to convert the JCPenny building, 500 Marquis Parkway into a church venue and retail space.

No one spoke during the public comment portion of either agenda item.

George Washington Inn & Conference Center

The Schottenstein Realty Company submitted an application to rezone 6.4 acres off Merrimac Trail from general business to planned development residential.

The applicant, Jeff Schottenstein, proposed a plan to make the George Washington Inn and Conference Center into 125 workforce housing units for people such as first responders, teachers and nurses.

Besides the interior renovations, Tim Cross, the county’s planning director, said the applicant also wanted to demolish two existing structures — the former restaurant building in front of the hotel and the rear conference center — and one of the three entrances off Merrimac Trail.

In addition, the sidewalk would be extended to the CVS Pharmacy and a new bike lane installed along Merrimac Trail.

The applicant agreed to several proffers including limiting the number of two-bedroom units to 30 and adding the following recreational amenities: an outdoor pool, dog park, biergarten, exercise room, business center and a great room available to rent.

Cross added the applicant proposed to add wider landscaping as well as security and privacy fencing near the outdoor pool, which would be located behind the apartments near the neighborhood.

In addition, the existing indoor pool would become an outdoor one with a resident manager on-site to minimize the noise.

The applicant also submitted rental prices to the board “based on housing costs representing no more than 30% of household income”:

  • Studio apartment: $600 per month with a minimum income of $24,000
  • One-bedroom apartment: $950 per month with a minimum income of $38,000
  • Two-bedroom apartment: $1,150 per month with a minimum income $45,000

The new open-concept apartments would have remote-controlled thermostats and include all utilities.

“There is currently a shortage of affordable housing … these rents would hit those targets,” Cross told the board. “I do want to say there is no guarantee that these are the rents that are going to be charged.”

Cross noted the school enrollment and traffic impact projections are low, adding the planning commission unanimously approved the application.

Walter Zaremba, District 1 representative, was concerned the new development might increase the rents of nearby properties, alleged leaking conditions in the roof and asked why the developed was not proffering the rent

G. Stephen Roane Jr. from District 4 asked several questions about the difference between the zoning areas and the potential revenue lost by the county should the application be approved.

Cross said current zoning restricts the applicant to creating a 50-foot perimeter buffer and the number of units allowed on the property. He added the fiscal impact analysis of the revenue and expense side was a “less-positive impact” than the school enrollment projects, but noted the applicant was investing millions of dollars into this project.

“If we’re not careful, we are creating a slum here,” said Thomas G. Shepperd Jr. from District 5. “We gotta make damn sure what we are putting here is not going to turn into a slum. The developer better come up with a good story if he wants my support on this proposal.”

At the meeting, Greg Davis with Kaufman and Canoles office showed examples of the 13 residential development projects Schottenstein had completed since 2013.

He said there was no evidence of leaking or mold issues but added there are reserve funds for unexpected costs. Davis said adding proffers to cap rent prices would essentially “handcuff” the owner and possibly prevent banks from investing in the project.

Schottenstein also said he planned on investing $7 million dollars for the project.

Currently, the inn has 250 rooms and Schottenstein said he would take two hotel rooms and combine them together for a mixture of 125 studio, one- and two-bedroom units.

“This is not affordable housing,” Schottenstein said. “This is not Section 8, this is not government supported, this is workforce housing and all of our apartments in all of our cities are classified as workforce housing. Our typical tenant profile is 25- to 35-year-old millennials, most of them are single.”

He noted other clientele includes married couples, graduate students and senior citizens.

The Board of Supervisors discussed the project for more than an hour before approving the project by one vote.

Stephen Roane Jr. and Chad Green, chairman of the BOS and District 3 representative voted against the rezoning application.


Foundations Williamsburg Church submitted an application through its Parkway Center LLC to rezone 8.8 acres in the Marquis Center from economic opportunity to general business.

The church had outgrown its previous location at Legacy Hall in New Town and a year ago discussed a proposal with the county to make the former JCPenny store, which closed in 2015, into a multipurpose building anchored by the church, according to the memorandum.

At the meeting, Cross said the 105,270 square foot building would house the church, an auditorium, a childcare center and a community service workforce training center, as well as retail space available for lease.

He noted under the current zoning conditions of the property, the church is not allowed to operate in an economic opportunity district, hence the rezoning application.

In addition, Cross added the church has agreed to several proffers, including setting aside a minimum of 20,000 square feet — roughly a fifth of the building — for commercial, retail, professional or education services.

The LCC would also prohibit the following business from leasing space:

  • Vet clinic
  • Tobacco store
  • Auto parts
  • Contractor’s shop
  • Nightclub
  • Pawn shop
  • Video arcade
  • Small engine repair
  • Equipment rental
  • Fortune teller

“What they are really hoping to attract is dining establishments,” Cross added.

The applicant plans to remodel the interior and make exterior improvements to the building, as well.

While the county was able to project traffic impacts, Cross said it was hard to quantify the fiscal impacts but added the planning commission had recommended the Board of Supervisors approve the application.

Barry DuVal, who represents the applicant, said the LCC would own the building and would not apply for tax-exempt status.

“The church at this time would be the anchor tenant,” DuVal said.

Sloane Jr. asked about whether the childcare services would be through the church or an external service. DuVal said they expect the childcare services to be a separate entity and were looking a “well-established childcare centers” on a national level. He added they want the center to accommodate the church on Sunday, too.

Sloane Jr. also asked about the tax implications for the county if it were to approve the rezoning application. Cross said while the applicant does not plan to apply for religious tax exemption at this time, it could if it wanted to.

Before the Board of Supervisors vote, Green let Michael Hines, the church’s pastor and member of the LCC, say a few words.

“We’re in need of space, we’re in need of a parking lot and we are in of a place for people, and you’re in need of people for your place,” Hines said.

The vote was unanimous.


Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano
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 You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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