Henrico Planning Commission assesses 72-house short pump development project

West Henrico County Government Center. (Analise Beres for the Henrico Citizen)

The Henrico County Planning Commission discussed zoning rule changes for solar panels at its March 10 meeting, where it also considered several rezoning and interim use proposals.

The zoning changes were relatively straightforward, updating the language to reflect that several situations where a solar panel would have been permitted by rights would now require an interim use permit. The change would affect C-1 Conservation, A-1 Agricultural, M-1 Light Industrial, M-2 General Industrial, and M-3 Heavy Industrial lands. Vice Chairman Gregory Baka declared a personal interest because he is a salaried employee of Dominion Energy and abstained from voting, but it was otherwise approved unanimously and will be forwarded to the Supervisory Board of Henrico for final review.

Most of the discussion at the commission meeting focused on a request from Markel/Eagle Advisors LLC to rezone land at the southwest intersection of Pouncey Tract Road and Wyndham West Drive from agricultural uses to a single-family development. . The developer is proposing 72 houses for a development aimed at residents aged 55 and over, which means different house sizes and higher density than usual to allow for bedrooms on the first floor. President Melissa Thornton called for a condition that 75% of homes would have bedrooms on the first floor.

The developer has a separate proposal being considered by Goochland County for adjoining land across the county line, but this proposal may change significantly so that the two developments are not connected. The plans are consistent with other developments in the area, but there are concerns over sewer service if density continues to rise, although it could be extended.

Several neighbours, including one from Goochland County, raised serious concerns, including one about traffic. Citing the size of the road and the current safeguards, the resident said: ‘It looks like we are stuffing a development there when the road is not ready for it.

Another resident suggested a traffic study in anticipation of further developments to come. The road is controlled by the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the traffic study threshold is 4,000 vehicles per day, while the proposed development would only add 820. Pouncey Tract Road will be widened to create lanes of left and right turn for development and it may be possible for VDOT traffic light study.

Another concern was safety, as a primary school is across the street from the lot and children from existing neighborhoods are already crossing the street. A resident suggested a crosswalk. Yet with the entrance directly across from an existing neighborhood, vehicles can drive through and endanger children – a fact that has concerned some nearby residents.

A representative of the developer, however, explained that the development would not lead to the road bordering the school. The provision of a pedestrian crossing would be the responsibility of the VDOT. According to county planners, neighborhood exits are preferred to face each other on the street to improve circulation.

Other concerns with the proposal included the impact of a sewer extension on local wells, safety during construction given a recent accident involving falling scaffolding and severing a power line in the area (which started a fire and resulted in the deaths of two workers) and noise during a long period of construction. The developer’s representative explained that the permitting process would take six to nine months, land adjustment would take six months, and then construction would take at least two years. The commission approved the proposal although officials suggested the density could decline over time.

The commission also approved an application to rezone land just north of the intersection of East Nine Mile Road and South Oak Avenue in East Henrico so that it could be used for the sale and repair of cars. The land is currently used for offices but has had various commercial uses in the past. Due to nearby houses, developer Jon Beckner made changes to the plan to reduce noise, such as doing all repairs inside an enclosed building.

Additionally, the commission has approved an application for an Interim Use Permit to permit a multi-family development just south of the intersection of Staples Mill Road and Bethlehem Road. The site is currently used for offices and warehouses. The development would include an eight-story building with 232 residential units, retail space and a two-story parking structure with a recreation area above. To limit density, no more than 10% of units would be three-bedroom.

Aurora J. William