Way clear for more Village Green apartments

The Board of Supervisors recently approved a rezoning request that would allow up to 65 apartments to be added to Chester Village Green.

Emerson-Roper Companies LLC asked that 5 acres on the north line of Chester Village Drive be rezoned with conditional use to permit apartments and conditional use planned development to permit exceptions to ordinance requirements. The development would be an extension of the Chester Village Green Apartments.

The Planning Commission has thrice – most recently at its June 15 meeting – recommended denial of the request, and the Board of Supervisors has twice remanded the case to commission. According to its report on the issue, the planning staff continues to recommend denial of the request because the “proffered conditions do not mitigate project impacts on capital facilities,” such as schools, roads and parks.

At the supervisors’ meeting, Carrie Coyner, an attorney representing the applicant, said the case had been around for quite some time.

“This is a case that I believe is a perfect example of why the cash proffer policy is broken,” she said.

When the application was submitted, the applicants offered the maximum cash proffer – nearly $15,000 – on each of the proposed apartments with more than one bedroom.  For each one bedroom unit, theapplicant deleted the school portion of the proffer, bringing the proffered amount to about $10,000.

According to the staff report, 33 school children would be “generated” by the 65 apartments. At one point, there were fewer than 20 children in the entire Village Green development, Coyner said, and it’s “impossible” for these 65 units to generate the number of children expected in the staff report.

Also, no credits have been given for any of the road development completed as part of the Village Green project, she said, or for the other ways the development benefits the community.

George Emerson, the applicant, said that from the time the developers acquired the Chester Village Green property, they’d tried to demonstrate they were going to “build quality” units. There’s no way one can provide housing for a large segment of the population with proffers this high, he said. For the 65 proposed apartments, the developers will pay more than $1 million in fees, he said.

“That’s a lot to pay for the privilege of paying you real estate taxes,” he said. “There’s no question that the policy we have today doesn’t work in every instance.”

During a public hearing, Andrea Epps said this case was the perfect example of why a differential proffer should be considered to encourage infill development. Paul Grasewicz said the county has a cash proffer policy that it has followed for decades, and, to be fair, all developers should be held to that standard.

Coyner said she disagreed, and that “historically, it [the cash proffer policy] has not been treated as the letter of the law.”

Bermuda Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle said the county does have a policy, but a project like this is where younger people are likely to live. It allows them to experience living in the village, she said.

“I think it really helps reach our goal of trying to reach younger people,” she said.

Clover Hill Supervisor Art Warren said he didn’t want to spend too much time on the proffer policy, but instead wanted to consider the case on its own merits. Based on its merits, he supported the case, he said.

“We look at each case uniquely,” Dale Supervisor Jim Holland said. “It’s no secret our Planning Commission has indicated to us we need to take a look at that policy. … One size doesn’t always fit.”

This case involves 65 units, which is not a lot, Matoaca Supervisor Marleen Durfee said. This case has no impact on schools, as local schools aren’t overcrowded, she said, and it also won’t impact the county’s library system.

The supervisors unanimously approved the request.

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