More growth for Benn’s, Carrollton area on horizon

Published 11:09 am Wednesday, November 29, 2017

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Benn’s Church – Carrollton area could get an additional 200-plus houses and the traffic they generate if an amendment to the Benn’s Grant zoning is approved.

The amendment was scheduled to go before the Isle of Wight Planning Commission Tuesday. After the commissioners make a recommendation, the application moves on to the Board of Supervisors for final consideration.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The application had raised the ire of many new Benn’s Grant residents as it had originally planned to swap out a portion of the commercial property and the open space for townhouses and condominiums.

Another concern was increased traffic in the Carrollton highway corridor and the impact on schools in the rapidly growing northern end of the county.{mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Since October, the developer has met with Benn’s Grant residents and has offered to remove 10 condominiums from the front of lake three and reconfigure the remaining townhouses and duplexes to provide more open space for a total of 216 units — down from the previous 231.

Benn’s Grant was originally approved in 2009 for 560 housing units, to include single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.

Beyond that application, there are already about 2,000 housing units approved in the Carrollton – Benn’s Church area, with some developments under construction, such as Eagle Harbor Tract 8 apartments and Benn’s Grant.

Excluding the commercial property at Benn’s Grant, there is an additional half million in retail and commercial square footage approved along Benn’s Church, Brewer’s Neck and Carrollton boulevards.

The Benn’s Church intersection was reconfigured, at a cost of $5 million, to handle future traffic needs, specifically Benn’s Grant. Traffic has increased along Benn’s Church Boulevard from 2005 to 2016 by up to 4,000 vehicles a day, according to VDOT.

However, when and where to add lanes along Route 17 and Brewer’s Neck Boulevard is based on the Brewer’s Neck Corridor Study and any projects would have to be submitted to VDOT for analysis, said Isle of Wight Transportation Manager Jamie Oliver.

In the works now are improvements to the intersection of Route 17 and Brewer’s Neck Boulevard, known as the Bartlett intersection, as well as an extension of Nike Park Road.  

The Bartlett intersection improvements include adding a second, exclusive northbound left turn lane.

The improvements are designed to increase traffic capacity and support future economic developments in the region, according to VDOT.

The extension of Nike Park Road to Route 17 is the first phase of a long-term project to transform Nike Park Road into a four-lane divided roadway.

The project includes adding turn lanes and traffic signals between Northgate Drive and the Route 17/258 intersection.

Both projects are currently in the design phase and public notices for design hearings will likely occur over the next six to eight months, and construction slated in another two years, Oliver said.

Widening the James River Bridge, that is considered a regional concern and is not on any priority list right now, Oliver said.

As for the schools, the Benn’s Grant developer said the reduced number of units in the amendment proposal would decrease the number of potential students by five. Isle of Wight County schools Superintendent Dr. James Thornton had raised concerns about the additional housing, as extra classroom space is in short supply.

Another point of confusion was that the developer relied on an enrollment study that the Isle of Wight County School Board does not agree with, as it did not take into consideration already approved, but as yet not built, residential housing.

The schools plan to hold public meetings in December to discuss plans for future growth in the school division.

Currently, the only plan for future growth in the schools capital improvement plan was a new elementary school in the northern end of the county, but the plan did not include any data to support construction.

This year, the schools were expected to lose students but instead saw a gain of 55 overall, mostly at Smithfield High School. {/mprestriction}