Development process long

Published 6:05 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The 685-unit mixed-use, age-restricted development proposed for the former Yeoman Farm has multiple steps it must go through before it is approved, denied or changed.

It has yet to go before any governing board, and is still in the feedback stage at the staff level, according to Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson.

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The proposed project by NVR LLC, “Sweetgrass,” is located on the east side Benn’s Church Boulevard, just south of the Smithfield town limits. 

Once the application is complete, it first goes to the Isle of Wight County Planning Commission for consideration and includes at least one public hearing. Accompanying the application are a series of studies to demonstrate the possible impact on schools, public safety and other services, traffic, water quality, the environment, as well as its affect on the visual landscape and historical and architectural concerns.    

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After the public hearing, the Planning Commission will recommend approval or denial and the application moves on to the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors. 

The process is repeated at the Board level and at least one public hearing will be held. 

There can potentially be more than one meeting on the application at each level, said Robertson.

Under a new proffer law passed a few years ago, Isle of Wight County can no longer directly request or indicate a cash proffer amount — originally designed to offset the costs of development on services, such as schools and public safety. Rather, the law allows developers to conduct their own proffer study. 

Efforts to reach NVR LLC were unsuccessful. 

To provide perspective, Benn’s Grant took seven years and went through numerous changes before it was approved in 2009. 

It was another six years before actual housing construction began. 

Originally proposed at around 1,000 houses, today Benn’s Grant is approved for 776 units, making “Sweetgrass” comparable in size. 

Nearby, St. Luke’s Village was originally approved in 2005, and although the developer has put in for some changes, construction has yet to begin. That development, located along Brewer’s Neck Boulevard near Sentara St. Luke’s, is approved for 179 homes, with retail and medical offices. 

Probably the longest lag between rezoning approval and actual development in Isle of Wight County was Eagle Harbor. The development was originally approved in the 1970s, but construction did not begin until 30 years later. 

It was for that reason that Benn’s Grant, now approved for 776 residential units, had a sunset clause attached to its approval, meaning construction had to begin by a certain date or the project could revert to its former zoning or the landowner could renegotiate. 

Prior to 2016, Isle of Wight had a proffer policy that provided developers with an estimate, per housing unit, of what the impact of each house would be on a variety of services. At the time, the amount was $13,358. 

However, a change in state law concerning proffers led the Board of Supervisors to repeal its policy and instead have developers conduct their own proffer study. 

Under the law, if a locality turns down a project, it must adopt a resolution providing a fact-based reason why it was denied. 

Localities are also forbidden to request or accept “unreasonable” proffers, meaning the proffer inquiry must address impacts directly related to the new residential development. 

Protracted proffer negotiations often took place during past rezonings in Isle of Wight County, and in some cases resulted in more than just cash per lot. 

For example, the Lawnes Point developers gave Isle of Wight land for what is now Fort Huger, as well as undeveloped land for what has been named Bradby Park. The park remains undeveloped.  

Age restricted developments getting popular


The “Sweetgrass” age-restricted development is the second proposed in Isle of Wight County. The other, Channel Farm, was scheduled to go before the Isle of Wight Planning Commission on Tuesday. The proposed development, located south side of Carrollton Boulevard and behind The Shoppes at Eagle Harbor, has 340 units with a combination of townhouses and single-family detached housing. A staff report notes that the application, submitted by East West Partners, will likely not impact the school division due to its age-restricted status, but emergency services needs are greater than a normal residential neighborhood.  {/mprestriction}