Commission OK’s 340-units

Published 7:42 pm Tuesday, October 29, 2019

County staff objects. Supervisors will decide

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

More traffic in the Eagle Harbor area was the top concern for a 340-unit age-restricted development to be located directly south of Route 17. 

The Isle of Wight Planning Commission recommended approval 7-3 for the applications, named South Harbor, after public hearings Oct. 22. The plan was submitted by East West Partners and included a comprehensive plan amendment and rezoning. 

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The 80-acre South Harbor application now moves on to the Board of Supervisors for consideration on Nov. 21. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Traffic was the biggest concern voiced by residents and planning commissioners as Carrollton Boulevard was described as “horrible” by Smithfield resident Virginia Soule during the public hearing. 

Samuel Dennis, who lives in the Eagle Harbor area, said it sometimes takes him 10 minutes just to get out of his neighborhood onto Route 17. 

Cathy Morrow said it’s taken her 12 minutes to get out of Carisbrooke and pointed out that development is heating up in north Suffolk too.

“You haven’t even begun to see how bad it’s going to get,” she said. 

Planning Commissioner Bobby Bowser agreed. 

“The biggest issue we have here is traffic,” he said. 

The developer is offering a series of road improvements designed to assist with the already congested area, to include adding and extending turn lanes and improving traffic signals. The developers have also offered to contribute $150,000 to the county to apply for revenue sharing grant with VDOT to fund any additional improvements between Eagle Harbor Parkway and the new proposed Nike Park Road extension that connects with Carrollton Boulevard.

The road improvements will be timed to the five phases of the development, according to Branch Lawson with East West. 

The development, geared for those ages 55 and up, is expected to generate 2,930 trips a day, according to a traffic impact analysis submitted by the developer. 

Starting prices for the mix of single family and townhouse units will range from $300,000 to $400,000, with an average household income of $87,125, according to the developer’s fiscal impact statement. 

Lawson also pointed out that the development is not expected to have an impact on schools and the county can expect to gain $18.45 in exchange for every dollar spent on the impacts from the development.

Over a 10-year period, Isle of Wight County could expect nearly $14.2 million in revenue, according to a fiscal impact analysis submitted by the developer. 

The landowners’ attorney, William Riddick, said the county is falling behind the region in terms of business development.

Isle of Wight and VDOT do not have money for road improvements, and the only way the county is going to get those is through development, said Riddick. 

“It will come on the backs of new residents,” he said. 

Former Emergency Services Chief Jeff Terwilliger noted in his application comments, however, that the Carrollton area could handle about 225-275 additional fire and rescue calls before it begins to impact service reliability. 

The area is served by the Carrollton Volunteer Fire Department, which responds to fire and medical calls. 

Isle of Wight Assistant Director of Planning and Zoning Richard Rudnicki said an age-restricted development will generate nearly twice the calls as the general public and this will eat into that capacity outlined by Terwilliger. 

Major Joseph Willard with the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office pointed out in his comments that with the growth in the Carrollton area, there will be a high potential for needing more resources from his office due to more people and calls for service.

Commissioner William Hulick was concerned that Isle of Wight already has an older demographic and adding more could be problematic as it doesn’t reduce the average overall age of the county. 

“I’m struggling with that concept,” he said, adding that rooftops don’t help with lunch business in Eagle Harbor, but a younger, cheaper workforce does.  

There is another development targeting an older demographic at the Yeoman Farm, just outside Smithfield. That development, yet to be submitted, plans on adding 400 age-restricted units. 

Staff had recommended denial of the comprehensive plan amendment portion of the application, with a major weakness being that that comprehensive plan update was not yet complete. The comp plan amendment required approval in order for the rezoning to proceed.

Lawson took issue with that weakness. 

That is saying that landowners and the county will have to wait until the comp plan is completed, now entering its fourth year, before submitting rezoning applications, said Lawson.

“I haven’t heard of any moratoriums (on growth),” he said.

Rudnicki said the weakness was due to staff believing that approval would undermine the public process that has been conducted during the revision. 

Developers have been told about the update and some of them decided to wait and others to move forward, he said. 

The comp plan revision, “Envisioning the Isle,” is expected to go to a public hearing before the Planning Commission in November.  {/mprestriction}