Supervisors reject Greenecroft rezoning request

By Susan Gibbs

The Greenecroft sign on US 33 East in Ruckersville, a few miles from the intersection with US29

The Greene County Board of Supervisors has rejected a rezoning request from Ted Corp, Inc./Greenecroft, LLC that would have enabled townhouses and multi-family dwellings on land that had been intended for commercial development on US 33, just west of that road’s intersection with US 29.

Both Board Chairman Buggs Peyton and Board Vice-chairman Davis Lamb voted for denial of the request, as did Supervisor David Cox at the Board’s regularly scheduled meeting February 14. Supervisors Eddie Deane and Jim Frydl voted against denial.

“My concern is that approval of this request reduces commercial property (space within the property) by 70 percent,” Peyton said prior to the vote being taken. “It adds 133 additional units and reduces proffers and I don’t think proffers should be reduced under any circumstances. We need commercial growth. We need to provide for employment in Greene County. Doing away with commercial development is a deterrent to what the county should be.”

The development, which fronts the Four Seasons Active Adult community, was originally approved for a residential development calling for homes with a minimum of 2,600 square feet for ranch homes and a minimum of 2,800 square feet for two story homes. Twenty-four of the project’s 75 acres were to be reserved for commercial development, with a maximum of 21 one-acre such parcels.

But in 2008, recession struck, and the following year, Greenecroft developers requested that the original proffers be amended to allow for smaller single-family homes.

“The current minimum square footage proffer has resulted in construction of new home prices out of reach of many of our working citizens,” the developer wrote in a document on file at the county planning office. “New mortgage lending standards with strict guidelines have resulted in fewer loans being available, resulting in fewer families having the ability to purchase their own home. The (requested) changes will enhance the accessibility of the development to the citizens of Greene County by providing a more affordable selection of housing options.”

The Board approved the request, lowering the minimum for both ranch homes and two-story homes to 1,800 square feet.

Since then, residences have continued to be built, but the 24 acres set aside for commercial development have remained vacant.

On December 21, 2011 Greenecroft brought his proposal to reduce those 24 acres to seven and to rezone to enable townhomes or multi-family dwellings before the Greene  County Planning Commission.

The request to amend proffers kept single-family units at the county’s current $5,771 recommendation, but proposed to reduce proffers to $3,463 per townhouse unit, and $2,885 per multi-family unit. The argument for the reduction in proffers for the smaller units was based on statistics that show fewer children (and therefore fewer students in schools) in smaller homes

County planning commissioners recommended approval and sent the request on to the Board for action.

When he appeared before supervisors February 14 Rob Lynch, manager of Greenecroft and of Ted Corp, LLC, said: “There is so much in the Ruckersville area now that is not being developed. (That lack) is driving us to toward trying to find a more market-based solution.”

Greenecroft, viewed from US 33 East

Lynch made it clear that there was no guarantee that any townhouses at all would be constructed on the portion of the site Greenecroft would have rezoned. “We would really like to make it all commercial (but) we’re looking for flexibility now,” he told the Board.

Twelve Greene County residents spoke during the public hearing portion of the February 14 meeting.

Six spoke in favor of the request, some with reservations. Two speakers asked that the request not include rentals, and Victor Schaff, owner of Papa John’s Pizza in Ruckersville, cited the need county businesses have for more rooftops.

Those who spoke against the request included former Greene County Supervisor Carl Schmitt, who voiced concern for the infrastructure and said, “We have plenty of residential properties to be built. We don’t need any more.” Brian Higgins, field agent for Piedmont Environmental Council, said he would like to see proffers adjusted, and Roy Dye, executive director of Stanardsville Area Revitalization (*STAR), agreed with Schmitt and Higgins.

Stanardsville Volunteer Fire Department President Doug Clay also commented, warning the Board that donations to the department were down as is money from fundraising, though he did not say whether or not he was in favor of the request.

And, the Board’s packet included a letter from former Sheriff J. Scott Haas, dated October 6, 2011 stating that the Board should keep emergency services in mind. “We are very thin when it comes to serving the current population,” Haas wrote. “Additional growth without additional assets will impact our county in a negative manner.”

Frydl was the first to speak following the close of the public hearing. He pointed out that “the whole point of a planned unit development is to meet the market needs and flexibility in those areas that we as a county have deemed high growth, high density areas.” He also noted that townhomes were the trend right now in the United States, and opined that the lowering of proffers made sense because they increased in value in neighboring Albemarle County, while other, larger homes, decreased.

Lamb voiced his concern for the county’s infrastructure, and a lack of solid planning on the part of the developer.

Deane said he was concerned about traffic impacts, to which Lynch responded that traffic counts are lower for residential developments than they are for commercial developments.

Referring to a change in proffers between the time the developer appeared before the planning commission in December and the Board in February that called for the installation of sidewalks, Cox said he was “… bothered by changes in proffers laid on the table at the 13th hour.”

Peyton called attention to § 15.2-2283 of the Code of Virginia, in particular paragraphs which state that zoning ordinances shall be designed to facilitate the provision of adequate police and fire protection, schools and parks, economic development activities that provide desirable employment and enlarge the tax base.

Lamb also cited § 15.2-2283 of the Code of Virginia prior to making a motion, seconded by Cox, that the request be denied.

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