Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.

Amherst board OKs rezoning, permits for mixed-use development in Madison Heights

  • 0
Virginia 163 development site

A view of the property on Virginia 163 in Madison Heights, close to the road’s intersection with Virginia 210, that is planned for a large-scale development with apartments, villas and a senior assisted living facility.

A proposed residential mixed-use development heavily focused on senior living and consisting of more than 300 apartments, an assisted-living facility and dozens of homes in Madison Heights has Amherst County’s zoning approval to move forward.

The master plan from WEK, LLC and developer Terry Morcom for the project Virginia 163 near the Lynchburg border includes 276 market-rate apartments, 150 senior-living apartments for ages 55 and older, a 140-unit assisted-living memory care facility, 84 single-family villas for seniors and about 17,500 square feet of commercial space.

The Amherst County Board of Supervisors on Sept. 20 approved several measures for the high-density development, including rezoning 15 acres from General Commercial (B-2) to Multi-family Residential (R-3), two special exception permits and rezoning 0.3 acres from Limited Residential (R-1) to R-3. Morcom said in a letter to county officials he is planning a “first class,” family-friendly community that will serve all age brackets and, in addition to the housing, will have a large open space area with walking trails, soccer fields, pickle ball courts, a pool and a pavilion.

Morcom said the project would be built in phases, with the first including a commercial building, apartments and senior villas, the second phase consisting of senior apartments and the third phase building out the assisted living facility.

“We’re trying to produce a product that will be beneficial to the county and we feel like it will also be an asset to the county,” Morcom told supervisors.

Jeremy Bryant, director of community development, said the Virginia Department of Transportation will require a traffic impact analysis for the project that hasn’t been done yet. Bryant said VDOT provided assurances it feels it is an approvable plan and likely will require some reconfiguration of a stoplight at the intersection of Virginia 210 and Virginia 163, in addition to a second entrance off of Virginia 163.

The developer will pay for the traffic light upgrades, according to Bryant.

Calvin Kennon, of the Amherst County Economic Development Authority’s board, said during a public hearing the project, with its many facets, is a win for the county.

“But the thing that really strikes me is being able to have a place for our seniors,” Kennon said. “Our seniors have had to go to other areas and there are many fine facilities in the region but our Amherst County people have to go somewhere else. And I think they would like to be able to stay home.”

Kennon said the county also needs more affordable housing options.

Mike Ogden, who lives in the Merrymoor subdivision in close proximity to the development, raised concerns about traffic issues that already are stressful and would become even more so with an influx of new people. He spoke of hardships in getting onto Virginia 163 from Moorman Road just by the stoplight.

“Currently there are 8,000 cars coming up and down that road and we can barely get out,” Ogden said. “Now we are talking about adding 50% more cars just up the street from us ... that’s our biggest concern, is the additional traffic and how we, who have lived there all our life, will be able to get in and out of our subdivision.”

Heather Jamerson, who lives in the nearby subdivision, also raised concerns about traffic congestion and effects of more people coming into that area.

“I am not going to stop development, nor do I want to. I think it’s a lovely idea that we have a senior development center,” Jamerson said, adding another road is crucial for helping residents get in and out of that area.

Andrew Proctor, who also serves on the EDA’s board, said the economic benefit from the project is in the right spot designated for growth.

“Developments like this take some time,” Proctor said. “This is probably a five-year or so buildout, which gives the county plenty of time to work with VDOT to address the valid concerns.”

He said based on the numbers of housing units, the county stands to potentially gain about 1,000 new residents, about 3% of the current population, a substantial increase given years of stagnant growth and lagging behind Lynchburg and a few surrounding counties.

“As a county we’ve watched Lynchburg revitalize over the last decade and we frankly struggled a little bit to capitalize on their flourishing downtown,” Proctor said. “We consistently hear our residents clamor for better restaurants, shopping, lower taxes, affordable senior housing but we are cautious about development. I believe this proposed development has been designed to mitigate any significant concerns around development, is geographically positioned to help our county leverage the growth of downtown Lynchburg to Amherst County’s advantage and I believe it will lure more residents to our county and support the business development activities of the EDA.”

Victoria Hanson, executive director of the EDA, said in a prepared written statement there are few choices for Amherst County residents when it comes to senior housing.

“Many residents of Amherst County have made the tough choice of placing their beloved parents in assisted-living facilities outside of Amherst County, forcing them to drive a distance when they would prefer to have a facility in the county,” Hanson said.

The new influx of residents also would benefit the local economy, provide jobs and boost the county’s annual tax revenue stream.

Sabrina Kennon, president of the Amherst County Chamber of Commerce, said the development would help keep seniors from moving out of the county and is much needed.

Jamie Gillespie, director of economic development for the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance, spoke to the board on the development’s forecasted economic impact. The project is expected to generate more than 500 jobs from the construction over multiple years as well as roughly 130 jobs for the local economy with anticipated tax revenue of nearly $598,000 for the county annually, according to Gillespie’s report.

County Administrator Dean Rodgers said the county is in talks with VDOT about potential long-term expansion improvements for the Virginia 163 corridor and enhancing it as a gateway into Madison Heights.

The property is served by public water, the county is studying the feasibility for public sewer and sidewalks will be built along Virginia 163 as part of the project, according to county documents.

Supervisor Tom Martin asked how the county can be expected to make decisions when it has incomplete information, in this case being the lack of a traffic impact analysis from VDOT.

“It always puts us in a bad light after the fact,” Martin said. “To me there’s a lot of lot of loose ends...”

Bryant said the department of community development also wants that data readily available but noted challenges in costs.

“We want every developer to provide a full traffic impact analysis,” Bryant said to Martin. “It simply comes down to cost and timing. Those are detrimental things as I understand it to developments that we’ve seen recently ... it comes with a high expense working with VDOT ... I couldn’t agree with you more. I want that too.”

The board’s approval included a condition that a traffic study for the area includes the Merryman subdivision as well as River Road and Miller Lane, noting the importance of seeking to alleviate traffic issues for residents close to the development.

“We definitely need this development,” Supervisor Jimmy Ayers said. “We also need to take care of those that have been there for some time.”

David Pugh, the board’s chair, agreed it is imperative the nearby residents’ concerns are addressed.

“They have been taxpayers for however many years, they are residents, they are just as important as everybody else, including the development,” Pugh said.

The project is beneficial for Madison Heights in a multitude of ways, Pugh added.

“I don’t see how we can pass up this rezoning with the economic impact it will have on the county,” Pugh said. “Sitting on the board for the past 10 years, I’ve heard about not having enough, in Amherst County, places to live, we’re falling behind, we’re losing population, so this might be the catalyst to helping with those issues that I have heard from so many.”

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

News Alert