A new residential development consisting of 36 patio homes and 14 townhome units is cleared for construction on South Coolwell Road following unanimous approval from the Amherst County Board of Supervisors.
The board on July 20 approved a request to rezone an 11-acre parcel from General Residential (R-2) to Multi-family Residential (R-3) and amend the county’s future land use map to high-density Residential. Randy Jennings of HD Real Estate Holdings LLC in Madison Heights, the property owner and developer, said the project is aimed at providing desired housing for seniors which he said is much needed in Amherst County.
Jennings said the catalyst for the development, called Violet’s View, is his mother, who ran a beauty salon for years. She and friends don’t want to leave the county for patio home-style developments elsewhere.
“I was born and raised here. Amherst County means a lot to me,” Jennings said. “I’m here and I plan on staying here. We want to see Amherst grow. I look at houses on the market here and there’s not much to offer.”
Bettie Jennings, his mother, was among a few speakers to address the board in favor of the project during a public hearing.
“It’s time for me to live in a patio home,” the 78-year-old said. “I didn’t want to leave Amherst County. I don’t want to move to Lynchburg.”
Jamey White, of White Engineering and Design, the project’s engineer, said a residential development has been planned for the property since 2017. A third of the 11 acres is untouchable and requires mitigation practices for land disturbance the developer is trying to minimize, according to White.
Jennings said Violet’s View is his first project designed to attract seniors and families who move to surrounding areas because of lack of housing options, particularly for seniors and retirees.
No one spoke against the development plan during the hearing. Jeremy Bryant, director of community development, told supervisors the amendment to the future land use map, which was adopted in 2007, is needed for the project to proceed.
“If you just take a glimpse of the future land use map now, you would see it does not support this type of development,” Bryant said prior to the board’s action.
However, he said, the development also is within a designated growth boundary area where public water and sewer is available.
“It’s where we want development,” Bryant said of the utilities in place.
Ernie Guill, a Madison Heights resident and retired longtime educator in Amherst County Public Schools, strongly encouraged the board to approve the development.
“We have very few options in this county for older people,” Guill said of the housing offered. “I’m looking at something just like this right now.”
Guill said two friends have moved from Amherst County to Lynchburg in the past two years in search of housing friendly to seniors.
“There were not options in the county that they wanted. They wanted to stay but there wasn’t any options,” Guill said. “This is something that is very much needed. We need some growth in this county.”
Bryant presented a concern the project could be considered spot zoning since no R-3 zoning is located near the parcel. He also said staff has concerns about needed environmental protections of a downstream lake, a stream on site and wetlands on the parcel.
The developer has formally agreed to work closely with county planners, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Army Corps of Engineers to develop a plan that adequately protects the wetlands, on-site streams and downstream properties.
White said about 40% of the property site at 2044 South Coolwell Road is undevelopable.
“We’re not asking for high-density [housing] on our project, we just need it because of specific circumstances to how much land we can develop on,” White told supervisors. “We are 4.4 units per acre. Our density is still at an R-2 [zoning] level. It’s just we have to group it more to one side to develop on one side of the property, almost.”
White said the single-story patio homes will be marketed in the $239,000 to $259,000 range and the two-story townhomes would range from $199,000 to $209,000. He added the residential neighborhood is in line with the county’s comprehensive plan, a guide for growth and development, in providing needed housing for seniors.
“...What we are seeing and the feedback we are getting from the community is we’ve got the aging population looking to downsize, to get one-level living and minimal yard upkeep,” he said of the popularity of patio homes. “There are not a lot of options, especially in this area of the county. We think this is an ideal location to build that and meet those goals of the comprehensive plan.”
In other news:
The board formally ended a local emergency on the COVID-19 pandemic that was in effect since March 23, 2020. The conditions and uncertainties surrounding the pandemic have resolved such that the emergency authority of the county administrator no longer is necessary, according to county documents.
Mask requirements have been lifted for vaccinated individuals and social distancing no longer is used during public meetings, according to a July 23 news release from the county. “Thanks to the efforts of Amherst County Public Schools and Amherst County Public Safety, many Amherst County residents received their vaccination early this spring,” the release said.