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Rezoning advances for Amherst County mixed use development proposal

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About 180 acres of primarily wooded parcels is on its way to becoming the Madison Heights Town Centre, a planned mixed use community of apartments, townhomes, patio and single-family homes with businesses and open space for trails and similar amenities.

The Amherst County Planning Commission on June 16 recommended approval of a rezoning for the second phase of the project, which contains 170 acres just north of the Seminole Plaza shopping center. The commission in May recommended approval of the first phase of the planned development, consisting of roughly 10 acres, that is set to go before the Amherst County Board of Supervisors on June 21.

A portion of the site is planned for municipal uses such as parks, trails and a church that is looking to locate in the development, according to plans submitted to the county.

“The development will give a central location for the Madison Heights community to enjoy new home construction, the convenience of townhomes and apartment-style living and patio homes for ‘empty nesters’ to enjoy,” the application from Rowan Holdings LCC to the county states.

Trent Warner, engineer for Hurt & Proffitt, wrote in a letter to the county the rezoning request is for commercial spaces up to 75,000 square feet, apartments up to 500 units, up to 250 townhomes and patio homes each and up to 100 single-family homes on primarily half-acre lots. Sam Patel, the developer, is requesting to rezone 13 parcels in two steps: a portion is sought to change from a business zoning district to Mixed Use/Traditional Neighborhood Development (MU/TND) for multi-family development while the other 170 acres currently zoned Industrial, M-1, is requested to rezone to MU/TND for high density residential development.

“His interest is to give Madison Heights a boost in growth with aesthetically pleasing architecture and building a community neighborhood within Madison Heights,” Warner wrote.

Jeremy Bryant, director of community development, said a traffic light may be required at the entrance of the proposed neighborhood and U.S. 29 Business. The land is within the county’s growth boundary and has public water and sewer access.

“For a variety of reasons, this property lies as a good area for development,” Bryant said. “If you look at a map of Madison Heights from my perspective and from [county] staff’s perspective, it stood out as a big vacant piece of land that has been underutilized over the years.”

The proposed development’s location would have students going to Madison Heights Elementary School and Amelon Elementary School depending on what part of the site they reside, according to county documents.

Bryant said the developer desires a road connection with Monelison Middle School that still has to be worked out. County documents tied to the application states Patel has designated open spaces for neighborhood and county use with a central park area he plans to donate to the county for its own development, which he said also needs to be worked out in the future if that happens.

That land intended to go to the county, if realized, potentially could be used for splash parks, playgrounds, trails, dog parks and new civic buildings, according to the application.

“We really do envision this being something that turns into the hub of Madison Heights, the center of a community that can develop around us here,” Patel said.

He said he envisions restaurants and a circle area with a large fountain that gives a scenic view and town center feel.

“I think this is something that is very unique,” Patel, who lives in Madison Heights, said. “I think it would be a draw, not only for the people of Madison Heights and Amherst County, but I think we could lure some Lynchburg folks over here too.”

He said the development has been in planning stages for a year and many meetings with county staff have been held in working toward the master plan in the heart of Madison Heights.

“We’re hoping for a win for everyone,” Patel said. “I think we’ve got a solid plan.”

Patel emphasized the open space component of the development plan and said parts of the master plan have been adjusted to benefit the county.

“The idea is not to stack and pack people in here,” Patel said. “There’s a lot of green on this map. That’s intentional. We want it to feel like it’s been here for a long time.”

Ronnie Adams, a leading figure in the Madison Heights Youth Baseball Association with fields near Monelison Middle School, said during a public hearing Thursday the project can be good for the county but he has concerns, particularly with the traffic around the school and ball fields.

He said at certain times of the day traffic gets congested and causes delays and he doesn’t think Trojan Road or Daniels Drive, a residential neighborhood, can handle more.

Novella Thomas, who lives on Daniels Drive, said she doesn’t have a problem with the planned development but doesn’t want to see it negatively affect traffic issues on her road.

Patel said he hopes the new development can alleviate existing traffic pressures with more roadway connections.

He plans quality housing that attracts people in the Lynchburg region frustrated with high real estate taxes and home prices.

“Those are the people I’m hoping want to make Amherst County and Madison Heights their home,” Patel said.

Brooke Patel, his wife, said the couple who have four children who play sports locally, are invested in the county.

“We are about this community,” she said during the public hearing. “We want it better for our kids. We want it better for your kids.”

Sam Patel said after the meeting he feels it is important to see Amherst County grow and develop. He said Lynchburg has growth and he wants to bring it south of the James River to Madison Heights.

“I think Amherst County can have the same thing,” he said.

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