Just a few miles from where construction already is underway along English Tavern Road, Campbell County residents could be seeing more than 300 new townhomes and apartments coming to the area, joining a wave of development along the corridor just off U.S. 29.
The planning commission, which is a recommending body to the Campbell County Board of Supervisors, recommended approval for the new development Monday night in a 6-1 vote, with Altavista Commissioner Thomas Lawton opposing.
The applicant, Jamey White, of White Engineering & Design, is representing developer Mark Sharman, who seeks to rezone about 30 acres from Business — General Commercial to Residential — Multi-Family in order to construct townhomes and apartments.
Though White said the number of units is subject to change depending on the results of an environmental review, he currently proposes 328 total units — 184 townhomes, and six apartment buildings with a total of 144 units.
Located on two parcels of land situated between U.S. 29 and English Tavern Road, just before Hyland Heights Baptist Church, the proposed development only is a few miles away from the English Commons apartments and townhomes, a two-phase development from area developer Gordon Cudd, approved by the Campbell County Board of Supervisors in 2019.
Already under construction on English Tavern Road, the two phases of the English Commons project total about 375 apartments and townhomes. If approved, the new development discussed Monday would bring more than 300 additional units to the area.
Spring Hill Commissioner William Kirk said the area is experiencing a growth similar to Waterlick Road in the Timberlake area, which saw a number of developments during the past several years. He said he believes Monday night’s proposal was a great place for a development that would not further burden the northern end of the county but said traffic remains a major concern as the corridor continues to grow.
White said by the time the request reaches the board of supervisors for final approval July 20, they will have a completed traffic analysis to determine the potential need for turn lanes at the two entrances proposed for the development on English Tavern Road.
Currently, the project is under review by the Virginia Department of Transportation, and a traffic impact study has not been completed.
If the project is approved, a key component, said White, is extending existing public water and sewer to the property, which he said would build out infrastructure for future growth in the region. He also said the developer has reached a private agreement with a neighboring property owner who owns a wedding venue on English Tavern Road, and will extend water and sewer to her property, as well.
Rustburg Commissioner Michael Condrey called it a “good project in a good location,” with the added benefit of creating infrastructure to support a business that “desperately needs it” across the street. While he echoed traffic was a primary concern, he trusted it would be addressed at the supervisors’ meeting next month.
Also at Monday’s meeting, commissioners unanimously recommended denial for a 45-acre community solar facility, a decision in line with the county’s growing skepticism toward solar project expansion in Campbell.
Kieran Siao, director of development for Atlanta-based Dimension Renewable Energy, first proposed the project to the planning commission in April, seeking a special use permit to construct a solar facility on 45 acres of land adjacent to 6138 Wards Road in Rustburg, near the intersection of U.S. 29 and Browns Mill Road.
Following discontent from surrounding landowners, the planning commission tabled the vote until they could hold a joint meeting with the board of supervisors to discuss the future of solar energy in the county — a meeting held in May.
At the joint meeting, commissioners and supervisors discussed potential regulations on county solar farms and their appetite to continue approving solar facilities moving forward.
On Monday night, Planning Commission Chair Dean Monroe said he would prefer the commission did not recommend approval of any further solar projects until commissioners and the board have finalized recommendations for “general policies” that could be used as conditions on future special use permits.
“This county has approved several large solar farms, we have different amounts of success, we’ll say, with what they’re doing so far, and what they’re not doing to a point that has become a concern to both ... the planning commission and the board of supervisors,” Monroe said.
Kirk echoed the sentiment, calling it “unwise and imprudent” to recommend the solar farm that night without further time to vet county staff’s proposed guidance for future projects. Most essential to him moving forward is the requirement for solar developers to pay for third party inspectors to be selected by the county to oversee enforcement of the solar sites.
“I don’t think any of us are adamantly opposed on any one ground, but we all have concerns,” Kirk said. “We need to do what’s best for 77,000 people and not what’s best for one or two.”
Related to this discussion, commissioners approved by consensus a document compiled by staff providing guidance for potential applicants pursuing solar development in the county, which will move to the board of supervisors for final approval. While it doesn’t currently impose any additional regulations, it outlines priorities of the planning commission and supervisors in evaluating energy projects.
It also references a siting agreement which may be negotiated separate from the special use permit required for solar farm projects — which could include financial payments to the county in addition to any taxes, or the requirement for a third-party inspector.
Sunburst Commissioner John Thilking said this was a “pretty huge” step and the first time all of this information has been compiled in one place.
The Campbell County Board of Supervisors will take up the conversation at its July 20 meeting.
“This county has approved several large solar farms, we have different amounts of success, we’ll say, with what they’re doing so far, and what they’re not doing to a point that has become a concern to both ... the planning commission and the board of supervisors.”
— Dean Monroe, planning commission chair