BEDFORD — Proposed development of a new townhouse complex in Forest was met with some community opposition at Tuesday’s Bedford County Planning Commission meeting.
TPB Enterprises, a developer also responsible for multifamily dwelling development on Cottontown Manor Drive in Forest, is requesting rezoning of two properties totaling 9.51 acres also in Forest from Office District to High Density Multi-Family Residential to build 220 multifamily apartment units spread between two four-story u-shaped buildings. The subject land is located near the intersection of U.S. 221 and Rustic Village Road.
According to the applicant, this proposed development would be marketed toward, though not limited to, the 55 and older age group. It will not be an assisted living community. Amenities such as a community courtyard area with a pool and playground, and a community center are part of the concept plan for the units, plus 441 parking spaces.
“We feel like this is the best use for the property,” said Tom Bell, of Thomas Builders of Virginia Inc., the developer seeking the rezoning.
Daniel Cyrus, of Cottontown Investments, representative for the applicant, added there is a growing need in the area for marketing a community toward the 55 and older age bracket.
An initial traffic analysis provided by the developer in May said no mitigation would be necessary for the proposed development, stating Rustic Village Road could accommodate any traffic under existing conditions. Bell said he believed the majority of new traffic from the proposed development would geton U.S. 221, about 700 feet from the proposed development site — rather than cut down Rustic Village Road to catch Virginia 811. Cyrus and District 2 Commissioner Jeff Burdett agreed with this traffic assumption, though most residents did not.
The proposed rezoning and development was met with opposition from some community members, with primary concerns being property value depreciation, increased traffic congestion — something residents said already is a problem on Rustic Village Road — and negative environmental impacts, including stormwater runoff and flooding issues, the felling of trees, and the loss of a quiet, secluded historic area. Safety was a third major concern, as there are schools and a church nearby, and children who play near or in the road.
About 30 residents attended the public hearing on the rezoning Tuesday night. Ten spoke, most of them against development.
Rachel Sledge, of Forest, posted a change.org petition in opposition to the proposed rezoning, which had garnered 30 signatures by the time of the planning commission meeting Tuesday night. Another hard-copy petition in opposition to the development got about 100 signatures from residents, said Jonathan Sledge, who brought copies for commissioners.
Doug Arthur, owner of Poplar Forest Nursery, said though the development would come right in front of his nursery, and while he hated to see trees go down, he was in favor of the plan as long as it was in good taste and passed all legal requirements.
“Something’s going to be built,” he said of the property. “Instead of dealing with multifamily homes, where we have 70 people to answer to, I think I would rather go to just one person if we have a problem.”
Arthur added he was in favor of property owners’ rights, including one’s right to sell their property, saying he would not want anyone to tell him what he could or could not do with his land.
Bell made four verbal proffers before the planning commission and residents Tuesday: to cap the number of residential units at 220, replace any well that might be damaged on adjoining properties during construction, or else connect the property owner to public water; market the property to a 55 and older age bracket; and deed the existing right of way at Two Church Road to the original landowners.
“We don’t get to this point without due diligence. We don’t enter into these rezonings lightly,” said Norm Walton, engineer for the project.
The planning commission took a 10-minute recess to draft the proffers in writing with Bedford County Attorney Patrick Skelley’s assistance.
Commissioners wrestled with their decision before voting.
“This is a tough one,” said District 4 Commissioner and Chairman Nicholas Kessler, who represents the district where the proposed development would take place.
While Burdett was sympathetic to concerned residents, he said this area always was viewed as a growth area in Bedford County. He said he felt the proffers made ultimately addressed most resident concerns except the change in the character of the area.
Kessler said while “peace and serenity is a big thing,” the county’s future land use plan for the area allowed for development. Construction and growth there would be inevitable; it is only a matter of what sort of development would occur. Any development, Kessler said, would have additional traffic associated with it, whether townhomes or an office complex.
Following discussion, the planning commission recommended approval of re-zoning in a 3-2 vote, with District 7 Commissioner John Briscoe and District 5 Commissioner Ronald Berman voting against. Only five of the commission’s seven members were present at Tuesday’s meeting, making it a quorum. District 1 Commissioner Mark Gwin and District 6 Commissioner Donald Wray were absent.
The rezoning request will move on to the Bedford County Board of Supervisors for a final decision in an August meeting.