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Posted June 13, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Developer proposes Blue Ridge Shadows expansion

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL - The developer of Blue Ridge Shadows in Warren County wants to build more homes in the project and make most of the houses age-restricted.

D.R. Horton's proposal met scrutiny and skepticism at the Planning Commission meeting Wednesday. The panel addressed the proposal and heard from the developer's attorney, John Foote, who explained the impetus behind D.R. Horton's change of plans for Blue Ridge Shadows.

But Chairman Mark Bower told Foote he saw no reason to change the voluntary conditions as offered in the original plans for the development on U.S. 340-522 North. Bower questioned the benefit and feasibility of making many of the homes restricted to owners 55 years and older.

"I don't think that's a bad deal what we have right now," Bower said. "I'm not convinced that some age-restricted units would get much difference than no age-restricted units."

The project began in 2002 and the plans went through changes over the years. The various developers of the project have built 23 single-family homes and 26 townhouses on the site to date, Planning Director Taryn Logan said.

D.R. Horton recently filed a request with the Planning Department seeking to increase the number of homes it can build on the site from 225 to 300. D.R. Horton also proposes to make 195 of the homes age-restricted.

Foote told the commission that the developer feels the market appears to favor age-restricted housing. D.R. Horton wishes to redesign part of the development and to add some amenities.

Foote explained that age-restricted housing benefits areas by attracting residents who have a higher net worth, remain active in the community and shop locally. Age-restricted homes don't add to the school population and create a smaller demand on public services, Foote said.

The developer plans to keep 105 market-rate units in the project, Foote said.

But Bower noted that the county has another age-restricted community several miles from Blue Ridge Shadows with many units still vacant.

"So I'm not sure it's really well-received in this area," Bower said.

Logan explained that the units the developer has proposed consist of courtyard and townhome villas and two different single-family dwellings. The developer has proposed to include a village green area for a gazebo, theater, fountain and other amenities. The new plan calls for a swimming pool and clubhouse for the community, Logan said.

D.R. Horton proposes to realign the intersection of Shadows Drive and John Hopkins Drive.

The developer has proposed to build a central water and sewer system in the subdivision. However, Logan cited correspondence from Front Royal officials who claim the proposal would breach an agreement with the developer that calls for the town to provide water and sewer to the subdivision. Logan said staff has asked D.R. Horton to address the issue.

Town Attorney Douglas Napier sent copies of the agreement to county officials, Foote said. But they have not had a chance to go over the documents, he said. Foote noted the issue remains under discussion among the developer, the town and the county.

"D.R. Horton has not wedded to an approach to this; it's wedded to a reasonable and rational way to provide utility service to this property," Foote said. "If that's the town, be it the town. If it's not and it's legal we'd like to consider doing a package plant on the property."

Asked about Front Royal's agreement with the Blue Ridge Shadows project, Town Manager Steven Burke explained Thursday the concern about the "breach of agreement" relates to the potential increase of maintenance to utility lines installed as part of the original subdivision.

"The water and sewer mains were designed and constructed to serve a larger number of homes than DR Horton is now proposing," Burke states in an email. "The reduction in water demand in Blue Ridge Shadows will affect the duration that water remains in the system. Reduced flow to sewer mains that were sized to receive a larger volume of flow will result in continual maintenance to ensure that the mains are flushed."

Burke added that the town removed a moratorium for residential utility service at the request and action of the Warren County Board of Supervisors to serve Blue Ridge Shadows.

The county also wants assurance from the developer that the project would not result in additional school-aged children, Logan said.

A major concern with the development focuses on original plans to construct a second entrance to the subdivision across Toray Drive. That offer has been deleted from the plans, Logan said.

"Obviously staff feels that should remain so that all 300 units aren't accessed by the one main entrance and our subdivision ordinance doesn't allow that anyway," Logan said.

The commission agreed with staff's recommendation to table D.R. Horton's request and decided to bring the matter back at its July 10 meeting.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


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