Project to keep connector road

FRONT ROYAL – A developer sought changes to a future housing project that required it to build part of a major connector route through town.

The Planning Commission voted 5-0 on Wednesday to deny Front Royal Limited Partnership’s request to change the offered conditions attached to the rezoning of 149 acres north of Happy Creek Road near Shenandoah Shores Road. The property lies southeast of 604 acres owned by the developer and annexed by the town in 2014. The Front Royal Limited Partnership had cited the east-west connector road as a main reason for the need to annex the 604 acres in its application to the state several years ago.

The commission held a public hearing on the request to change the proffers. David Vazzana, president of the Front Royal Limited Partnership, spoke to the panel during the public hearing on the request. Vazzana cited statistics about jobs created by housing construction and also spoke about the benefit such projects have on utilities.

“We think that communicating and keeping the lines open is the only way to create a win-win situation,” Vazzana said.

Harris Drive resident Eva Challis spoke during the hearing about the importance of an east-west connector or other transportation improvements in the area. Challis called the situation with Shenandoah Shores community “a nightmare” given it has only one way in and out. The neighborhood also is close to the Leach Run Parkway project that is underway.

“To add more construction and more homes is just incredible to even think you’re considering (removing the connector requirement), but obviously you are,” Challis said. “But please caution and take your time to make sure we get safe roads and improved roads before we get more houses and more long lines just to get in and out of the current communities.”

Following the vote, Chairwoman Deborah Langfitt said the commission would ask Town Council to schedule a joint work session with the panel and the developer to discuss the concerns and the requested proffer changes.

Specifically, the Front Royal Limited Partnership sought to eliminate a development scenario that required the developer to build two phases of an east-west connector road through the 149-acre property by the time it constructs the 199th home in exchange for the town building the fifth phase of the road.

The current proffers call for the Front Royal Limited Partnership to build the first four phases of the east-west connector road if the town constructs the final section to 18th Street. The partnership would need to build phases 2-4 by the time it receives the 200th building permit and the town would need to decide to build the last phase within a year of the approval of the first subdivision plat. The proffers also set up a formula under which the town would give credits to the developer for tap fees, land and right-of-way dedications and toward the construction of the connector.

However, the developer said the proffers could allow development to stop at the 199th house and eliminate phases 2-4 of the connector even if the town has already built the last section. The developer also voiced concern that the proffers do not make it clear what will happen when the credits given by the town exceed the per-unit contributions.

Commissioner David Gushee read from a statement outlining the history of the panel’s work on the matter and his concerns about the proposed changes to the proffers. Specifically, Gushee voiced concern about the proposal to remove the town and developer’s requirements to build the connector road – seen as a major transportation need for any development of the property. The credit against the tap fees remains in the amended proffers as proposed. Furthermore, the proposal would allow the developer to apply the credits to the construction of the Leach Run Parkway, not necessarily to the east-west connector.

“Further, there would be no commitment on the town’s part to do what it would have to do to get the connector built,” Gushee read. “Those conditions are unacceptable to me.”

Vice Chairman Douglas Jones said he also felt concerned about the proposal that also would mean no alternative access to the development.

“I really feel that is a critical part in the puzzle,” Jones said.

Gushee recalled that the commission approved the rezoning the 149-acre parcel years ago only if it guaranteed an entrance on the western edge and a connector parallel to Happy Creek Road to enter the town at 8th Street. Gushee added that the developer still could not offer the guarantee because the town owned some of the land needed for the road. Nor did the commission have the legal authority to commit the town to the proposal.

Town Council negotiated further with the developer but did not involve the commission in the discussions. The scenario was added to the proffers guaranteeing that the developer would build phases 2-4. Phase 1 is the entrance off Shenandoah Shores Road. Phase 2 runs from the eastern edge of the property to the western edge. Phases 3 and 4 run from the western edge to the Norfolk Southern railroad near Manassas Avenue. Phase 5 runs from the railroad to 8th St. The town would pay some of the developer’s costs for phases 2-4 through a credit against the water and sewer tap fees.

Also at the meeting, the commission voted 5-0 to forward a recommendation to council that it approve an amendment to the town code that would create a cluster development option for certain projects. The Front Royal Limited Partnership requested the amendment.

The commission also voted 5-0 on an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan, submitted by the Front Royal Limited Partnership, to adopt the developer’s concept plan for the 604-acre property.

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

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