By Matt de Simone
During the public hearings at last week’s Botetourt County Board of Supervisors meeting, the board moved to overturn the Planning Commission’s decision to grant the Commission Permit as requested by VJL LLC (ABoone Real Estate, Inc., contractual purchaser). The motion to overturn passed, 4-1. The board additionally moved to deny the Residential (R-1) rezoning as requested by VJL LLC. The motion to deny was passed, 4-1.
The applicant, Alexander Boone of ABoone Real Estate, Inc., spoke about loving building communities as a developer. He commended the board for Botetourt’s growth.
One issue the Ashley Plantation community has with a proposed development is whether or not it falls in line with the covenants and restrictions of the neighborhood. Boone mentioned the standards of the houses in Ashley Plantation are “20-30 years old,” but if people want a house 100% built from brick, Boone stated they would make it happen.
Earlier this month, the Botetourt County Planning Commission received one request for additional information and 23 written comments in opposition to the project. In summary: 11 cited traffic concerns, seven cited Ashley Requirements or Covenants and Restrictions, four cited infrastructure concerns such as water, sewer, and power, two each for cluster zoning, incompatibility, and construction traffic, as well as proffered conditions, small houses, and property values. Several speakers voiced their objections to the rezoning during the public hearing, citing infrastructures such as roads, water supply, water pressure, sewer, exterior building materials, the lack of covenants and restrictions, walkability, and wildlife.
The public comments also expressed their disapproval of new homes not “conforming” and “harmonizing” with the rest of the community’s structures.
Residents of the Ashley Plantation subdivision who spoke during the public hearing unanimously opposed the proposed subdivision. Other worries shared in several comments mentioned the devaluation of property, traffic concerns, stormwater management, cluster zoning, and the potential overcrowding of the surrounding schools leading to a potential redistricting. Another comment asked the county to consider the preexisting conditions in Ashley Plantation before building more homes.
After Boone shared his thoughts, Bobby Wampler, president of Engineering Concepts, Inc., spoke to the board. Wampler was the applicant’s representative, providing the concept plan, traffic study, and other technical analysis. He talked about the project’s infrastructure specifics and acknowledged the traffic concerns on Greenfield Street, sewer line capacity, and water system and storage adequacy.
Buchanan Supervisor Amy White asked for Wampler to better explain the impact on the area’s wetlands. Wampler explained that it’s all about how the developer handles the area. White stated two issues with the development: the environmental effects and the community’s safety. She applauded the public’s feedback about the proposed rezoning.
“It’s a really tough decision,” Blue Ridge Supervisor Billy Martin said when thinking about whether or not to approve or deny the rezoning permit.
Amsterdam Supervisor Steve Clinton stated that the need for the new development to be compatible with the existing homes is a compelling argument. He said he concluded months ago that housing development in the Amsterdam District was unnecessary and could be developed in places outside of the district. He also mentioned that the Board of Supervisors would continue to work with VDOT to improve Greenfield Street’s preexisting conditions regardless of the board’s decision about the rezoning.
“Mr. Boone’s done the best job of any developer I’ve seen,” Clinton added. “It’s a good development, in my opinion, but I don’t think I can support it.”
Vice-Chairman Mac Scothorn also expressed his concern about the traffic and mentioned he’d seen it firsthand. “I don’t want to make this worse… Cluster lots are something that I am not in favor of. I think (our job) on the board is making sure our public is safe.” He mentioned the “unknowns” tied to the development and didn’t feel he could approve the rezoning.