Board says no to more Zion apartments

One month after they supported building 599 housing units behind Walmart, members of the Louisa County Board of Supervisors rejected plans for another 322 apartments one mile to the north.

The board’s vote at 1 a.m. on Sept. 4 against the housing proposal at Sommerfield Business Park was 4-3. Chairman Toni Williams and colleagues Tommy Barlow, Duane Adams and Troy Wade opposed the project, voicing worries about dwindling well water at Zion Crossroads and that the apartments would be packed into too small an area.

“I’m not willing to put the wells at risk,” Adams said before the vote.

Development in Zion Crossroads relies on water from county-owned wells just north of where the apartments would be located. In recent months officials discussed cutting off the water supply to new customers when usage reaches 75 percent of capacity. 

In a worst-case scenario, that threshold could be hit as soon as 2023, according to Jeff Ferrel, assistant county administrator. At that point, the James River Water Project might not be in operation yet.

Supervisor Bob Babyok (Green Springs district) said warnings that the water will run out are not justified at this time.

“There is no need to panic,” he said. “The growth will be staggered over a long period of time.”

Charles Purcell, whose family owns much of Sommerfield Business Park and worked with developer William Park on the apartment plan, offered to give the county three wells on his property. He claimed that the water would come from a different aquifer than the county supply, meaning it would add to the total amount of water available. 

As evidence that the water is from a separate source, Purcell questioned well driller Dennis Gentry as the supervisors looked on. Gentry said the water is from “a different rock formation altogether.”

The supervisors did not respond directly to Purcell’s suggestion, but Supervisor Troy Wade (Louisa district) said he was not interested in the county investing in more wells.

County planning staff tried unsuccessfully to convince Purcell and Park to submit their apartment proposal as a planned unit development, in which the business park’s commercial lots and the apartments behind them would be integrated into a single plan. Purcell said he can’t do that because it’s unclear what sort of businesses will locate on the commercial sites. The existing businesses are University of Virginia Credit Union and Boss Instruments, which makes surgical instruments.

Board backs rezoning on Elk Creek

The supervisors voted on Sept. 3 to rezone land near Lake Anna from agricultural to residential use for 43 new house lots, despite strong opposition from neighbors who said it would lead to too much boat congestion on Elk Creek.

The vote was 5-2, with Supervisors Willie Gentry and Barlow (Cuckoo and Mountain Road districts) opposed.

The Louisa County Planning Commission had voted against the rezoning, in part because residents of neighboring Seclusion Shores subdivision protested that it would make their narrow end of Elk Creek less safe for boating and swimming.

The supervisors seemed unconvinced they should be involved in regulating boat safety, since Dominion Energy owns the lake and works with county staff to control the width of boat channels and to implement no-wake zones where appropriate.

Torrey Williams, the agent for landowners W.A. Cooke Inc., W.W. Whitlock Agency Inc. and Hawkwood Timber, noted his clients already had the right to develop the lakefront, but needed the 43 extra lots to make the project work financially.

“This boils down to a property rights issue,” Adams said. “I think the owners have a right to develop that property.”

Rumpus back in business

The board voted 7-0 to approve stricter conditions for the Rumpus in Bumpass triathlon, which is scheduled to return to Pleasants Landing at the lake’s eastern end in October. 

Williams advised promoter Greg Hawkins that if there are new reports next month of parking and noise issues at the event, it could be the last time he is invited back.

Several neighbors complained to county leaders after last spring’s triathlon that they were blocked for as long as 40 minutes from leaving their driveways because of parked cars and heavy bike and vehicle traffic on Eastham and Moody Town roads. Some also objected to Hawkins using a bullhorn to address volunteers as early as 7:45 in the morning.

Hawkins agreed to limit triathlon participants to 750 people, to tow cars if they are illegally parked on the roads, and to bar loud noise prior to 8:30 a.m.