Proposed lake rezone gets mixed reviews

County planners delayed rezoning land on Aug. 8 for a shopping center near Lake Anna’s busiest corner, as neighbors worried about doing justice to the “gateway” to the lake.

Dave Lumsden, whose family has owned the property across Zachary Taylor Highway (Rt. 522) from Dickinson’s Store for generations, said he is pleased that local developer Gary Griffith and partner Lonnie Carter are in charge of shaping the land’s future. 

“The family has always wanted a development of high quality,” Lumsden told the Louisa County Planning Commission. “We’ve been approached about convenience stores and that sort of thing, and those ideas have been rejected. We’re talking about our legacy.”

Griffith said he hopes to attract businesses that many lake-area residents say they desperately need, such as an urgent care facility.

High quality is not what Griffith and Carter have offered, countered Charles Purcell, who owns a large property with W.A. Dickinson on the other side of the road. He spoke during a public hearing on the request to rezone the 125 acres from agricultural use to commercial.

Purcell scorned a lengthy presentation by Michael Gay, Griffith’s site engineer, that focused on attractive landscaping and building materials. None of that is as important, Purcell said, as conducting a traffic study, proving there is groundwater to support the development, ensuring the soils can handle wastewater and excluding unwanted uses.

“I’m pro-growth, but growth based on fact, not speculation,” he said. “There’s no guarantee they’re going to have an urgent care facility, that’s just what they hope. All that is eye candy,” he said.

Purcell and Dickinson have their own plans for commercial growth on land behind Dickinson’s Store. Because their land is already zoned commercial, they don’t have to go through public hearings before they can pitch their property to investors and potential tenants.

One side of Griffith and Carter’s project, north of Mansfield Road (Rt. 613), would be called The Corner and include a pedestrian-oriented retail center, with most parking behind the buildings rather than in front. The south side, with larger parcels, is envisioned for more service-oriented uses such as an urgent care center and assisted living.

The developers said they will proffer their design standards, which means they are committed from a legal standpoint to use certain building materials and plantings. They could come back later to ask to change the proffers, but the county could refuse.

Griffith said the developers will provide their own water supply from wells and treat and dispose of wastewater on-site.

Carter said at a previous meeting that his team will work with the Virginia Department of Transportation to accommodate the planned roundabout at the intersection.


Housing rejected

The commission voted down a proposal for 322 apartments at Sommerfield Business Park, in Zion Crossroads, with members arguing that it is too much housing in too small an area. The vote for denial was 4-2, with commissioners Ellis Quarles and Cy Weaver opposed. Gordon Brooks (Mountain Road district) was absent.

That doesn’t mean developer William Park has lost a chance to compete with other Zion builders for customers. He will take his case to the Louisa County Board of Supervisors at its Sept. 3 meeting.

The aesthetics of Park’s apartment projects in Waynesboro and elsewhere in Virginia are not the issue, commissioners said. It’s the proposed density of 16 units per acre, compared to the 5.5 units per acre in Zion Town Center, which the commission backed unanimously at a meeting in July.

“Zion Town Center set the standard,” Robert Gardner, the county’s community development director, said. “I can’t think of any reason why we would have different criteria [for other projects].”

He said 16 units per acre seems to “change the character” of the surrounding community.

Stonegate, the apartment community down the block, has a density of seven units per acre, though the apartment buildings are just as close to each other as they would be in Sommerfield. As Commissioner Holly Reynolds (Green Springs district) noted, the county got a future ball field at Stonegate. There is no plan for a similar amenity in the proposed development. But Park would provide amenities for residents just like Stonegate has, including a clubhouse with a swimming pool. 

Another concern for the commission is the uncertain future for water in Zion Crossroads. Commissioner John Disosway (Mineral district) said what he heard at the supervisors’ Aug. 5 meeting did not give him great confidence. The board said it would cap use of the county wells at 75 percent of capacity, but some of the supervisors indicated they have doubts about how much water is actually available.

“The board may not know much about the water situation after all,” Disosway said. 


Too many boats?

The commission also recommended denial of a proposed 92-lot residential neighborhood on Elk Creek and Lake Anna. The vote was 5-1, with Weaver again opposed.

Torrey Williams, attorney for landowners W.W. Whitlock Agency Inc., W.A. Cooke Inc. and Hawkwood Timberland LLC, presented a fiscal impact study at the commission’s request. He said he based the study on similar analyses prepared for Zion Town Center and other recent, much-larger development proposals.

The study showed a negligible impact on public schools and public safety, but that didn’t satisfy commissioners, who pointed to the traffic impact on nearby roads and on the lake.

Residents of nearby neighborhoods oppose the proposal, which is to rezone land from agricultural to residential use, including some areas outside the Lake Anna growth area. A number of residents said this section of Elk Creek is too narrow to handle much additional boat traffic.

The lake needs a “boat density” study like the one completed some years ago at Smith Mountain Lake, argued George Goodwin, Cuckoo district commissioner. He said he is worried that Lake Anna may be approaching a tipping point beyond which it will be unsafe to operate a boat in certain areas.

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