One of three big housing developments proposed in Zion Crossroads is headed for the Louisa County Board of Supervisors for a vote, despite concerns about water supply and impacts on schools and public safety.
The county planning commission voted 7-0 on July 11 to recommend approval of Zion Town Center, which would include up to 599 apartments, townhomes and single-family houses and 275,000 square feet of commercial space behind Walmart.
The development’s success appears to depend on the county’s successful completion of the James River Water Project. Negotiations over the last permit for the water project have stalled as the Monacan Nation demands a new location for the pump station adjacent to the river.
“If the James River water doesn’t come, this is basically a dead zone, and a lot of county investment will have been for nothing,” Chairman Holly Reynolds (Green Springs district) said.
The supervisors have drafted a policy to stop issuing building permits if the wells that currently provide water to Zion Crossroads reach 75 percent of capacity. The state would require the county to have an alternative water source available if usage reaches 80 percent, according to Jeff Ferrel, assistant county administrator.
Just over one-third of the well water is being used at this time. But as Zion Town Center and other projects come online, the remaining water supply will dwindle.
Zion Town Center, by itself, would not consume the remaining well water. But two other large housing developments were also on the commission’s agenda last week. These projects, combined with previously approved development at Spring Creek and elsewhere in Zion Crossroads, would more than exhaust the well capacity.
Reynolds, whose neighbors include farmers who use water from the same underground aquifer that supplies the county wells, said the board’s proposed 75 percent threshold is too high for comfort.
Stony Point Design/Build, which previously built Freedom Plaza, a strip of retail shops on James Madison Highway (Rt. 15), is Zion Town Center’s developer. The company recently started construction of Dairy Central, a large mixed-use project in Charlottesville.
Chris Henry, Stony Point’s president, presented a fiscal analysis to the commission that shows the county reaping a $96,000 annual benefit from Zion Town Center when it is completed. It’s not known when the commercial component would develop, although Henry said little additional commercial is likely in Zion Crossroads until more housing is in place.
Commissioner John Disosway (Mineral district) said he worries the commercial portion will lag well behind the residential part. In the short term, at least, that could mean the county experiences a net loss from the development. However, the loss may be offset by one-time payments the developer has to make to connect to the water and sewer system and for building permits.
He and Commissioner George Goodwin (Cuckoo district) also said they are concerned that they don’t know when a new school, sheriff’s satellite office or fire trucks will be needed because of this and other new development at Zion Crossroads. The developer is not responsible for helping pay for those expenses.
Henry said he understands the arrival of water from the James River could be delayed further, and agreed to put that in writing.
“We fully support the county’s efforts to solve this problem and are willing to pause development if the capacity’s not there,” he said.
Several Spring Creek subdivision residents spoke in favor of Henry’s project, citing its potential to generate new stores, restaurants and services that Zion Crossroads currently lacks.
“It would be foolhardy to cease the much needed amenities; local, regional and through traffic revenue and significant tax advantages these projects will provide,” Jim Rindge, who lives in Spring Creek, said. “The money might as well be spent here.”
Opponents said the county should stick to its original vision for Zion Crossroads with a focus on commercial and industrial development, rather than more houses.
The 599 housing units consist of 162 single-family homes, 101 townhouses and 336 apartments. Stony Point initially proposed as many as 1,000 new homes before scaling back the project size.
Two other large housing developments were deferred at the July 11 meeting. A 332-apartment community proposed on Sommerfield Drive appears close to receiving the commission’s blessing, although members are concerned by the density of 16 dwelling units per acre.
Asked about the relative lack of green space within his development, William Park, of Pinnacle Construction, framed his project as a “cluster development.”
“We’re trying to prevent sprawl,” he said.
The 155-apartment Stonegate community, located just south of Sommerfield Drive, has a housing density of 16 units per acre. When Stonegate was approved in 2013, the density was less than six units per acre, because the land had not yet been subdivided. Part of the land was deeded to Louisa County for use as a future ball field.
The neighborhood on Sommerfield Drive would have an outdoor children’s playground and dog park and an indoor fitness center.
Because there are no single-family or townhouse units in his project, Park said, it will likely have very few school-aged children and therefore is a better deal for the county. His fiscal impact study shows the county reaping $352,000 per year from the housing. However, he did not account for public safety costs, unlike Stony Point.
The third development, to be located at Crossing Pointe, south of Interstate 64, needs significantly more work before it can move forward, commissioners said. The proposal by developer Brian Roy is for 204 apartments and 98 townhouses.