By Jeff Poole
Not long after the Orange County Planning Commission decided the Wilderness Crossing rezoning application wasn’t yet ready for consideration, the Orange County Board of Supervisors has scheduled a work session on the massive Route 3 development within the Greater Wilderness Area Plan (GWAP).
At its regular meeting last week, the supervisors received a project update from Orange County Planning and Development Services Director Josh Gillespie on the proposed 2,618-acre mixed-use development on the north side of Route 3 in eastern Orange County and ultimately scheduled a work session a week later.
The planning commission had tentatively scheduled an initial public hearing for Oct. 7, but felt the application, submitted by KEG Associates III (represented by local businessman Kenny Dotson and attorney Charles B. Payne Jr.), left far too many questions unanswered for commission members, who decided to defer consideration pending additional project specificity.
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The rezoning application includes 20 parcels that make up the property rezoned from a mix of Agricultural, Residential, Commercial and Industrial to Planned Development—Mixed Use (PMD). The total time frame for the project is approximately 30 years and would be broken up into phases. It would include no more than 4,750 residential units (multi-family, single family, townhomes, condominiums, and/or active adult units), as well as a range of commercial retail, financial institutions, offices, hotel, medical or assisted living facilities and/or light industrial construction.
The GWAP is a long-term growth management plan for the next 50 years that creates the atmosphere for a competitive local economy; plans for adequate and appropriate public facilities and services; promotes and protects local historic and environmental assets; and, guides public and private investments to create an attractive and livable community.
At last week’s meeting, the supervisors discussed various components of the application and agreed that some guidance to the planning commission was needed to help prioritize the board’s concerns while moving along the application.
“I had asked staff to prepare something of this nature because I’m concerned that the Wilderness Crossing application may be lagging a little bit with some of our processes,” said District 1 Supervisor and board liaison to the commission, Mark Johnson. “This is the first time that we’ve ever dealt with something like this before, and I just want to get everybody on the same page here, make sure that we get it right, that it keeps moving forward and that there isn’t any more mass confusion than is absolutely necessary.”
Gillespie briefed the board on the proposed project and the GWAP parameters, suggesting, “Staff recommends additional work sessions on this because there are inconsistencies with the GWAP or at least unclear in their implementations and proper conditions.”
And the board agreed.
“As I’m looking at what the planning commission has done, there’s a lot of work to be done,” District 5 Supervisor Lee Frame said. “I’m not sure there’s anything I’m particularly opposed to, but there are a lot of things not defined that should be.”
Some of those broad topics include water supply (including reservoirs), transportation and design.
“I agree there are open-ended questions that need to be addressed at this point,” District 2 Supervisor Jim White added. “Is the application review committee going to have some collaboration with staff and maybe even the planning commission and the applicant? It’s my understanding, the applicant has not been included in the application review so far.”
Gillespie confirmed that was correct.
“A piece that’s missing is that discussion at a work session with the applicant and others at the table to work through these things,” White continued. “I don’t think you can get to closure without that.”
“This is so different in terms of order of magnitude of what we’ve done before that our standard ‘give-it-to-the-planning-commission’ isn’t going to work,” Frame said. “I’m reading what the planning commission is doing and think they’ve got a good sense there’s a lot to do. But at some point, we need to give them some guidance.”
“This is all good discussion. This is what we needed,” Johnson added. “This application was filed in March, so we need to get moving on it, but I don’t want the planning commission doing a bunch of stuff doing things a week later the board says ‘we don’t care about that.’ We need to clue the planning commission in on the areas we’re most concerned about so when they go through it they understand where we’re coming from.”
“We need to get our arms around it at a higher level, a policy level, and provide that to staff and the planning commission,” White continued. “It almost makes no sense to me for them to have another session without that.”
The board agreed to a work session Tuesday afternoon (after presstime) in advance of the planning commission’s scheduled Oct. 7 meeting.
For more information on the status of the Wilderness Crossing rezoning application, visit the “Pending Zoning Cases” page on the county website at www.orangecountyva.gov/901/Pending-Zoning-Cases.