|Dozens of people turn out for meeting on a high-density development in their community.|
About 40 neighbors gathered at the school Nov. 8 for a community meeting convened by Edith MacArthur, president of the Holmes Run Acres Citizen Association. They intend to write letters and call members of the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors and bring a large crowd to the next meeting of the Mason District Land Use Committee on Nov. 27.
|Flooding at Raintree in 2006. [Gerry Andrianopoulos]|
In 2017, Christopher Land LLC withdrew a proposal for 66 townhouses on a 9-acre triangular-shaped property between Gallows Road, Libeau Lane, and the Raintree condominium after county planning and zoning staff recommended that the project not go forward.
Christopher Land revised its proposal and is now calling for 12 two-story townhouses along Gallows Road, 12 two-story detached single-family homes near Libeau Lane, and a four-story multifamily building with 48 units in the middle of the property.
Christopher Land has agreements to purchase 18 of the 19 existing homes on the site if the project is approved.
The earlier proposal called for an expedited amendment to the county’s Comprehensive Plan. The planning staff agreed with residents’ argument that the project would not conform with language in the Comprehensive Plan that calls for new projects to be compatible with the character of the surrounding community, which is mostly single-family homes on large lots.
Christopher Land subsequently found a loophole, which allows developers to seek a zoning special exception – rather than a plan amendment – if they build a community for people age 55 and older in a residential area, MacArthur said. There’s an easier approval process for a special exception.
The county allows higher density for senior housing, she said, because the county is expecting a “silver tsunami” of an increasingly aging population.
Setting an age limit of 55 was also designed to calm concerns about school overcrowding. But only one person who signs the deed has to be 55, meaning younger people could live there, MacArthur noted. Also, there are plenty of 55-year-olds with school-age children.
Several people at the meeting complained about existing backups on Gallows Road during the morning rush hours. Concerns were also raised about the developer’s plan to have only one access point to the property, which means if it’s blocked by an accident or fallen tree, the new residents will be trapped.
All the new pavement planned – for driveways, roads, and homes on the property – will exacerbate flooding, MacArthur added. The recent rains caused major flooding in Raintree, with some cars inundated up to their windows.
Whether this project is approved or not, “something is going to happen there,” she said. Developers don’t need county approval if they want to build one or two mcmansions per acre.
That would not be optimal – McArthur prefers smaller single-family homes – but would be more compatible with the surrounding area. A high-density project, with eight homes per acre, she said, “is just not acceptable.”