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Orange planners endorse mixed-use development

A proposal for a mixed-use development near the new Walmart being built in Orange County is on its way to the Board of Supervisors with an endorsement from county planners. 

The Signature Station plan calls for up to 222,300 square feet of commercial construction and up to 230 townhome units on State Route 3 just west of the Walmart site.

Signature Series Development LLC requested rezoning of almost 76 acres from agricultural to multifamily residential and general commercial.

A public hearing before the Planning Commission Thursday drew 11 speakers, several from the nearby Somerset Farms neighborhood. Most spoke against the rezoning, citing inadequate proffers, no need for further residential development, harm to the county’s rural atmosphere, increased traffic and potential financial impact on county taxpayers.

One speaker, Steve Yeltsin of Barboursville, supported the request, saying it would increase the county’s tax base.

Somerset Farms resident Bob Jones said the rezoning application “insults Orange County with its proffers.”

Guidelines approved in 2008 allow for proffers of $19,000 per townhouse unit, for a total of $4.4 million. The Signature Station developer is proffering $1,500 for each of the first 125 townhouses to be built, for a total of $187,500.

The developer says this would offset an anticipated cost impact to county schools of $183,600, based on a projected 40-student increase at a cost of $4,590 per student. These estimates, the applicant stated, were based on Orange County school system figures.

Applicant John Marcantoni, a Somerset Farms resident, pointed out that the proffer guidelines were based on a purely residential rezoning. The commercial component of the developer’s plan would create significant tax revenue for the county, he said.

A financial impact study provided by S. Patz & Associates estimated that the completed development would produce a $1 million net annual increase in county tax revenue, with some $400,000 of that occurring on completion of the initial commercial phase.

“We feel that what we are providing far outweighs any of the proffers that are shown for years to come,” Marcantoni said. “I think the last time the county approved proffers, the development went bankrupt.”

The commission voted 3-2 to recommend that supervisors approve the rezoning. James Tucker, George Yancey, and Commission Chairman Donald Brooks voted in favor, with Nigel Goodwin and Andy Hutchison opposed.

The supervisors, after their own public hearing on the matter, will have the final say on the rezoning request.

Dan McFarland: