Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
Planning Commission Notes
Last night’s Planning Commission lasted more than two hours as commissioners discussed the Summit Crossing rezoning, a huge project near Massaponax on 925 acres south of the U.S. 17 Bypass and east of Interstate 95 . The proposal consists of 5,925 housing units and 3.6 million square feet of office and commercial space over 20 years.
Commissioner Mary Lee Carter, over and over, pointed out that the I-95 interchange that is part of the Summit Crossing proposal is not Tricord’s plan, but the county’s plan. The Board of Supervisors two years ago approved a Massaponax Corridor Study, a map of road improvements necessary to meet the future demands in that area and improve traffic flow. That study includes an interchange near or at where Tricord proposes to build one. This is not a proffer however. Tricord wants to have either a Community Development Authority or a Tax Incremental Financing to pay for the road. A CDA would assess properties within the boundary a separate assessment from the typical real estate assessment, with the money used to pay for the interchange. A TIF would take revenue from the Summit Crossing community and use it to pay for the road. Tricord seems to favor a TIF, and has proposed taking 100 percent of commercial revenue and 9 percent of residential taxes from Summit Crossing to pay for the road over possibly 40 years. TIFs are usually—if not always—used for redevelopment projects, not open space land.
Carter wanted to make it known that the Board of Supervisors wants this new interchange and Tricord is providing a means to get it.
Another key point was that Summit Crossing Parkway, a future four-lane road Tricord proposes with its rezoning (not a proffer, because this will also be part of the TIF or CDA) will not be a limited access road, according to Capital Projects Director Becky Golden. The realigned U.S. 17 Bypass will be, she said, and a story in tomorrow’s paper will reveal why this is a problem for some people.
Commissioner James Strother said he is unsure the county has enough water and sewer capacity to handle the project. Brent Elam, an employee with the Utilities Department, said he projects that Summit Crossing at build out will use 2 million gallons of water per day. He said if the county can maintain a 2 percent growth rate, the Utilities Department can keep rates from spiking.
Planning staff estimated that 2 percent growth right now is about 800 to 900 houses a year. Tricord spokesman Hart Rutherford said Tricord limits new housing starts to 300 a year with Summit Crossing, but it is unclear if that is on average or if that is a strict annual number. Planning staff also pointed out that more than half of the housing units in Summit Crossing are condos and townhomes, which require less people.
Commissioner Cliff Vaughan wanted more detail in the proffers. He said it was “troubling” that Tricord is making the School Board purchase land for the two school sites instead of donating them, which is what he said a proffer really is. He said making the School Board buy the 6- and 8-acre sites is not a proffer, even if they are offering them at market value. It’s not even clear if the school system can build schools on properties that size, he said. Although this was not discussed last night, Tricord is proposing one-third of the cash proffers the county requires in its proffer guidelines. The company is asking for proffer credits for the affordable housing units and other parts of its development.
Vaughan was upset that Tricord did not include any proffers for a VRE station within its project. He said when Tricord presented this project to residents at several different community meetings, VRE was a key part of the presentation.
“If you are going to have a proffer than I would expect the wording to be specific,” Vaughan said.
Rutherford said VRE is still “very much a part of the design and planning” of Summit Crossing and that they are “cheering on the sidelines” for the Board of Supervisors to join the rail service, but not having a VRE station within its project won’t kill it.
Rutherford changed the subject to the 300 jobs he said the development will bring immediately. At build out, Tricord says the development could have up to 9,000 jobs. But it was clear some commissioners wanted more detail in the proffers and how this project will impact county services.