2010-06-23 / News

Shoosmith landfill faces environmental questions

By Greg Pearson

Gulley Gulley Four of the five members of the Chesterfield Planning Commission raised environmental issues and odor problems with the proposed expansion of the Shoosmith Bros. landfill off Route 10. The commission unanimously deferred a decision until its July 20 meeting with several commissioners indicating a positive recommendation was in trouble.

Shoosmith is seeking a conditional use permit to allow landfill and quarry operations at the site, accepting out-of-state waste and increasing the height of the waste by 100 feet in one section of the landfill.

Clover Hill Commissioner Russ Gulley seemed to doubt that it was environmentally sound to operate a landfill and quarry in the same location. He also asked Shoosmith “to go beyond DEQ [Department of Environmental Quality, a state agency] requirements regarding odor” problems. Nearby residential neighbors of The Highlands and Arbor Landing complained of a smell from the landfill.

Bass Bass The staff report said current county ordinances plus DEQ, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would ensure that Shoosmith does “not have an adverse impact on public health and safety or the environment.” The county planning department endorsed the proposal saying there would be “no greater impact on the area than the approved uses as currently conditioned.”

The current guidelines were adopted in 1997. “It’s been a string of broken promises,” Timothy Gilbert, a resident of The Highlands, told the commission.

The Shoosmith site also generated complaints about noise and blasting, traffic safety and heavy truck traffic and alleged negative impact on residential property values. Seven citizens spoke against the application.

Hassen Hassen The public hearing will be continued on July 20. Several commissioners indicated they thought more time was needed before the commission can make a ruling on the Shoosmith request, but the case cannot be continued beyond then unless Shoosmith agrees to an extension.

More retail

The commission unanimously recommended a 13.2-acre site south of the intersection of Robious and Cranbeck roads for commercial development. Only about five acres will be usable, and attorney Jim Theobald agreed to a maximum limit of 50,000 square feet of retail for Woodlands Real Estate, LLC. Gas stations, car washes and fast food restaurants with drive-thrus would not be allowed.

The rezoning is needed to extend Mall Drive northward to Robious Road so a new 54,276-square-foot Costco can open on an adjacent parcel. In 2006, approved plans there also included 453 apartments.

During the public hearing, four residents spoke in opposition, citing traffic safety concerns and already vacant retail locations in the area. They believe the extension of Mall Drive will become a cut-through for traffic to both Costco and nearby Chesterfield Towne Center.

Chesterfield Transportation Director John McCracken said the road network will be able to handle the increased traffic safely.

Proffer denial

On a 3-1 vote with Chairman Bill Brown absent, the commission recommended denial of a rezoning for 65 apartments in the Village Green complex in Chester. The issue was paying full cash proffers and whether George Emerson of Emerson-Roper Companies, LLC, would get financial credit for roads and a recreational trail he built in Village Green and have to pay the school portion of the proffers for one-bedroom apartments when no children would likely live there.

The larger issue is whether proffers should be the same for rental apartments and big homes with as many as five bedrooms. Currently, it is at $18,966. According to Emerson, the financial model won’t allow building rental multifamily units with the current cash proffer.

“I think George is making sense,” said Matoaca Commissioner Wayne Bass, who voted against the denial motion.

There seemed to be other sentiment from individual commissioners that proffers were too high for apartments, but that policy is set by county supervisors. “The board hasn’t asked for a review of the proffer system,” pointed out Gulley.

“I think the board is content to leave proffers where it is,” said Bermuda Commissioner Sam Hassen.

“It’s unfortunate that we can’t get the right direction from the board,” commented Midlothian Commissioner Reuben Waller.

Since the rezoning request was initiated almost two years ago, the proffer has increased about $2,400 per unit, putting Emerson even further away from what he says he can afford to pay. Twice, the board has remanded the zoning case back to the commission for review.

Over the years, county leaders have not only informally discussed differential proffers, but raising the proffer amount in rural areas while lowering it in more urban areas of the county. In those closer-in areas, roads are better, vacancies are more likely to exist in schools, response times are lower for police, fire and EMS personnel, and libraries are more likely to exist.

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