2011-08-24 / Front Page

County wants to plan for future

Chesterfield considers buying Matoaca land for a regional park
By Donna C. Gregory

Land prices aren’t what they used to be, and Chesterfield County may be able to cash in on the buyer’s market by purchasing a future regional park site. The land in question is a 712-acre parcel on Graves Road in Matoaca District.

Debonair Acres, LLC rezoned the property in 2007 with plans to develop it into an equestrian-themed residential community. Then the real estate market bucked, and the developer isn’t sure it’s the right time to gallop into creating a new housing community.

Instead, the property’s owners have approached the county about buying the land at a bargain rate. According to Carrie Coyner, the attorney representing Debonair Acres, the land is worth $6 million. As proposed, the county would pony up $2 million, and the developers would take advantage of the state’s conservation easement tax credit program to help offset the loss.

“It really just made more sense to take a financial hit now than betting on if the equestrian development would be successful,” said Coyner.

That plan came to a halt last week when the Chesterfield Planning Commission deferred a substantial accord application by the parks and recreation department to use the property as a regional park until Nov. 15 – after local elections. Commissioners had concerns about the property’s location and if nearby roads could handle the increased traffic. Some residents had expressed similar concerns during a community meeting last month.

“We hit a few stumbling blocks over the past month, mainly due to poor communication. They have to keep in mind they don’t plan on building this regional park tomorrow. This is 20 years from now. The roads are going to look very different. It is a long-term investment for the future. My children’s children may play soccer on these fields,” said Coyner.

According to Mike Golden, director of the Chesterfield Department of Parks and Recreation, the county would purchase the property, but it wouldn’t be fully developed for some time.

“You’re not going to see heavy traffic uses until at least 15 years out,” said Golden.

As envisioned, about one-third of the park would be used for athletic fields and tennis courts. The remaining acreage would be left mostly natural for trails and picnic shelters. About 100 acres would be set aside in case the county has a future need for a school, fire station or library in the area.

There’s enough land that the county could potentially lease out part of it for farming, generating some revenue. There’s also the opportunity to sell some of the timber.

“We’re not talking about clear-cutting, but managing the forest,” said Golden.

Debonair Acres had hoped to unload the property by the end of the year, so it can take advantage of the tax credits. The substantial accord application will be brought back to the commission in November. In the meantime, the supervisors might be asked to approve the purchase of the property.

“At this point, I can’t say what’s the next step. There are a lot of things that still need to be worked out,” said Golden.

If the sale to the county doesn’t go through, the owners are likely to move ahead on their original plan.

“They don’t like to sit on property,” said Coyner. “They’ve invested thousands of dollars into the studies to make this donation to the county. The longer they wait, the bigger of a hit they’re taking. If this doesn’t work out, they will do what they are continuing to do in The Highlands and other locations. It doesn’t mean we can’t go back to the original plan.”

Other commission action

• The commission recommended approval of a conditional-use permit for a tattoo parlor at Chesterfield Towne Center. The parlor has been operating at the mall for two years without the proper permitting.

• The commission recommended approval of a conditional-use permit for a private school at Central Baptist Church on Courthouse Road. The school has been operating without the proper permitting since 1975.

• The commission recommended approval of a conditional-use permit for Children’s Home of Virginia Baptist to operate a child and adult daycare center on 25 acres at 6900 Hickory Road.

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