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2015-05-06 / News

Planning Commission greenlights new Lake Margaret plan

By Michael Buettner
NEWS EDITOR

It took some last-minute wheeling and dealing, but a plan to get a totally revised version of a long-delayed subdivision moving forward has won backing from the county Planning Commission.

The commission voted unanimously to recommend that the Board of Supervisors approve the proposed Lake Margaret subdivision off Woodpecker Road after the application was reworked to turn the 208-acre property into an over-50 community and reduce the number of homes to be built there.

A subdivision on the site was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2007. At the time, the subdivision was planned as an extension of The Highlands and was known then as The Highlands West. The plan at the time called for up to 715 homes on 500-plus acres.

However, the housing market downturn rolled in shortly afterward, and the land’s longtime owner, Roper Bros. Lumber Co. of Petersburg, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The property ended up being sold at auction in 2012 for about $2.4 million. It was acquired in 2013 by the current owner, a company led by Chester developer George Emerson, who is spearheading the new development plan.

That plan looks to build up to 121 homes on roughly half-acre lots in two phases. In the first phase, about 56 houses would be built, with a pledge to restrict all but five to residents 50 or older. Because homes with no children don’t add to county schools’ costs, Emerson was proposing to not pay the whole school-related portion of the county’s cash proffer.

According to the developer, the purpose of allowing for up to five non-age-restricted homes was to leave room for people who might, because of unexpected circumstances, need to take in a younger relative such as a grandchild. The full cash proffer would be paid for those five homes, but the amount would be divided among all the homes in that section of the subdivision.

In the second section, the developer would have the option of developing the remaining 65 homes as age-restricted or not, allowing him to assess whether the over-50 market was strong enough to generate that many sales. If the homes go forward without age restrictions, the full cash proffer will be paid.

Emerson also sought reductions in the parks and recreation and transportation components of the cash proffer policy, which is intended to mitigate the effects of development on county facilities. The developer proposed instead to create a trail that would be open to the public to offset the impact on county parks and to make road improvements along Woodpecker Road and Cattail Road.

The county parks and transportation departments had indicated that those proposals were acceptable in lieu of cash proffers for parks and as a substitute for a portion of the transportation cost.

Homes in both sections would be built according to architectural standards comparable to those in The Highlands.

The details of the proposal were being revised right up to the day of the Planning Commission’s hearing, in part to clarify the timing of the construction of a second roadway into the property from Cattail Road, required for any subdivision with more than 50 homes. Construction of the first road into the property is already underway off Woodpecker Road.

Edgar Wallin, who represents the Matoaca District where the project is located, said the proposal was “unique in that it’s an age-restricted community in the country.” He said working out the details was a challenge but was glad to see the application go forward.

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