2017-02-01 / Real Estate

Will lifting proffers spur revitalization?


Four months after making significant changes to Chesterfield’s cash proffer policy, the Board of Supervisors is trying to strike a delicate balance between promoting redevelopment of aging communities and generating revenue to address the county’s transportation needs.

Those dueling priorities were on display last week as the board approved an application for amended zoning from Chester developer George Emerson, who plans to build an upscale apartment complex on 150 acres along U.S. Route 1 just north of its intersection with state Route 10.

As the first cash-proffer related zoning case considered by the Board of Supervisors under the policy it enacted last September, Emerson’s request offers a hint about how the board intends to handle several similar pending cases in the coming months.

Emerson had previously agreed to pay cash proffers on 73 of the project’s 385 units, but he asked the county to waive those payments in compliance with its new proffer policy.

The policy gives the Board of Supervisors the flexibility to waive cash proffers in residential zoning cases if the project is located in an area designated for revitalization or preservation.

The entire Jefferson Davis Highway corridor in Chesterfield, which has high concentrations of poverty, is considered a targeted revitalization zone.

Gib Sloan, chairman of the Planning Commission, called Emerson’s $50 million – plan for the Moore’s Lake apartments “spectacular” and expressed hope it will serve as a “foundation for a lot of revitalization efforts in that corridor.”

But under the proffer policy, county staff retains the ability to assess the impact of new residential projects on Chesterfield’s transportation network and assign a dollar figure necessary to mitigate that impact.

According to an analysis prepared by the county’s transportation department, some of the roads near Emerson’s property are “substandard.” “The traffic volume generated from this proposed residential development will contribute to an identifiable need for … improvements to these roads,” the staff report reads.

At $9,400 per unit – now the maximum cash proffer the county can accept – Emerson’s new project would have generated $686,200 in transportation revenue if he had been required to pay a cash proffer.

Noting Chesterfield’s pressing transportation issues, Matoaca Supervisor Steve Elswick struggled with the concept of foregoing needed transportation funds. “This is one of those cases that’s really, really tough for me,” he said. “I understand revitalization. I understand the need, but I also understand where we are with transportation. How do you balance that?”

It’s a question supervisors will wrestle with for three more months. After a lengthy discussion at last week’s meeting, the board voted unanimously to wait until its April 26 meeting to consider adopting any new updates to the county’s cash proffer policy.

“Our intention here is to put a policy in place that we don’t have to continue to come back and revisit,” said Leslie Haley, supervisor of the Midlothian magisterial district and the board’s vice chairwoman. Staff proposed clarification of some language in the proffer policy to provide greater consistency as they process what Elswick described as a “slew” of pending zoning cases – most of which were submitted to reduce or remove a developer’s previously agreed-upon cash proffers.

With the state funding only about one-tenth of the county’s most recent $400 million request for road projects, Elswick questioned whether Chesterfield can afford to pass up opportunities to generate its own transportation revenue.

“We’ve been notified by the state that there’s not enough money to address the transportation needs in central Virginia, so we have to come up with a mechanism to pay for it,” he said. “We have many challenges when it comes to transportation and we can’t just say it’s going to fix itself.”

Chairwoman Dorothy Jaeckle questioned the fairness of forcing developers of new residential projects to mitigate transportation issues that should’ve been addressed during the county’s rapid growth throughout the 1980s.

She also said that revitalizing older areas of eastern Chesterfield will generate increased property tax revenue in a part of the county that already has public infrastructure to support additional citizens.

“We have to think about, ‘What is [a residential project] going to do? Is it going to bring in more tax money than it’s going to cost us?’” Jaeckle added. “That’s what we need to be looking at.” ¦

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