Planners OK Saratoga redevelopment

Published 10:15 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Planning Commission on Tuesday gave the nod of approval to a proposed redevelopment of a vacant peanut processing facility.

The Monument Companies proposes to redevelop the Golden Peanut site on South Saratoga Street into a mixed-use development with between 233 and 300 loft apartments as well as retail and commercial space.

The property was used as a peanut processing facility since about 1903, when it was first established as the Suffolk Peanut Company, according to a planning staff report. It closed in 2008.

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Efforts are under way to have it listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register so that it will be eligible for historic tax credits, said Tom Dickey of The Monument Companies.

There are 17 buildings on the 10-acre site, according to the planning staff report. Seven of them would be rehabilitated, and the remainder would be demolished.

According to the planning staff report, the development would be served by Hillpoint Elementary, Forest Glen Middle and Lakeland High schools, all of which have available capacity. Therefore, the developer will not be required to help pay for new school construction.

Parking for the development will be located on site, as would amenities including a pool.

The development also would include about 9,000 square feet of commercial space, according to the planning report. In all, the developer plans to invest more than $30 million.

During their discussion on Tuesday, commissioners worried that the developer could build up to 400 apartments if the rezoning to the “Mixed Use Core 40” district were granted. The zoning designation allows up to 40 units per acre.

“I think it’s a fine project,” Commissioner Ronnie Rountree said. “However, once we get to a certain point, it looks like certain items can be overloaded and create a catastrophe.”

However, Dickey said the company is willing to proffer that it will not build more than 300 units. Parking, stormwater and other requirements don’t leave space for much more than 300, he said.

The exact number of apartments has yet to be determined, although 233 has been discussed.

Assistant Director of Planning Robert Goumas noted that the developer can add the proffer before the decision goes to City Council. He also said the final site plan will be evaluated and not approved if any public facilities are found lacking.

“If they cannot serve the project, they will need to develop a way to serve the project,” he said.

After a public hearing in which nobody spoke in opposition to the project, the planners approved it by a vote of 7-0. Commissioner James Vacalis was absent from the meeting.