• 39°

Planning Commission tables rezoning request

A developer looking to bring more than 400 apartments and four-plex housing off of Pruden Boulevard had its rezoning request tabled by the Planning Commission Tuesday after concerns arose about traffic and its proffer for elementary schools.

By a 7-1 vote, with Johnnie Edwards voting no, the commission tabled the rezoning request of 48 of the property’s 57 acres from general commercial to residential urban-12 zoning for the proposed, 414-unit development on property at 2575 and 2665 Pruden Blvd. near Murphys Mill Road.

The city’s staff report states that there will be 312 apartments and another 102 four-plex units on the property known as Hallstead Reserve, to be accessed from Pruden Boulevard and Murphys Mill Road.

The rezoning request, submitted by Melissa Venable, an agent for Land Planning Solutions on behalf of John Napolitano of Napolitano Homes in Virginia Beach, came about because commercial entities were not interested in developing on the property due to low traffic counts on Pruden Boulevard, according to Napolitano.

He said he reached out to companies such as Walgreens, CVS, Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Wawa, 7-Eleven, Aldi and Lidl, none of which was interested in developing on the property. Napolitano said with the move to online shopping, it’s harder to attract commercial development, and the property’s owner, William Walker, could not reasonably wait for that traffic to come.

“While Pruden Boulevard and the (Route) 460 corridor were originally targeted for commercial (development), the commercial has exploded on Route 10 and continues today,” Napolitano said. “Pruden Boulevard will likely not see the need for too much commercial in our lifetimes.”

City staff recommended denial due to a number of issues.

The staff analysis stated that while Napolitano has proffered a maximum number of units, “this does not limit the applicant from developing the site with other, potentially more impactful housing types,” up to 440 single family units, which it said could impact high school enrollment.

Napolitano sought to counter that, noting that there are no plans to build more than what is proffered.

The staff report also noted that the proposed elementary school proffer of $20,000 per student for 104 additional elementary school students is not enough and, based on its calculations, should be $33,125 per elementary school student.

There should also be a proffer to address high school impacts should the project be developed as a 440-unit single family detached neighborhood, the report noted, and the proposed rezoning does not include a proffer for high school student impacts.

Napolitano said that when the process began with the property in May 2018, there was a proposed downtown-area elementary school in the city’s Capital Improvements Program and Plan and the proffer per student was $16,994, “an amount that was reasonable.”

He said by the time the proposed rezoning was submitted to the city, that proffer had gone up to $41,666 per student. He said the city looked again at the proffer number and adjusted it down to $33,125 per student.

The city’s staff report noted the proposed elementary school that is in the adopted 2020-2029 CIP is projected to cost $26.5 million, and based on that and a proposed capacity of 800 students, it calculated the cost per student at $33,125. The report said the proposed development, when combined with other development already in the pipeline, would put the school 151 students over its 498-student level of service capacity.

The report also stated that King’s Fork High School can handle the 185 students that will be generated by pipeline development, but there is not enough capacity to absorb the 62 students that would come if the development ends up being single-family units.

Citing its Bennett’s Creek Square community in North Suffolk, Napolitano said the Pruden Boulevard proposal would not impact the city as the staff reports say it would.

“We have real-world evidence in a community we built to show that we will not produce the students it says we will,” Napolitano said.

Annette McLamb, who lives off of Murphys Mill Road, said that road would not be able to handle the traffic from the proposed development, and said Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, near the proposed development site, is over capacity and one of the oldest public schools in Suffolk.

“With the addition of this community, we’ll be overtaxing our schools, our emergency personnel and our residents, who are already dealing with the influx of housing in the rural side of Suffolk,” McLamb said.

Napolitano said most people who would live in the proposed development would enter and exit by Pruden Boulevard, not Murphys Mill Road. Napolitano also said a traffic study of Pruden Boulevard showed that the roads “are plenty adequate for traffic for what we’d produce.”

Commissioner Mills Staylor, whose motion to deny the rezoning request failed for lack of a second, said he had concerns with traffic and the discrepancy between the proffer the city has proposed and what has been offered.

“I do have some concerns on traffic on Murphys Mill Road … and it’s not a very big road,” Staylor said. “There could be some problems there.”