Rezoning for condos gets go ahead

Published 10:50 pm Friday, August 23, 2019

Despite resident opposition, a plan to build up to 76 condominiums on East Washington Street received City Council approval Wednesday.

Council voted 6-2 in favor of rezoning the property from residential low medium density to residential urban, with Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett and Councilman Curtis Milteer voting against the rezoning for the project.

Combining the rezoned 4.4-acre property at the intersection of East Washington Street and Suburban Drive, along with 2.6 acres of property already owned by Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander, Coastal Virginia Developers plans to build the condos on the two properties, with each having a minimum of 1,250 square feet of living space.

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The property is surrounded by an assisted living facility to the south, Wilson Pines Apartments to the east and an Alexander-owned property to the west, and the development would be named for Drs. L.T. and Margaret Reid, who practiced medicine for 42 years in the Suffolk community.

Council authorized a conditional use permit for the property in November 2014 for Alexander to operate a 17,000-square-foot funeral home and crematorium, though it was not built following opposition from residents. Nearly three years later, Alexander received the approval to open a funeral home at the site of the former DMV at 268 Holladay St.

Whitney Saunders, representing Coastal Virginia Developers and Alexander, said the property is in a growth area, and it supports the downtown mixed-use core of the city. The plan also ensures that Oak Grove Baptist Church will still be able to access its cemetery, which is just behind the property.

Residents speaking at a public hearing during the council meeting expressed concerns about increased traffic, but engineers who studied the area around the property said any increase in vehicles coming through the area would be minimal.

“Rezoning from RLM to RU would increase the allowable number of family units from 12 units under RLM to 48 units with RU zoning,” said Margaret Barnes, who spoke in opposition to the project. “Four times as many homes, four times as much traffic.”

However, city traffic engineer Robert Lewis said any traffic concerns are unfounded.

“We could not document any real traffic issues here,” Lewis said.

He said there would be no significant delays that would occur as a result of the proposed project. In the past five years, there were 16 reportable crashes at the intersection of Suburban Road and East Washington Street, he said, and said traffic would be delayed there “a very minimal amount of time.”

Patricia Knight, president of the Oakdale, Pierce Park and Magnolia Civic League, said that while some of its members opposed the project, most were in favor of it.

In July, the Planning Commission voted 5-3 in favor of the rezoning.