Condos proposed for Portsmouth Boulevard

Published 9:43 pm Wednesday, July 22, 2020

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A nearly 23-acre property off of Suburban Drive behind a Food Lion shopping center and next to East End Baptist Church and Magnolia Gardens apartments could become the future site for about 65 condominiums.

George Kemp of K&A Builders, on behalf of property owner Mike Zarpas, has proposed rezoning the property from heavy industrial and general commercial zoning to residential compact zoning to accommodate his plans to build single-family detached condos. The Planning Commission, following a July 22 public hearing, unanimously recommended the rezoning request.

To the north of the property is an abandoned railroad right of way proposed by the city for a multi-use trail, according to a staff report for the rezoning request, as well as a strip of heavy industrial zoned property and a neighborhood of single-family homes.

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The property to be rezoned is undeveloped except for a stormwater management facility and two private access roads that serve the shopping center.

Attorney Whitney Saunders, representing Kemp, said the current pattern of development in the area of the proposed rezoning is consistent with other parts of the city and in the Hampton Roads region.

He noted those patterns show retail development along arterial roads, and then behind it, zoning that is a reflection of the retail or commercial use “with the hope that it would in fact develop as commercial or retail.”

That doesn’t happen frequently, Saunders said, unless there is a unifying piece of property which brings development from the arterial road into the development, and that development takes place as a single unit.

When that doesn’t happen, there ends up being something akin to what he cited in other areas of the city and region — a Food Lion shopping center and behind it, residential growth. Specifically in Suffolk, Saunders cited State Route 10 and U.S. Route 58, where there’s a Food Lion shopping center and residential development behind it.

“This follows that same pattern,” Saunders said.

The proffers for the rezoning request call for no more than 70 single-family detached condos. Prices for them would start in the mid-$300,000 range. It also proffers the building materials to be used for the condos.

The proposed development, according to the staff report, would not impact schools, as there is sufficient capacity at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary, John F. Kennedy Middle and King’s Fork High schools to accommodate it. Traffic is not expected to be adversely impacted by the development, according to a traffic impact analysis of existing commercial entrances at Portsmouth Boulevard and Suburban Drive, finding that both intersections “will continue to operate at acceptable levels of service.”

The density of the proposed development, at about five units per acre, is below the six to 12 units per acre typically found in the inner ring of the suburban use district — where the property is — under the 2035 Comprehensive Plan, but it would be at a greater density than what is in nearby residential neighborhoods.

Planning staff recommended approval of the rezoning request.

No one other than Saunders spoke during the public hearing. Commissioner Johnnie Edwards asked about the density of the property and what makes the project acceptable to be at a lower density versus other projects.

City Planner Kevin Wyne said that there should not be as much focus on an individual proposal as the property’s characteristics on a case-by-case basis. However, because the property has a substantial amount of wetlands on the property — nearly eight acres — not as much of the property is usable and the infrastructure to put together a higher density development “is not necessarily practical” in this instance.