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Hillpoint Farms looks to add nearly 200 homes

The Godwin Boulevard area between the Route 58 Bypass and Kings Fork Road is already set to be a high-growth corridor in Suffolk in the coming years, especially as the Godwin Park development approved last December continues to take shape.

But for the adjacent Hillpoint Farms development that’s been more than 35 years in the making, another 195 homes are coming whether or not residents want them — and the ones who turned out to a recent public hearing on a proposed change to its master plan do not.

The proposed changes essentially wouldn’t change the number of homes to be built. A previous iteration of City Council had already done that.

Instead, the decision now is where those homes will go.

The property owner, Mark Lambert with River Highlands LLC, seeks a conditional rezoning to amend the master plan for the development to use 54 of 138 acres of the Nansemond River Golf Course for the proposed new homes. It would leave the remaining 84 acres for stormwater management and open space, all of which would be managed and maintained by the Hillpoint Farms Homeowners Association, according to a staff report for the proposed master plan changes.

According to the staff report for the proposed master plan changes, homeowner’s association fees from the new homes would pay for this.

The cart paths would be preserved as multi-use paths for walking or biking, and among the other proffers for the proposed changes include a kayak launch site and a sidewalk to be put in between Cheriton Lane and Meadows Court. Plans are being explored to turn the clubhouse into a multi-use facility to include a fitness center, meeting space and a pool.

The course closed in December 2020, around the time council approved the Godwin Park development, and is now covered in growth, barely resembling its past. Melissa Venable of Land Planning Solutions said it had not performed well and did not have more than 10 Hillpoint Farms residents who were members.

John Wagner of Hobbs Adams Investment Group, one of the River Highlands LLC owners, said the golf club, which opened in 1999, reached a peak in 2006 but steadily declined after that due to competition from other golf clubs that didn’t allow it to raise rates or bring in more customers.

The developer envisions a different kind of growth for the property’s future.

Venable told the Planning Commission during an Aug. 17 public hearing that the property owner wants to build 155 single-family detached homes and no more than 40 duplex or townhomes on the golf course land, rather than build 193 single-family homes elsewhere on the property.

In October 2016, an approved rezoning of 37.65 acres from planned development district to residential urban district reduced the golf club’s size to allow for those homes, included in the 1,813 units already approved.

The Hillpoint Farms master plan was last amended in December 2019. At that time, the approval allowed for moving 230 of the 394 proposed multi-family housing units to a 12.8-acre site on the eastern part of the property that will have two access points off of Hillpoint Boulevard. A site plan for the Port 58 Apartments, as they will be called, was approved March 17 and they are now under construction.

Council in 1986 approved a rezoning request to create the Hillpoint Farms Planned Development Housing District, located off of Godwin Boulevard and Hillpoint Road. The original master plan called for 2,448 dwelling units and no more than 513 multi-family units in the planned development. An amendment to that master plan in September 1997 reduced the total units to 1,813 and moved the golf course location to its current site.

Up to this point, 1,520 units have been built, are under construction or are accounted for through either a development plan submission or an expected developmental plan submission.

Brenda Kerr, a resident in the River Bluff subdivision, said she is concerned about the ability of the homeowner’s association to maintain the properties. She expressed concern about what she said are unmaintained evergreen trees on Hillpoint Road that hang over the road, which she noted does not have a sidewalk.

Venable said anywhere the proposed development touches Hillpoint Road, a sidewalk would be put in those areas, and would link to the trail system. Also, she said homes proposed for Hillpoint Road would not have driveways that back out into the road. Rather, there will be an alley behind the home for those residents.

Another Hillpoint Farms resident, Ray Orland, said he wants legally binding assurances that the 195 homes proposed be part of the Hillpoint HOA.

Commissioner John Rector asked if there had been a cost analysis to determine how much it will cost the Hillpoint Farms HOA to maintain the open spaces. Venable said she had not done that, but said the HOA had done some of that.

She said reforesting some of the 84 acres would “eliminate quite a bit — possibly up to 30 acres of that area — from maintenance.”

Commissioner Mills Staylor asked if the city had any enforcement capability on the HOA maintaining the property.

City Planner Kevin Wyne, responding to Commissioner Mills Staylor’s question about whether the city had the ability to require the HOA to maintain the property, said the issue goes back to how the city treats open spaces in any approved subdivision, which is determined at the time of subdivision plat, depending on what type of subdivision is in place. The city does have a property maintenance division that would work directly with the HOA to make sure it is properly maintained. Wyne also said anything related to the issue in the proffer would also be legally binding.

Orland also wants to see more spacing between homes, and said Hillpoint Road “is like a dragstrip” on mornings when parents are late bringing their children to nearby Hillpoint Elementary School, and with possible parallel parking on the road, would make the road more dangerous.

Venable said the parallel parking may not be the final solution, but it has committed to working with the city to find a traffic calming measure on Hillpoint Road. One possibility, she said, is to stripe the road to create the perception for drivers of a narrower road to force them to slow down.

Ethan Stanville told commissioners he is also concerned about parallel parking, and said he doesn’t believe the HOA does its job well when it comes to maintaining properties there. New construction behind his house, he said, has caused flooding in his backyard that goes to the front of his driveway when it rains. He is also concerned about road maintenance on Hillpoint Boulevard.

Commissioner Anita Hicks said road issues and the overhanging trees need to be addressed regardless of whether the revised master plan passes.

A Fairways Crossing resident, Rickey Roach, said there needs to be a second way to get in and out of Hillpoint Farms if more homes are built. He also said he was concerned about the HOA taking over the clubhouse with what he said were flooding issues in its basement that have plagued it over the past two years.

Venable said costs for upkeep of the clubhouse would depend on what the Hillpoint HOA wanted to do with it.

Before commissioners unanimously recommended the master plan, which is expected to go before council Sept. 15, Hicks said it was a foregone conclusion that Hillpoint Farms would get more homes.

“My biggest concern is that the 195 houses have already been approved, so you’re going to get the 195 houses,” Hicks said. “It’s just a matter of where you’re going to put them, if you’re going to put them where you were planning on putting them before, or whether you’re going to fix your problem with the golf course being closed. In my mind, it makes more sense to use your proposal, which is to put houses to keep from having to do that much maintenance for the HOA.”