Council approves rezone ordinance for age-restricted development on Shoulders Hill Road

Published 7:41 pm Friday, December 23, 2022

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Development of a new age-restricted community of residential homes on Shoulders Hill Road got a green light to proceed with rezoning approval for the site.

At its Dec. 21 meeting, City Council adopted an ordinance to rezone 22.8 acres from the B-2, General Commercial Zoning District, to RU, Residential Urban Zoning District, for the development that is located at both 5551 and 5635, Shoulders Hill Road.

Speaking in favor of the development, resident builder Brian Rowe expressed his excitement for the older adult retreat.

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“We’re excited about the retreat at Creekside. This is a wonderful location for another one of our high end active adult communities,” Rowe said. “It’s sitting in the perfect location for the active adult to prosper and live very close to healthcare and medical and shopping. It’s walkable, bike-able, it’s just an ideal and end fill location.”

Speaking in opposition to the rezoning proposal was Suffolk local Evelin Jones who pointed to issues with Shoulders Hill Road traffic and the multi-family development.

“When I left there, it took me 15 minutes to drive one mile. And then I had to wait for two traffic lights,” Jones said. “So, it is not a good place to build multi-family units. It has too many already. If you’re going to build residential, then let’s have nice subdivisions with stand alone, single family homes.”

She said she is definitely opposed to multi-family development along Shoulders Hill Road.

“We don’t need anymore,” Jones told council. “I believe before any more development is made, Shoulders Hill Road needs to be widened to four-lane divided. It does not need to sit like it is right now. It is a horrible, horrible trip.”

Suffolk resident Chris Dove also spoke in opposition to the project due to the effect on children within the area.

“I see this is a age-restricted facility, but nowadays age-restriction does not mean that there’s not going to be children in this development,” Jones told council. “Grandparents are now taking care of their grandchildren and sending them to school in the city, parents are having their children move back in, with their own children.”

He said that even though the new development would probably have far fewer children than a normal development, he believe the assumption that it will not affect the schools is invalid.

“5635 Shoulders Hill Road is in the Creekside Elementary School district and the Nansemond River High School district. Both schools do not meet or exceed the level of service standards established by the comprehensive plan in Section 31-601,” Jones said. “Approval of this rezoning will cause a reduction of a level of service of any public facilities further below the adequate levels of service established by the comprehensive plan in section 31-06… no public facilities needed to support the new development will be available concurrent with the impacts of the development. This council has not authorized the new school to replace the school or augment the school. So these schools, both the elementary and the high school, are overcapacity and cannot support any new students.”

During the rebuttal period, Rowe discussed the age-restriction and the prohibiting of children from living at the community.

“We are regulated by the federal government, the 55 and older regulation, one of the two owners has to be 55 or older. That’s mandatory,” Rowe explained. “But we further enforce within our condominium documents and all of our retreat communities, it’s paramount to an active adult community where you have people that are aging in place, that we do not allow school-aged kids to reside within the community for any more than three months.”

Rowe said grandparents can have a child visit for the summer, but that three-month limit for a stay is spelled out clearly in the condominium documents.

“There will be no impact to the school system, there will be no school aged children allowed to reside within the community,” he said.

Councilman Timothy Johnson said he supports the project.

“I think this is the time when this developer has approached this thing from the right aspect and commercial development today is not working that well and on Shoulders Hill Road, I’m not so sure we need too much more commercial development,” Johnson said.

Once the road improvements on Shoulders Hill Road are complete, Johnson said he believes it will alleviate a lot of the concerns

“For that reason, I tend to support this development,” he said. “I think that they’re going in the right direction. It’s a good developer, he presents a good community, and for that reason I am going to support it.”

Mayor Michael Duman also gave his support to the ordinance, while noting the changes in traffic patterns.

“I think it is going to be an exceptional product. The 55 and above does relieve the stress on the schools and also changes the traffic patterns,” Duman said. “When you look at it, there’s 483 peak a.m. trips, and 395 peak p.m. trips. So while no one really welcomes additional traffic, it will still be substantially less than if this parcel was developed as strictly B-2, which is traffic all the time. As long as those businesses are open, there’s traffic coming and going.”

Duman said he knows that no one is looking for more traffic.

“It is definitely less objectionable than the remaining B-2 piece,” the mayor said. “So with that, I will also lend my support to it.”

The rezoning ordinance won council’s unanimous approval, 8-0.