Planning Commission paves way for new condominiums on White Marsh Rd

Published 4:06 pm Thursday, June 20, 2024

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The Suffolk Planning Commission has paved the way for the development of 78 new condominiums to be constructed on the site of what once was White Marsh Shopping Center at 1226 White Marsh Rd.
In a 5-2 vote — Anita Hicks was absent — the commission recommended approval of a rezoning request from Bob Arnette, with Coastal Virginia Properties, LLC, for a proposed development of 78 condominiums on six acres of land, leaving approximately one acre zoned B-2 (conditional).

The rezoning would change the designation of 6.557 acres of land from B-2 (General Business) to RU-12 (Conditional). The request also includes rezoning approximately half an acre from B-2 to B-2 (Conditional) for future commercial use at the intersection of White Marsh Road and Davis Blvd.

In support of the request, the developer has committed to constructing no more than 78 condos with a minimum heated living space of 1,000 square feet on a crawl space or raised/elevated slab foundation. According to Grady Palmer, who represented Coastal Virginia Properties, LLC., the estimated sale price of the condos will be $300,000 per unit.

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In his supporting statements for the rezoning and construction of the condos, Palmer told the commission he felt the development would improve property values and benefit the tax base versus leaving the shopping center as it is and not benefiting the surrounding communities.

“I think, also, many people that live around the shopping center will see a benefit from this,” Palmer said. “Living next to a declining, almost vacant shopping center with no prospects and the only prospect being a derelict building, I think living around that certainly shows up in people’s property taxes …”

During the discussion, Commissioner Johnnie Edwards expressed concerns about the best use of the property. Citing a 2022 rezoning of 35 acres approved by the city council during its Aug. 17, 2022, meeting in the same corridor to build 170 homes, Edwards said the argument at that time was that building those homes would revitalize this shopping center.

“Now I’m confused,” Edwards said. “Because, the argument that was made during that presentation was, we do these 170 because it’s going to bring life back to the shopping center. Now, we’re two years later, and the argument now is abandon the shopping center. So, was it not true in 22, or is it not true now? Because I am really confused.

During the rebuttal session of the Aug. 17, 2022, public hearing, attorney Grier Ferguson, representing the applicant for the rezoning, Bob Arnette and South Suffolk Development Group LLC., responded to resident Robin Whitley’s concern that the area was already a food desert said bringing more housing could make the shopping center viable again.

“We feel that our development is going to be a good development for that side of town,” said Ferguson during the Aug. 17, 2022, city council meeting. “Some rooftops are needed on that side of town. If you go look at the White Marsh Shopping Center, I think more good housing on that side would bring a place like White Marsh Shopping Center back, so it could be a viable center once again. We need some rooftops to get the commercial people interested on that side of town again.”

In response to Edwards, Palmer said he was unsure what the rationale behind the statement was. He told Edwards that based on the conditional use permit requests, he saw a declining shopping center.

“I think we have four tenants in the building that I don’t believe pay rent,” Palmer said. “So, that tells me, put all those factors together, and we got too much commercial at this particular location.”

The council will hear a resolution on the rezoning during the July 17 meeting.