Housing project pitched for city
Posted: October 10, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — A local developer wants to build 132 apartments on a piece of land at the city’s western edge.
Valley View Management LLC, a company whose holdings include the Stuart Hill apartments off Jubal Early Drive, wants to build the complex on the mostly vacant parcel at 940 Cedar Creek Grade. A house, a barn and other outbuildings at the site would be razed as part of the project.
The 7.74-acre tract is just west of the Orchard Hill subdivision, abutting Frederick County land slated to be part of the large-scale Willow Run development.
The company is requesting that the land be changed to High Density Residential zoning with a Planned Unit Development overlay from Residential Office use. A public hearing on the request will be held at the Winchester Planning Commission’s meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Planning commissioners got their first look at the proposal at Tuesday’s work session, and they raised concerns centering on traffic and the project’s financial impact on the city.
John Tagnesi, City Council’s liaison to the panel, suggested that a traffic study should be done before the matter comes before the council for a final decision. He said several people had contacted him and plan to air their concerns at the commission’s public hearing.
“At 5 o’clock in the morning and 5 o’clock at night,” he said, “it’s tough to turn out” off Harvest Drive, the access street for Orchard Hill, onto Cedar Creek Grade.
The proposed complex would be accessed via an extension of Stoneleigh Drive, which ends at the Summerfield Apartments. Its residents currently must pass through Orchard Hill, using Harvest Drive to enter and exit their complex.
A proffered site plan shows the proposed complex being comprised of 10 three- or four-story buildings, with nine constructed 160 feet or more from Cedar Creek Grade.
Robert Cocker, manager of Valley View Management, said 18 three-bedroom units would be offered. He wasn’t sure of the exact breakdown of the remaining 114 apartments Tuesday afternoon but said the majority would have just one bedroom.
Regarding the impact on schools, data provided by Valley View Management indicates that only nine students from the Stuart Hill and Pemberton Village complexes ride buses to city schools. Cocker said a survey showed very few other school-age children in those developments.
“It’s less expensive,” he said, “for somebody to live in a single-family detached house or a townhouse as opposed to spending $1,000 to $1,200 a month to rent from me.”
Building single-family homes and commercial space, which can be done by right under existing zoning, was considered but was rejected because of market conditions. Cocker said commercial vacancy rates along Cedar Creek Grade and Jubal Early Drive are running about 40 percent.
“The numbers just don’t work,” he said. “To cover construction costs alone you have to get at least $20 a square foot in rent, and right now you’re lucky if you get $8.”
The proposal also includes plans to build a tennis court, basketball half-court and walking trail on the site and conveying it to the city for public use.
The commissioners also reviewed a proposed ordinance to govern drop-off collection boxes within the city.
Planner Will Moore said that based on the current ordinance, all such boxes would be considered accessory structures and would not be allowed.
Local nonprofit groups have requested the ordinance, he said, because out-of-the-area entities — some of them for-profit companies — have placed boxes in city shopping center parking lots. The boxes have siphoned donations from the local nonprofits that depend on contributions of clothing and other goods to raise money for services.
The ordinance would allow charitable organizations to place donation boxes on their own property, however.
Aaron Grisdale, the city’s director of zoning and inspections, said if the ordinance is approved by City Council, “pretty much all the commercial cans you see will then go away.”
Attending the meeting at Rouss City Hall were Chairman Dave Shore, Vice-Chairman William Wiley and commissioners Carroll “Beau” Correll Jr., Kevin McKannan, Stephen Slaughter Jr. and David Smith. Commissioner Jennifer Beatley was absent.
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