WINC Radio Building

Plans are moving forward for a townhouse development at the former WINC radio site on North Pleasant Valley Road.

WINCHESTER — A proposal to build three dozen townhouses on North Pleasant Valley Road has some people worried that the dwellings would be too overbearing for the residential neighborhood.

Centennial Broadcasting II LLC hopes to add a Planned Unit Development (PUD) overlay to the Medium Density Residential (MR) zoning of the former WINC Radio property it owns at 520 N. Pleasant Valley Road. Centennial’s goal is to build 37 three-bedroom townhouses on the 2.82-acre parcel, the development of which would require the demolition of the single-story building that once housed WINC’s broadcast studios and offices before the business relocated last year.

A recent housing study commissioned by Winchester’s City Council noted a high demand for dwellings for working-class families who want to live in the city. The three-bedroom, two-bath townhouses on the WINC property, which would be priced at around $270,000 each, seem to fit the bill because they would be spacious enough to accommodate families with children and located directly across the street from Virginia Avenue Charlotte DeHart Elementary School.

Originally, Centennial said it planned to build two-story townhouses. However, in order to fit that many three-bedroom units on less than 3 acres while still including a community building for residents, adequate green space and a one-car garage for each dwelling, city Planning Director Timothy Youmans said the only option was to go taller. According to the proposal that was revised last week by Centennial and the civil engineering firm Pennoni Associates Inc. of Winchester, the townhouses would now be three stories tall, making them one or two stories taller than all the other single-family homes in the vicinity.

“They’re doing the development more vertical instead of horizontal,” Youmans said.

The notion of taller buildings in the neighborhood concerned several of its residents, some of whom spoke against the proposed development during the Winchester Planning Commission’s business meeting on Tuesday afternoon in Rouss City Hall.

“I feel this is a bait and switch,” Patterson Avenue resident Tracy Perez said about the shift from two-story to three-story townhouses. “This is a residential neighborhood of small, modest homes.”

Iara Lacher of the 500 block of Battle Avenue, said the three-story townhouses could have a detrimental effect on her business, Seven Bends Nursery LLC.

“I own a local nursery and I grow plants, and I have a registered and licensed greenhouse in the very back of my yard,” Lacher said. “If you put three-story townhouses back there, you’re going to block [sunlight and] my ability to generate ... my only revenue.”

Another potential ding for the proposed development is that the townhouses are not expected to generate enough in real estate and personal property taxes to fully cover the city’s anticipated costs for infrastructure, emergency services and adding an estimated 11 students to Winchester Public Schools. City planner David Stewart estimated the total expense to the city would be about $13,000 per year.

“I don’t feel my tax dollars should be used for the benefit of a private developer,” Perez said.

Several residents also shared their worries about stormwater drainage in the area, noting the developer would have to take steps to mitigate the standing water and basement flooding that frequently accompanies heavy rains.

“Without good drainage out there, it’s kind of a mess in the area,” said Battle Avenue resident Eric Morgan. “Without a strong plan, so many units and so much concrete could contribute to further flooding in that area.”

Pennoni Associates Director Ron Mislowsky told the commission the townhouse development should take care of the neighborhood’s drainage problems because rainfall and snow melt in that area pools in the northeast corner of the WINC property, where Centennial plans to build a stormwater maintenance facility.

The Planning Commission voted 4-1 on Tuesday to recommend approval of the rezoning, with Commissioner Brandon Pifer opposing the measure due to the height of the proposed townhouses.

“I get the housing demand and all that ... but three stories is just too much, especially for this neighborhood,” Pifer said, noting he was more supportive of the plan when it called for two-story townhouses.

The request to add the PUD designation required to build the townhouses on North Pleasant Valley Road now goes to the Winchester Planning and Economic Development Committee for further review, then to City Council for a final decision.

If the rezoning is granted, Centennial would also need council’s approval of a site plan before construction could commence.

Attending Tuesday afternoon’s Winchester Planning Commission meeting in Rouss City Hall were Chairman Mark Loring, Vice Chairwoman Lacey Burnett and members Brandon Pifer, Paul Richardson and John Tagnesi. Commissioners David Ray and Leesa Mayfield were absent.

— Contact Brian Brehm

at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

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