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Winding Creek Housing Development: taking 500K in proffer money away from schools?

A meeting was held on Thursday night at Winding Creek Elementary to give the community a chance to discuss the proposed Winding Creek Road housing development soon to be voted on by the BoS. The proposed development would consist of 97 single family homes in a subdivision along Winding Creek Road. The developers have had this project in the works for over 3 years and are hoping to get the BoS to finally approve it.

Around 35 people showed up to hear the potential plans for the development. Officials in attendance were Supervisors Wendy Maurer and Laura Sellers of Rock Hill and Garrisonville Districts respectively. Also in attendance was Mark Dudenhefer, current House Delegate for District 2 and candidate for the Garrisonville Supervisor seat in the upcoming election. To find out more specific details about the development plans, click the links HERE and HERE.

Charles Payne, partner for Hirschler Fleischer and representation for the developer, was the main speaker at the meeting. One of the major concerns regarding this development is the dangerous nature of Winding Creek Road itself. Area residents are wary of the increased traffic 97 homes would bring to this winding, twisting roadway. Mr. Payne was quick to explain that this development plan is the best hope to finally fix one of the most treacherous passages on WC Road. If approved, the developers plan to widen Winding Creek Road at the Walpole intersection and build a 10 foot retaining wall, which would ultimately be maintained by VDOT. Widening is contingent on the Horizons Church and Berkshire neighborhoods giving right of way land designations which have not been finalized but are in discussions. Since there is no county money dedicated to fix this issue today, according to Mr. Payne this plan will be positive for the community. If widening of Winding Creek Road does happen, the plan is to shut the road completely to get it done quickly, hopefully in a 3-4 month timeframe.

Some in attendance were concerned that without getting responsibility for the wall maintenance by VDOT in writing, that said maintenance could fall on the shoulders of the Berkshire HOA. Mr. Payne explained that by-right they can develop 20 lots (that is without any approval from the BoS) but according to the proffer arrangements, would not be able to get the 21st occupancy permit without the wall and road improvements made. He stated they would not go forward with the project if they could not solidify plans for the full 97 homes. He was adamant that all approvals and arrangements would be in place before ground was broken on the retaining wall or the homes, meaning that there will not be any out-of-the-blue backing out on the part of either the developers or VDOT.

According to Mr. Payne, 3 million dollars in proffers will be given to the county if the housing development is approved by the BoS. Proffers are the funds that are offered to the county by developers in order to offset infrastructure services that the new homes would require, such as schools, roads and fire and rescue services. While the state legislature passed a much more restrictive set of rules regarding proffers last year, this development falls under the prior, more relaxed rules. Over the course of the planning of the development, many changes have been made to the proffers being offered by developers.

One major change is the designation of 500K to go towards the county's PDR program (Purchase of Development Rights.) The PDR program allows the county to by large parcels of land from county landowners in order to keep the land from being developed. This keeps a lid on urban sprawl and pushes developments into areas that are already set up to accommodate them. This is the program that saved over 1000 acres of the Crow's Nest Preserve from development.

As beneficial as these efforts are to the county, Mr. Payne stated that these funds are not in addition to the 3 million but were appropriated from other areas. When pressed on where the funds came from, Mr Payne replied that they came from schools. In other words, the new proffers remove 500K from school funding to make the gift to the PDR fund. Ms. Maurer had a big problem with this, she stated that proffer funds should solely go to infrastructure improvements that are needed due to the building of new homes. Coming on the heels of a very contentious School Board budget approval that denied many of our teachers a pay raise, it's hard to justify prioritization of this type of project.

Since there have been so many changes to the proffers since the last public hearing in December, the question was raised as to whether another public hearing should be held before the BoS votes. Jeff Harvey, the Director of Planning and Zoning, stated that from his understanding, when in doubt, it's better to have one otherwise if could leave things up to challenge. Ms. Maurer stated she will ask the BoS for an additional public hearing, likely in June. BTW will keep it's readers apprised of the public hearing, if it happens.