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Hillpoint area development gets rezoning recommendation

Rezoning for a mixed-use development on about 117 acres of farmland in the Hillpoint area that would bring up to 700 housing units along with commercial and medical and office space has received the unanimous recommendation of the Planning Commission.

The development, to be called Godwin Park, would feature up to 60 homes, 120 townhomes, and 520 apartments or condominiums, as well as a minimum of 85,000 square feet of commercial space and a minimum of 24,000 square feet of medical and office space. The property, currently zoned general commercial, office-institutional, light industrial and rural residential, would be rezoned to a mixed-use development overlay district if City Council gives its approval.

Other than the property owner and developer, no one else spoke in favor or in opposition to the proposed rezoning of the property. Commission chairman Howard Benton said council would hold a public hearing on the rezoning development at its Dec. 16 meeting.

“I do not believe I can ever remember an application that involved this much,” Benton said, “that as much homework was done by the applicants that came forward with staff, staff’s presentation and commissioners’ questions and analysis of what we’re doing here this afternoon, thank you  all for the part you had in this, and congratulations to the applicant.”

The property is being developed by The Terry Peterson Companies on behalf of property owner Mark Brinkley. The rezoning application was initially filed a little more than a year ago, according to John Peterson, representing the company during the public hearing.

The company has developed multiple communities in Suffolk, including Kings Fork Farm, the Gables at the River Front, Sunfall at the Riverfront, River Highlands, River Gate and Hampton Roads Crossing. It has developed others such as Sajo Farm and North Shore at Ridgely Manor in Virginia Beach and Cumberland at Patriots Landing in New Kent County, about 20 miles east of Richmond.

“Our intent was to come here to you all with an application that was ready for approval,” Peterson said. “So we spent a lot of time working through a lot of details to resolve some of the issues that we all see as challenges in other projects … the traffic issues, school impacts and just making sure that the stormwater management plans are acceptable.”

The site is off of Godwin Boulevard and borders Sentara Obici Hospital and Hillpoint Farms — one of a few sites in the city, Peterson said, that has the potential of this one.

“This is clearly one of them, if not the best one,” Peterson said. “I think this was tailor-made for the mixed-use development overlay.”

Commissioner Johnnie Edwards asked if similar mixed-use projects had been built out in the city.

City planner Kevin Wyne noted that there were several — the most established being Harbour View Station in North Suffolk, which had about 1,000 units approved as part of that development and includes a Kroger Marketplace, among the mix of businesses and residences in that area.

“The Kroger development is unbelievable,” Edwards said. “And it really changed the whole mood of northern Suffolk, and when you put everything together, it makes sense.”

A proffered conceptual plan for the property shows two distinct areas for the property — a mixed-use commercial district and a residential village. Access to the development would come from Godwin Boulevard and Corporate Lane, and two other access points could be developed — one at the southern part of the property at Kensington Boulevard and another between the existing Taco Bell and Bojangles restaurants to the north, and Walgreens to the south. The applicant has also proffered design guidelines — 56 pages’ worth — for the project. Residential use would account for about 56 acres of the property, with the 700 units resulting in a density of 12.5 units per acre.

While it is higher than the maximum recommended density yield in the city’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan, higher-density residential development can take place in the suburban use district when transportation corridors and infrastructure are in place, and the proposal is compatible with existing land uses. The staff report for the project indicates this project would meet those guidelines.

Phase 1 of the project would see the 60 homes built, as well as the 120 townhomes and 260 apartments, along with the commercial and medical and office spaces. In the second phase, an additional 260 age-restricted apartments would be built and would allow for the potential for additional commercial development. The Brinkley family and The Terry Peterson Companies proffered no more than 700 residential units — a maximum of 180 single-family homes and of those, a maximum 60 detached residential units and a maximum of 520 market-rate multi-family units, and a minimum 260 one-bedroom units.

If council grants its approval for the rezoning, building permits could be issued for Phase 1 of the development.

However, in Phase 2, no building permits would be issued until Godwin Boulevard is widened from four to six through lanes from just north of the U.S. Route 58 Bypass to the Kings Fork Road intersection, and improvements are made to U.S. Route 58 at the Godwin Boulevard interchange to add capacity to the off-ramps and reduce queuing in the bypass through lanes. Currently, there is no funding for the proposed road improvements.

As part of the project, the applicant’s engineer is to provide traffic signal timing adjustments to reduce delays. As part of a traffic impact study the Brinkley family and The Terry Peterson Companies submitted with the rezoning application, the Phase 1 development would generate 343 net morning peak hour trips, and 520 peak hour trips. Because of that, there would be traffic signal timing adjustments as the development becomes active, according to the staff report for the project.

There would also be a pre-emptive signal timing plan developed and put in to address periodic extensive queuing on the U.S. Route 58 westbound offramp under current and future conditions, and it would include the Centerbrooke Lane/Burnetts Way at Godwin Boulevard intersection to clear traffic before westbound offramp turns right and goes north on Godwin Boulevard.

In Phase 2, there would be an additional 5,859 net daily vehicle trips to the site, including 385 additional net morning peak hour trips and 546 additional net afternoon peak hour trips.

“The additional capacity generated by these projects will allow for the future development of Phase 2 of Godwin Park,” the staff report for the project states, “while maintaining adequate levels of service within the Route 58 Bypass interchange and along the Godwin Boulevard corridor.”

The applicant’s fiscal impact study of the project assumes the development will have all of the housing, and an additional 268,200 square feet of office/retail space. The study estimates the proposed development would produce 1,174 jobs when finished, and $3.5 million in net revenues for the city through 2028.

A staff analysis of the proposed rezoning noted that mixed-use developments do not generate as many students as conventional developments, but based on proposed students who would live in the community, the applicant has proffered $596,918 for the 17 elementary students anticipated to live in the community, and another $178,080 for six anticipated high school students, since both Hillpoint Elementary School and King’s Fork High School are over capacity. No proffer amount would be needed for any 55-plus unit.

Brinkley, speaking at the public hearing, said his family has owned the farm for about 40 years. He noted that when the unified development ordinance and the rezoning of State Route 10 happened in the late 1990s, his family purposely did not rezone the rear of its property for anything other than rural residential, because it was where his parents had their home and was just a large farm at one time.

Brinkley said when the new Sentara Obici Hospital opened off of Godwin Boulevard in 2002, “we knew … there was going to be quite a bit of demand for retail and office park and stuff like that.”

At that time, Brinkley said the family met with Obici officials to create design criteria to develop the front of his family’s property to match the hospital, “and for the last 20 years, that’s what we’ve been doing.”

About six years ago, when his father died, his mother moved to another location off of the property, and the property “was just sitting there.”

Brinkley, after consulting with other members of his family, decided to talk with city officials and ask them what they thought the family should do, so he met with then-City Manager Patrick Roberts and then-Deputy City Manager Scott Mills. Brinkley said they suggested that it be a residential-type development in the rear of the property.

While the Brinkley family are general commercial contractors, they decided to get outside help, which led them over the next two years to interview developers before choosing The Peterson Group.

The Peterson Group, he said, shared the family’s vision for the property while also allowing the family to have control over the property. He estimated that with the needed road improvements, it would take about 15 years to fully develop the property.

“My family is very committed to making the rear of that property as nice as what’s on the front of it,” Brinkley said. “It’s our homeplace, and we want it to stand the test of time.”