POWHATAN – The Powhatan County Planning Commission got its first look last week at a mixed use development with retail and multi-unit residential dwellings being proposed for the Village area.
During the planning commission’s meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2, the members heard an informal overview of a rezoning request for a mixed use development in the 4000 block of Old Buckingham Road. The request is to rezone 9.757 acres from Agricultural-10 (A-10) to Village Center Planned Development.
The project, called the Depot at Fighting Creek, would include 10 triplex rental units and approximately 26,000 square feet of commercial/retail space in the Courthouse Village area. The property where the project is proposed is in an uninhabited tract of wooded land roughly halfway between Powhatan Elementary School and the joint transportation facility.
Developers Michael Potter and Rick Smith gave the presentation to solicit initial feedback from planning commission members. No official action was taken at the Feb. 2 meeting. Though the official date has not been set yet, the project could have its formal presentation and public hearing as early as the planning commission’s March 2 meeting, which will be at 6 p.m. in the Village Building.
Potter’s presentation focused a great deal on what the mixed used development could bring to the Village area as well as promoting what is already there. Although the property is located along Old Buckingham Road, it would be visible from Anderson Highway and act as a “billboard” for what the courthouse area has to offer, he said.
“I think more people are staying at home that now telecommute. We like to think we are breaking the trend of ‘going to town.’ Hopefully it will be now we are ‘going to the Village.’
Hopefully we will be able to fill the need of a lot of things people would go to town for,” Potter said.
The plans for the Depot at Fighting Creek features three one-story retail buildings near the frontage road along Old Buckingham Road. It also has 10 triplexes, which each two-story unit having its own entrance.
As the plans stand now, the project would include two parking lots divided by an internal road. In the western parking lot would likely be a hardware store, outdoor space for the store’s seasonal displays, and a retention pond.
The other parking lot would have two retail spaces along the frontage road and the residential units behind that. Currently, Potter is expecting one of the retail spaces to have a boutique market, but the other does not yet have a concrete expected use.
The presentation included a general layout of the property and preliminary exterior renderings of the retail spaces and residential units but no specifics about the layouts. Potter explained that the residential units would be roughly 1,200 square feet and have two to three bedrooms.
The different elements of the Depot – both the businesses and additional rental housing – would fill current needs in the county, Potter said.
“Not everybody wishes to have homeowner’s responsibilities and they would rather make a phone call if their refrigerator breaks or their dishwasher breaks. They don’t want yard responsibilities and they don’t want homeowner responsibilities,” he said. “We are niching someone who wants to continue to live in Powhatan without the responsibility of home ownership. Some people like the proximity to others and to services.”
Although multi-unit housing has not been a popular proposition among many residents in recent years, Potter said he is hoping a limited size of 30 units and a high quality project will mean it is well received. He stressed that the retail spaces along the frontage road as well as nice but limited landscaping would create an attractive project and the parking lots would be largely hidden behind them.
The project is proposed with one central road with sidewalks on either side and a separate right-in only entrance specifically designed for large delivery trucks. The right-in only entrance could be an issue in upcoming discussions with the planning commission and board of supervisors.
The developers’ stated intention to have the second entrance is for easier and safer access for larger delivery vehicles. However, the current proposed distance between the main entrance and the second entrance would be 235 feet, which is significantly less than the minimum access management spacing requirements of 440 feet.
To promote the walkability of the project, Potter said a trail around the property is planned and the developers would be willing to extend the sidewalks along the internal road as a nature trail that the developer would construct on county land, connecting the development to Fighting Creek Park.
The planning commission had questions about the parking and the entrances but overall seemed to view the preliminary renderings of the project favorably.
Staff has not yet made a recommendation on this project. Andrew Pompei, planning director, said the Depot, if approved, would be one of the first mixed used developments from a green field site where nothing existed in this part of the county and the first to use triplexes integrated with commercial uses.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.