“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.” CS Lewis
This quote brings to mind two of the major challenges facing our Association: 1) revising our Governing Documents to reflect the operation of a homeowner-controlled HOA, and 2) a likely rezoning fight over adding additional property to the New Town Residential Association (NTRA).
Governing Documents Revision
In June the Board of Directors finished its initial review of new draft documents written by our Association attorney. Our comments will now be reviewed and the documents revised to incorporate the many changes the Board feels will improve these texts. By September we hope to have a satisfactory version of the drafts to share publicly with homeowners. Our current Governing Documents are the “wrong road” and the only way we can progress as a community is to start over on the “right road” with a stronger and more appropriate Master Declaration, Supplemental Declaration, Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation.
Eastern State Hospital Surplus Property to Become Mixed Use Land
Meanwhile, a “tsunami” arrived on our doorstep on June 12th in the form of proposed revisions to the James City County Comprehensive Master Plan, Our County, Our Shared Future. These revisions include a redesignation of Eastern State Hospital surplus land for Mixed Use so that 324 acres of this federal land can be developed over the next 20 years. The State of Virginia is anxious to sell the property, and ABVA Development LP1 has a contingency contract to develop the two parcels of land immediately adjacent to Charlotte Park (C-1 and C-2). Their land use proposal (LU-20-0002) envisions building up to 235 homes (both detached and townhomes) on this land.
The “wrong road” in this case is that these 81 acres have been labeled as “Mixed Use – New Town” based on ABVA’s land use application and its proximity to New Town. The application states that “The Property would be subjected to the New Town covenants and restrictions, owners would be members of the applicable New Town owner’s association and all development would be subject to the New Town Design Guidelines.” Based on this presumption, County staff titled these parcels “Mixed Use-New Town” and throughout the Plan incorporated language such as “any portion of the Eastern State Hospital property to be brought into the New Town development.”
To be clear, no land can be annexed or lots added to the New Town Residential Association without the consent of the Association. The parcels being sold are not included in the New Town Master Plan or covered in our Master Declaration. So, although there may be a desire by the developer to market this area as New Town and although the new Comprehensive Plan will certainly add to confusion and misleading assumptions in the future, the Eastern State Hospital property is not in New Town.
Not yet at least.
In my opinion, the most grievous part of the ABVA application is the intention to access the new development by extending Olive Drive. That’s despite the fact that VDOT and County specialists have advised that neither Olive nor Rollison Drive can sustain the heavy traffic and stormwater impacts of this development without reinforcement. Where will the land come from to widen these streets?
Think about the increased traffic and the effect construction cut-through will have on the community character of Charlotte Park – including our pool complex, the Federal Townhomes and Roper Park. A second site access point is Discovery Park Boulevard and while wider, its increased traffic would create an issue affecting thoroughfares like Casey Boulevard and the vibrancy of Chelsea Green. With new office complexes and 235 additional homes, this growth will likely be felt New Town wide.
In just 10 days, my Charlotte Park neighbors garnered the written objections of 114 NTRA owners – 20% of the Association - to this land use application to bring to the June 24th Planning Commission hearing. ABVA representatives personally lobbied some owners, saying they want to do the right thing for New Town, that they may remove the Olive Drive cut-through and work on buffers. But they’ve also threatened/warned that if they do not prevail, a large developer will snatch up the land and be even worse.
Nonetheless, as of today, ABVA has not amended their June 2020 JCC application or adjusted its drawings. The Planning Commission approved it and is recommending the Board of Supervisors also approve it as submitted.
This storm was set in motion years ago. A 2008 study about the future of Eastern State Hospital has driven this planned expansion. In 2013, the County platted and reserved all of Olive Drive as a right of way “with the intent of being extended and continued in order to provide ingress and egress to and from future subdivisions of the remaining parcel and to and from adjacent parcels…” Rollison Drive Lot CA-6A was never developed and is still owned by ABVA, although this plat, incorporated into our Supplemental Declarations, says that “All Common Areas (C.A.) shall be dedicated to” the Association.
Can the NTRA prevail in the future? The stakes are high and affect all of us.
So, what could the “right road” look like at this point?
- ABVA could revise or voluntarily withdraw its application to allow more time for the consultations and input it says it wants.
- The Board of Supervisors could reject or delay action on LU-20-0002 to provide for its revision. The Board could also revise descriptive text in the plan to clearly separate New Town and protect the Charlotte Park neighborhood. (Since the Planning Commission recommended approval of the draft Comprehensive Plan, the plan's final adoption moves to the James City County Board of Supervisors. That public hearing is scheduled for July 13th.)
To those who say "it’s only a plan”, “the real changes have to go through rezoning” where there can be negotiations over density, access, etc., I would reply that our community has endured 15 years of construction. We are already behind in this process of defending our small-town community and lifestyle and have lost some ability to influence the outcome. The Comprehensive Plan is considered “rigid guidelines for development.” Since ABVA has a purchase contract with the State, formal rezoning of the property may begin within a year – Not 20. Our Association will be negotiating and likely fighting and spending legal fees for months to come.
Yes, Mixed Use at Eastern State was probably inevitable. But New Town is already a model, complete mixed-use community in James City County. How can we make this new land use change the progress we want?
You have two opportunities to learn more - both at Legacy Hall:
- July 6, 7PM - an NTRA Owners Town Hall with a presentation by ABVA.
- July 7, 7PM James City County Supervisor Jim Icenhour will hold a listening session with New Town residents so that you may learn more about the County's land use redesignation process and share your concerns.
Look for emails with more details on these meetings.