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"New Town" project proposed in Yorktown VA near Kiln Creek

The owner of land near Kiln Creek Shopping Center has asked the York County Planning commission to rezone  45.9 acres of land located at the end of Commonwealth Drive ( Behind Kiln Creek Shopping Center) to create a mixed-use development (Commonwealth Green)  consisting of 444 residential units and at least 40,610 square feet of commercial space. The proposed dwelling units include 334 rental apartments, (plus 50 apartments on the Newport News side of the jurisdictional boundary), 94 townhouses and duplexes, and 16 “live-above” units (i.e., owner-occupied residential units above ground floor retail/office use).
This would make the third mixed used development in York County wit the recent approvals of Nelson’s Grant (112 units) and Yorktown Crescent (210 units), at the intersection of Route 17 and Fort Eustis Boulevard. Neither project has been built yet, but site work is underway for Nelson’s Grant, with construction expected by the middle of next year


The York County Planning Commission has recommended the Board of Supervisors approve an application to build a mixed-used development with 444 residential units near Kiln Creek. The commission’s 4-2 vote to recommend approval went against York County staff’s recommendation to deny it.

The property, located at 501 Commonwealth Drive ( behind Kiln Creek shopping center)  and is designated in the Comprehensive Plan for Economic Opportunity with a Mixed Use overlay.

Location Map of proposed Commonwealth Green in Yorktown VA

location map for commonwealth green yorktown va

The York County planning staff after it’s review of the plans is recommending that the Board of Supervisors deny the approval of the plan . The planning staff believes the proposed development is not generally consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and the intent of the PDMU ordinance. The planning staff  feels that in other respects – compactness, walkability, integration of land uses, and the balance between residential and commercial uses – the project is not consistent with the mixed-use concept or the Comprehensive Plan’s vision for this area.

As proposed there would be a total of 16 apartment buildings, four of which – encompassing a minimum of fifty units – would be located in the City of Newport News on property that is already zoned for multi-family housing and does not need to be rezoned.  The second component consists of 16 groupings of townhouses located along a new road extending from the Commonwealth Drive extension all the way to Route 17.
The third component in Commonwealth Green consists of three mixed-use “live-above” buildings with residential units above ground-floor retail uses and a separate two-story commercial building with office and retail uses. . In addition, the applicant proposes to construct an 1,800-square foot multi-use “town center” building on the east side of the Commonwealth Drive extension across from the apartment section. Intended to serve as a focal point for the community, the “town center” building and site would have picnic tables, open areas for planned events, a fountain water feature, park benches, and restroom facilities

One scenario, referred to as the “County Average” analysis, is based on population and school enrollment multipliers (i.e., an assumed number of residents and school students per housing unit that the Wessex Group attributes to the County), while the second scenario, referred to as the “Comparable” analysis, is based on multipliers derived from an examination of three developments – two in Indiana and one in Midlothian, Virginia – that the analyst considers comparable to Commonwealth Green in terms of price, size, and the character of the neighborhood.
The results of these two analyses differ markedly. The “Comparable” analysis yields a positive fiscal impact, with the net present value of the cumulative fiscal impact over twenty years calculated to be $6.6 million. This is based on an assumed average household size of 1.39 persons and 0.084 school student per housing unit.

The “County Average” assumptions, however, result in a negative fiscal impact calculated to be -$1.7 million. This is based on an assumed average of 2.78 persons and 0.33 school student per household. (Although the fiscal impact analysis attributes these multipliers to the Planning staff, staff does not consider an average household size of 2.78 – which was the County average reported in the 2000 Census – to be realistic for this development. Rather, staff estimates that the development is likely to generate an average of 2.14 residents and 0.34 student per housing unit, based on the County’s experience with other apartment, condominium, and townhouse developments.) Since the difference between staff’s and the analyst’s school student multipliers accounts for most of the difference between the “County Average” and “Comparable” analyses, adjusting the average household size from 2.78 to 2.14 would still result in a negative fiscal impact – albeit less negative – under the “County Average” scenario.

In both scenarios, the fiscal impact analysis estimates that the commercial component of the project would create 70 permanent jobs in addition to the 145 temporary construction jobs that will be created during the development of the project. Of course, if the parcel were fully developed in accordance with the existing EO zoning – not a likely scenario, at least not in the near term, in the current economic environment – the net fiscal impact would be much more positive.

Based on current school attendance zone boundaries, students living on the York County side of Commonwealth Green would attend Grafton-Bethel Elementary School, Grafton Middle School, and Grafton High School, all of which currently have excess capacity.

Siteplan for Commonwealth Green

One of the overall goals behind the mixed-use development concept is the creation of special places that stand apart from conventional development. The proposed development does indeed incorporate several design features that set it apart from other developments in the County. These include not just the mixing of residential and commercial uses within a single development (and within a single building), but also narrow streets, a roundabout, and shallow front yard building setbacks. These are features customarily found in mixed-use developments and are consistent, in staff’s opinion, with the mixed-use concept and goals as described in the Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Ordinance.

However, staff feels that in other respects – compactness, walkability, integration of land uses, and the balance between residential and commercial uses – the project is not consistent with the mixed-use concept or the Comprehensive Plan’s vision for this area.

The retail and office uses would be within relatively convenient and easy walking distance of most of the residential units, but generally there is not much integration of land uses. Some of this is due to various site constraints and other challenges that are beyond the applicant’s control and have hampered their efforts to design a mixed-use development in accordance with the guidance of the Comprehensive Plan and the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance. These challenges include a large wetland area in the center of the property, an extremely weak commercial real estate market, and the inability to secure access to Route 17 at the Coventry Boulevard intersection.

However, some of the applicant’s reluctance to pursue a more integrated “town center” design appears to be related to contractual commitments that have been made to a prospective purchaser of the apartment component of the project.

Staff is also concerned that the proposed sequencing plan is not sufficient to ensure an appropriate balance of residential and non-residential uses. Although the application materials state that the project will have at least 40,610 square feet of non-residential space, only 20,200 square feet of that space – 497 square feet per developable acre – is guaranteed to occur based on the proposed sequencing plan.

The applicant’s reluctance to commit to a specific schedule for the completion of the two-story commercial building is understandable in view of the weak commercial real estate market and the overall economic downturn nationally. Nevertheless, it leaves open the possibility of a rather large residential development with very little commercial space, which is what the sequencing requirements are specifically intended to prevent and is contrary to the Comprehensive Plan’s guidance, which identifies this area as appropriate “for some type of master-planned business park that could also potentially include a residential component in a mixed-use, master planned development.”

In addition to the previously noted concerns about the project itself, planning staff has concerns that the timing of the project might be premature. With two mixed-use developments  approved in the last two years but not yet built, the mixed-use concept is still untested in York County.

Both projects were approved on the basis of estimates and assumptions relative to school, traffic, and fiscal impacts that are as yet unproven, as is the market demand – both residentially and commercially – for mixed-use “live-above” units. That being the case, it might be prudent, in staff’s opinion, for the Commission and the Board of Supervisors to wait until at least one of the previously approved mixed-use developments is established before approving a third one, particularly one as large as Commonwealth Green.

Therefore, based on the considerations and conclusions as noted, staff believes the  proposed development is not generally consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and the intent of the PDMU ordinance and recommends that the Commission forward this application to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation of denial.
Should the Commission choose to recommend approval, staff has proposed a series of conditions set forth in proposed Resolution No. PC12-1; however, if the Commission is inclined to recommend approval, staff would recommend that the application be tabled until the applicant can either provide evidence that the tributary stream does not exist or submit a revised sketch plan showing how the development will be redesigned to avoid encroaching into the required watershed management buffer.

Want to go ?

Planning Commission agenda
To read the full plan, click here. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in York Hall. – 301 Main Street January 11, 2012


One Response

  1. We the residents of Millers Pond are looking forward to the start of this beautiful development.

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