As a recently proposed development along Bell Creek Road gets closer to going before the planning commission, roughly 40 passionate Mechanicsville residents still aren’t convinced it won’t negatively impact their neighborhood.
The main concern is the additional traffic the development could cause in an already congested area.
Citizens voiced their worries at Pole Green Church of Christ Feb. 27 during a neighborhood meeting about the proposed multiuse project, hosted by Attorney Andrew Condlin and the developer, Henry Shields, of Hanover Land Investors LLC.
The developer plans to build 65 town homes and 59 single-family homes along with a pharmacy and retail center on a total of 25.4 acres of land, made up partially of wetlands. Shields is requesting rezoning the property from agriculture use to B-3, a multiuse designation, allowing him to build both residential and commercial structures, Condlin said.
Jo Battenfield, a neighbor and school bus driver, was concerned with people trying to enter the development but missing their turn and instead making a U-turn in her driveway or someone else’s.
Planning Director David Maloney said that although the county can fix transportation and traffic problems, they couldn’t change driver behavior.
“You wouldn’t feel that way if you couldn’t get to your mailbox without almost getting run over,” Battenfield told Maloney during the community meeting.
And many residents felt that the amount of traffic from the development would overwhelm current infrastructure.
Roy Benbow, a nearby neighbor, is worried Bell Creek Road won’t be able to handle a lot of drivers because it is narrow and hilly. He also commented on how many accidents have occurred along the street and asked the county if the study took the road’s condition in consideration. In response, Maloney said it did not.
With the first traffic analysis, the planning department factored a convenience store with gas pumps as well as a small retail center. Then, a second analysis included a 15,000 square-foot retail pharmacy, like a CVS, along with the retail center.
“It reduced the amount of traffic during the rush hours,” Maloney said.
The study showed that maximum hypothetical traffic would meet the accepted level.
Maloney said the desired level of service is a “C” or “D” and the newly proposed plan fits the county’s recommended level of traffic at the intersection of Bell Creek and Pole Green roads, with a “D” rating.
The developer must make several changes to the intersection in order to make sure things run smoothly. Improvements include road alignment and signal changes.
“These improvements will be made as the [neighborhood] is being developed,” Maloney said.
He said engineers have told them if those improvements are made the intersection will run “adequately.”
This was the second meeting Condlin and the developer held to notify residents of changes in the proposal and to hear their concerns.
“We’re continuing to make changes in response to comments [from Virginia Department of Transportation, citizens and the county],” Condlin said.
For example, the initial proposal included some land for commercial uses but because of public concerns, Condlin said they changed the designation to a less intense commercial use, B-1, or neighborhood business.
Another worry for some residents is how the proposed development could affect a nearby pond, if the developer does not adhere to strict stormwater management practices.
Condlin said the proposal will meet the new stormwater requirements and standards, which will take effect July 1.
“We’re focusing on treating it on site and from the site,” he said.
The pond sits on resident Patty Thomas’ property, adjacent to the proposed development. She has been worried that run-off and sediments will negatively impact her pond.
“I am pleased the developer has agreed to implement the new storm water management regulations,” Thomas told the Herald-Progress.
Natural wetlands and rain gardens will help reduce the “volume” and “naturally treat” run-off, Condlin said. There will also be a retention pond.
In addition, the law requires a buffer and a walking path along the major roads. Condlin said a walking path will be constructed with porous pavement at the southern end of the property. There will also be a 2- to 3- foot berm to capture any run-off, which would travel down to wetlands and be treated there, he said.
Following feedback from the community, the developer will resubmit the plans to the county again, with hopes to have the development proposal on the planning commission’s March 20 agenda.