2010-11-24 / Front Page

Comprehensive plan encourages more multifamily housing

By Greg Pearson

Chesterfield’s proposed comprehensive plan calls for more multifamily housing and fewer single-family homes in the future. Today Chesterfield’s housing stock is 81.3 percent single-family while Henrico County’s is just 65 percent.

At build-out – some time in the distant future when there isn’t room for more residential development in the county – single-family will make up 58.8 percent of Chesterfield’s housing stock, assuming the proposed plan is approved and not revised over the years. But county planning staff and the Renaissance Planning Group (RPG), the county’s consultant on the comprehensive plan, expect changes because state law requires a review every five years.

Future rezonings are much more likely to be for townhouses, apartments and condos because Chesterfield has thousands of acres already rezoned for single-family but not yet built due to the recession. Compared to the existing county plan, the proposed plan reduces the total population at build-out by almost 123,000 people (see chart).

“In this county there has almost been a bias against multifamily,” Steven Haasch, principal planner, told the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee during a meeting last week. In the future Chesterfield “will be more typical of a developed suburban county.”

“In Virginia you can’t [legally] control the rate of growth, but you can control the pattern of growth,” said Vlad Gavrilovic, RPG’s head.

“Public input” shifted the plan’s focus from single-family to more multifamily.

As proposed, single-family growth would undoubtedly slow, mostly due to the creation of two new zoning categories called countryside and countryside residential. About 53,323 acres would be zoned countryside, requiring an average of 25 acres to build a home unless the building site is conveyed to an immediate family member. Countryside residential (17,621 acres) would require five acres to build. Together those categories represent 25 percent of the county under the proposed plan, and much of it falls in the rural Matoaca District.

At the same time townhouses, apartments and condos will be allowed as infill in more urbanized areas of the county and where revitalization is deemed necessary. The plan calls for more mixing of residential with office and retail development with some housing above ground-floor stores and offices. The idea is to locate jobs closer to housing and available county services where there are better roads and more classroom space in schools that aren’t overcrowded.

More townhouses and multifamily will also drive down the need for building new schools since families with children prefer single-family homes. With far more multifamily housing and almost as much population, Henrico has 40,000 students in its public schools – 18,000 fewer than Chesterfield. RPG officials said the new plan will help Chesterfield better manage its growth within its finances with “data-driven decisions.”

At build-out, county staff predicted that 47 percent of commercial properties would be offices, 30 percent retail and 22 percent industrial. The county’s economic development department reportedly endorses the plan with a goal of a job for every worker. Currently Chesterfield has .68 jobs for every worker.

The committee meets for the last time on Dec. 16. Members are expected to give a general endorsement of the plan. Community meetings in each district follow in January before the plan goes for review and a public hearing before the planning commission and finally before the county board.

One major problem overshadows the plan: sufficient funds to implement the kind of growth the plan calls for.

Proposed housing in the countywide comprehensive plan

Existing single-family: 97,850 (81.3 percent)
Existing multifamily: 18,894 (15.7 percent)
Existing townhomes: 3,470 (2.9 percent)
Existing homes: 120,214
Current plan single-family at 100% build-out: 254,334 (76.3 percent)
Current plan multifamily at 100% build-out: 51,537 (15.5 percent)
Current plan townhomes at 100% build-out: 27,464 (8.2 percent)
Current plan total units at 100% build-out: 333,335
Proposed plan single-family at 100% build-out: 179,538 (58.8 percent)
Proposed plan multifamily at 100% build-out: 86,497 (28.3 percent)
Proposed plan townhomes at 100% build-out: 39,364 (12.9 percent)
Proposed plan total units at 100% build-out: 305,399
Existing population: 316,000
Current plan population at 100% build-out: 859,830
Proposed plan population at 100% build-out: 737,129 (14.3 percent*)
*Population reduction from current plan

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