2010-11-24 / News

Transitioning homes to businesses gets more study

By Greg Pearson

The Chesterfield Planning Commission will hold another work session on Dec. 13 to consider a proposed staff-recommended amendment that would allow older homes in arterial corridors to be converted to businesses. A briefing by county staff last month seemed to satisfy four of the commissioners, but Clover Hill Commissioner Russ Gulley was unable to attend. He asked for another briefing, and the other commissioners agreed.

The staff report said some older homes along arterial corridors “are being poorly maintained.”

The county’s arterial corridors include divided roadways, such as Courthouse and Iron Bridge roads, and also some two-lane roads, like Old Hundred Road. Older homes often line these corridors, and many of these residential properties now serve as rental houses. Allowing owners to convert their older properties to business use would generate “incremental tax increases as properties are rezoned and improved,” reads the staff report.

“It encourages reinvestment in older homes and brings them up to code,” explained Kirk Turner, planning director.

The staff’s plan recommends “graveled parking lots with minimal curb and gutter.” Gulley raised safety questions, suggesting gravel might end up in the road and become a projectile from passing traffic.

“I’ve got a lot of concerns about this ordinance… in particular for the Courthouse Road corridor,” he said.

Gulley and Clover Hill Supervisor Art Warren have championed residents’ objections to converting vacant property and rundown homes into more office and retail uses there. Residents fear more traffic will create additional accidents and more congestion. Several planned communities are set back off Courthouse, and those residents use Courthouse as their primary route to and from home.

Many local business leaders have called for change on Courthouse, saying it will increase tax revenues and better utilize the multilane roadway.

Bermuda Commissioner Sam Hassen said he has already received calls welcoming an ordinance change in his district. “I’m all for encouraging this [commercial] development,” he said.

Citing the zoning process and site-plan review, Greg Allen, planning manager, said, “There are protections in place.”

Gulley wanted the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to weigh in on the issue since the state maintains Chesterfield’s roads.

VDOT considers it a local matter, according to Allen. “VDOT is not professing any issues with gravel,” he said. Safe access to those driveways would be determined by the fire department.

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