Lacking Votes to Pass, Candle Factory Off the Table

April 29th, 2009 by WY Daily Staff
Lacking Votes to Pass, Candle Factory Off the Table
Open space behind the Candle Factory in Norge will remain undeveloped for now.

A vote on the proposed Candle Factory development was expected at Tuesday’s James City County board of supervisors meeting, but the developer pulled the application on Monday.

A poll of the board showed some serious concerns that made approval unlikely, at least without significant changes to the plan.

Supervisor Jim Icenhour, who was ready to vote against the plan, wasn’t surprised. Developers often pull applications from votes if they already know it’s not favored, he said before the meeting.

“When developers know they have three votes, they press on. If they will get less than three, they pull out,” he said.

Supervisors discussed briefly the pulled proposal, revealing a split board on the development planned for the area behind the Candle Factory in Norge.

Candle Developments L.L.C. submitted plans in 2006 to build 175 single-family houses, 30,000 square feet of commercial space and a 90,000 square-foot assisted living complex with 96 units. The developer wanted to do the project in phases, starting with 55 townhouses. Some of the houses were supposed to be what’s known as affordable, or workforce, housing.

In 2007 the board raised proffer rates to $17,115 per house, one year after the application was first submitted. The developer had to pull and re-submit the application in 2008, after a missing signature was added, but the application didn’t include the new rates.

A proffer is money given by the developer, once a house is sold, to the county to support infrastructure such as schools or water/sewer hookups.

The application proposed 33 market-rate houses with the old proffer rates of $4,011 per house. Market-rate houses are different from affordable housing, in that affordable housing usually has a set price. The county doesn’t expect proffers from the affordable housing, just the market-rate homes.

During the meeting Icenhour and fellow supervisor John McGlennon, who oppose the proposed development, said the developer needs to agree to pay the new proffer rates before the application can be discussed futher.

“Our proffers should reflect our costs for our schools,” said Icenhour. “I see this as a new application. I’m prepared to give exceptions to affordable housing, but market-rate housing should pay full amount.”

McGlennon backed him by saying the new proffer rates have been active for two years.

Icenhour said he also doesn’t support the project because he felt the application calls for too much housing for a mixed-use zoning. Currently, mixed-use zoning requires a balance of residential units to commercial and light-industrial spaces, and he said it’s not a good balance. He said the development doesn’t fit the current comprehensive plan.

The developer’s spokesman Vernon Geddy III, who wasn’t at the meeting, told county planning staff he wouldn’t reapply until after the comprehensive plan is updated, so zoning issues could be addressed.

That could happen.

The comprehensive plan, which is currently under review, acts as a guide for development in the county. It’s updated every five years.

Supervisor Mary K. Jones, who’s also a member of  the comprehensive plan steering committee, said the committee is considering a land-use change application for the area. “The new comprehensive plan would, maybe, have a new land designation as mixed-use,” said Jones, who supported the proposed Candle Factory project.

Prior to the meeting The Virginia Organizing Project and county supervisors weighed in on the zoning problems of the project.

The VOP advocates for groups statewide who may need representation on issues like affordable housing. Ben Thacker-Gwaltney, VOP’s lead organizer for Williamsburg, said this project would help mitigate the need for affordable housing here.

“It’s disappointing there are not enough votes to put this through,” he said. “It’s clear that the current comprehensive plan puts stress on workforce housing. In this area, we’re 2000 [houses] short for workforce housing, and that’s a crisis in my book.”

The land is currently zoned for agriculture, which doesn’t support residential or retail growth. The developer wants to rezone the land to mixed-use so they can build both.

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