Crossing Harrowgate Road after parking at Harrowgate Elementary School, that will be torn down as part of the East-West Freeway, those interested in finding out more information than what they were given at four community meetings held by the county, gathered in the sun Saturday on the lawn of Brad Wall. His house, like Harrowgate Elementary could be taken for the proposed freeway.
Wall and other residents are not sure exactly how it will affect them. “It’s in my backyard,” said Laurel Rothenberger. “Have they [the board members of the Chesterfield Economic Development Authority] bothered to take the time to see the impact on the residents? How can I know I will be safe with the railroad and the road? They don’t even know what industry will be coming. It bothers the jeebies out of me.” Rothenberger lives on Treely Road.
Many of the 150 people attending the rally had some way of being affected by the 1,675 acre Megasite and the east/west parkway or the north/south road that would follow the same route as developer HH Hunt had approved by the Chesterfield County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors in the 2006 Branner Station residential rezoning of the same property of the same Mega site property. A Chester community group were able to get some concessions, but the property was rezoned to residential anyway.
At that time, HH Hunt had negotiated with the community group to improve the four-lane road as it made its way through Chester on the right-of-way of the old Seaboard Airline making its way to Chester Road.
That’s not necessarily the focus of the BARD group, although they want to stop any taking of any house or any disturbance that may affect any residence along the way of the freeway and parallel railway.
Johnnie Humphrey who has six acres on Happy Hill Road said, “They will be taking my house, and I have lived there for 50 years.” Humphrey told the story of a young man who recently bought six acres across the road from her, and was issued a building permit from the county. He had been working on his dream house with his father. He was unaware of the East-West Freeway until she told him. “Why did they issue him a permit and not inform him of the changes that are planned for his property.”
“I hope this doesn’t go the way things have gone in the past,” said Mary Runnels who lives on Harrowgate Road. “I hope they listen to the people and not just rubber stamp it. This is wrong, and I hope they listen to the people.”
In the process of discovery, members of the BARD group have been combing the county government and Chesterfield Economic Development records to find out what’s behind the curtain. A zoning ordinance related to an industrial use abutting a residential use is the latest issue that BARD is hanging its hat on.
“We are making an impact. Still in the discovery process and outstanding FOIAs. County ordinance, 19.1-180- A says heavy industrial use cannot be located next to residential property. Six months ago they introduced a change to I-2 Limited industrial zoning. Heavy industrial in light industrial zoning can be next to residential property,” said Phil Lohr. “They are making a back door. We really need your help. I-2 Limited is coming soon. They are coming out with this new zoning so they can put it out all over the county. We are getting FOIAs in everyday and we are still building and we are going to stop this thing.”
From the ordinance 19.1-180- A: The purpose and intent of a Heavy Industrial (I-3) District is to provide locations for intense manufacturing uses which process raw materials. This district should not be located adjacent to existing or proposed residential, office or commercial areas.
B. An I-3 District should generally be located in areas with access to arterial or collector roads and, where practical, in locations where rail and water access is available. This district should generally be buffered from residential, office, or commercial districts by less intense uses. Sites should be designed to ensure maximum compatibility with, and minimal impact on, existing and future residential development in the area.
As is typical for CEDA, the authority names its project by a code name. Medline, the medical supply company at Meadowville Technology Park, was called Bulldog. The Mega site is apparently for the purpose of CEDA called Project A. The July 21, 2016, minutes of the CEDA board meeting indicated in part that the Chairman or Vice Chairman, as applicable, to agree to the purchase or option of real estate not to exceed $14,000,000 in the aggregate. (The former statement is paraphrased and not intended to be an official statement.)
The Village News asked the former Chesterfield Planning Director, Kirk Turner about the project. He indicated that the Mega site would have immense buffers as deep as 100 feet although having been moved to revitalization he may not have as much input as he once did on the project.
“This would be a huge change to the area,” said Karl Staffinger. “They have been talking about the E/W connector for years but it has not been with a railroad. We need your help, email your friends about the Mega site.