Around 100 people gathered at Elizabeth Scott Elementary School last week to hear about a proposed Carvana inspection site that would be located off Woods Edge Road east of Interstate 95.
Carvana development team manager Todd Ward, local attorney Andy Condlin and Timmons Group engineer Roger Rodriguez spoke and answered questions at the June 4 community meeting.
Gib Sloan, a Chesterfield County Planning Commission member from the Bermuda District, said the proposal calls for an 180,000-square-foot building. Two residents who tipped off the Village News to the proposal in April had said that Condlin told them it would be 40,000 square feet, although Sloan said he had not seen that figure officially.
Condlin said Carvana had made some proffers in negotiations with county Planning Department staff. “We’re waiting to hear back on staff review,” he said.
Carvana is proposing to rezone the property, which is currently I-1 and I-2, to I-1 with a conditional use permit. He noted that an auto storage lot is permitted in I-2 but not I-1.
The proffers include putting an 8-foot fence around the 184-acre site, making sure there are 2 1/2 trees every 50 feet and a 100-foot buffer from the edge of the right-of-way along Woods Edge Road, for example. The property runs 3,755 feet along that road, according to a county Planning document.
Condlin said the proffers that are currently tied to the property – which date to 1988 or 1989 – do not limit the number of entrances. Ward noted the company does not plan to put up signs.
Ward said that Carvana, which is headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., and six years old, is looking to build because its sales have more than doubled each year since 2016. Carvana, which he said is a “new way of buying a car,” offers buying, trading and selling cars online.
A 150-point inspection would be done at the inspection site, Ward said, noting the vehicles do not require major engine or body work. Minor painting is done on site, but is “fully self-contained.”
An inspection site would have 900-plus vehicles rotating in and out as they are sold and distributed to distribution hubs across the country. The South Chesterfield site would be “integral to hit our markets from DC down to North Carolina,” he said. The company currently has sites north of Atlanta, in New Jersey and south of Cleveland, but the New Jersey lease expires in a year or so, Ward said.
Ward said a typical driver route is 4 hours one-way to a distribution center, which enables Carvana’s drivers to return to their home base each day.
Carvana is proposing two entrances to the South Chesterfield site, with the truck entrance/guard house next to Ashton Creek and the employee entrance 450 feet farther north on Woods Edge Road. Trucks leaving the property would be required to turn right, Ward said. Carvana would add a right-hand turn lane into the facility for employees headed south and a left-hand turn lane for trucks headed north.
He said that lighting on site would be minimal, “not like a typical dealership or Walmart.”
Shifts would run from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. five days a week, with possibly one shift on Saturday. Ward estimated that 45 trucks per day would enter or leave the site. “We try our best to avoid peak rush hours,” he said.
When asked why the company doesn’t instead purchase an existing warehouse-type facility, Ward said the company has learned some things over the past six years. “This is our new prototype building,” he said, noting that some of the sites the company has include multiple buildings, which he described as kind of a “mishmash.” “We could never make it work,” he said. “An assembly-type facility requires a specific type of building.”
“We hope to have opened by the end of 2020,” Ward said.
The company estimates that the site would generate 2,500 trips per day, including employee traffic. Rodriguez said that is not enough for a Virginia Department of Transporation-mandated traffic study, noting the threshold is 10,000.
Rodriguez said that, according to VDOT, Woods Edge Road currently has about 6,800 cars a day, but is supposed to be able to handle 12,000 to 14,000 a day.
Fran Kipper said she’s lived in the Walthall Creek community for 25 years. “We are industry-weary,” she said. “Carvana is getting a great deal. I don’t blame them, but I feel marginalized. How is this affecting Chesterfield County? Give me a valid reason, and you might have a buy-in.”
County Planning Director Andrew Gillies said the county will “try to put the most passive and useful light industrial use at this location.”
“The county is holding our feet to the fire,” Condlin said, adding that the company’s original access point was across from subdivisions located north of Marguerite Christian Elementary School.
“Chesterfield County did not recruit us,” Ward said, noting that the company had previously considered an automobile “vending machine” site in Henrico County. A Carvana vending machine site would not be allowed with the zoning on the South Chesterfield site, Condlin said.
In response to a question about conserving a Civil War-era earthworks on the property, Ward said the company did not plan to do that, but has had conversations with a couple of representatives from area historical societies. He said the company is trying to figure out what to do about mitigating the historical loss, including making a monetary donation, for example.
Ward said that 70 percent of the 184-acre site would potentially be developed, but areas with wetlands and steep slopes would not be. Condlin said the company plans an 80-foot buffer around the wetlands and a 40-foot buffer along I-95.
Ward said Carvana scheduled the community meeting because “we knew there was angst in the community.” A public hearing before the Planning Commission is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, in the Public Meeting Room at 10001 Iron Bridge Road.