RE: 20SN0526 Court House Landing aka ‘Project Corner’ By Mike Uzel, member of Chesterfield Citizens United Two community meetings by the developer and Chesterfield... Does transparency really matter?
Cartoon by Mark Miranda

RE: 20SN0526 Court House Landing aka ‘Project Corner’

By Mike Uzel, member of Chesterfield Citizens United

Two community meetings by the developer and Chesterfield County have been held concerning a proposed mixed-use development at the corner of Route 10 and Courthouse Road, at the entrance ramp to 288, one on Sept. 23, 2019 and one on Nov. 21, 2019.  At the first meeting there was no mention of Chesterfield Economic Development Authority (EDA) involvement in the project.  The next day, Phil Lohr, a Chesterfield Citizens United member, discovered in the Planning file that approximately half (59 acres) of the proposed development was Chesterfield County land transferred to the EDA by the Board of Supervisors in April 2019.  Since then, we have tried via FOIA and emails to the county, the EDA, and the developer to find out the details of what the “deal” is between the developer and the EDA, without success.

During both community meetings, the developer spoke highly of the road improvements and benefits he would provide to the community in the form of proffers, including widening Courthouse Road to four lanes in front of the development (approximately half of which is already four lanes), adding a traffic light in front of the development on Courthouse Road (for access to the development), adding turn lanes on Courthouse Rd. into the development, and adding a traffic circle at the end of the frontage to the development on Courthouse Road.  Beyond that point (in front of O.B. Gates Elementary School), the road would stay as a two-lane road.  

Note:  The county/EDA property involved in the project includes all the road frontage on Courthouse Roa (approximately one half-mile worth).  Without the 59 acres, he would have no project. 

At the second meeting  Nov. 21, there was again no mention by the developer or county officials present of EDA/county land involved, nor any discussion of any agreement, contract, option, or payment for this land by the developer to the EDA or the County.  So, I announced at the meeting to the public in attendance that this land is indeed involved, and we are in the dark about it.  I asked any official there to please disclose details about any agreement between the developer and the county or EDA concerning this land, so that the public could make an informed decision to support this arrangement or not.  No one was willing to disclose anything.  I was referred to Garrett Hart of the Chesterfield Economic Development Department, whom we had already FOIA’d for the information.  The request was denied, due to “ongoing negotiations” with the developer.  I emailed him again on Nov. 21, with cc to county officials and the developer’s attorney. 

After my public announcement at the meeting, the developer proceeded to say that the proffers for the road improvements on Courthouse Road are part of the “price” of the county/EDA land.  Such improvements, he said, total up to $10 million, plus he stated the land is being purchased at an undisclosed price.  Note:  These road improvements would be required of the developer for his project to work and would need to be proffered regardless of the EDA land involvement.  We still do not know the agreed-upon price for the land. 

I have been in real estate for 30-plus years, most of that as an associate broker.  I am not an appraiser.  One of the questions I asked in writing of the developer, the county, and the EDA is: “Has an appraisal been done on the county/EDA property?”  No answer yet.  My limited comparable market analysis would put the value of this 59-acre property with approximately one half-mile of road frontage on Courthouse Road – including the corner of Iron Bridge Rd. (Route 10), at the entrance ramp to Route 288, directly across from the Chesterfield County Court House, and adjacent to O.B. Gates Elementary School – at over $22,000,000 (twenty-two million dollars).    

The questions remain:

  1. What is the “deal” between Chesterfield County/EDA and the developer?
  2. Is the “deal” in the best interest of the taxpayer, who in effect would subsidize the project by providing 59 acres (about half) of the land?
  3. Is the county/EDA now ready to provide similar taxpayer resources to other developers for their private development projects?
  4. Why is it all secret?