The short discussion of county policy during last month’s planning commission meeting on lifting age restrictions on a development on Iron Bridge Road at Arbor Landing will be addressed by the Board of Supervisors on Feb 22. If the age restriction, 55 years or older, is lifted it would require that the developer, Ironbridge Corner LC pay the schools portion of the proffer promised when the property was zoned in 2007.
Carrie Coyner, who represented the landowner in this case and is also a school board member, argued that there would not be any impact on public facilities, which includes schools. Ms. Coyner said that the rezoning would not put a strain on schools because the schools that would be affected are currently under capacity.
It has been a county policy that developments that add school aged children to the system should pay a proffer (promise) to help offset the cost. The schools division has calculated that the change in zoning would cost almost $9,000 per unit.
“Tonight you have before you your first case dealing with one of those policies, which is the proffer policy,” Coyner said. “I disagree with the policy.”
Cynthia Richardson, director of planning for Chesterfield schools, said trailers at the schools (currently two at Ecoff Elementary 14 at Salem Middle and five at Bird High schools) were being used for itinerate programs and other programs within the schools.”Ms. Richardson added that the school division is not concerned over just the possible impact of just the Ironbridge development but that of a wider range of approved developments that would also feed into the schools in concerned.
According to Richardson, the added impact from the approximately 49 students would contribute to overcrowding of Ecoff Elementary, Salem Middle and Bird High schools.
Disagreeing with Richardson, Coyner said that the schools were under capacity and that trailers at Salem Middle School were only there because of construction going on at the school.
Coyner told the commission that the Ironbridge property is a mixed used property, which contains the recently built Waffle House. She added that if you look at this case without the school portion of the proffer there is no change, so the difference between the current request and the current zoning put in place in 2007 would be only minor.
Coyner said that the current cash proffer policy does not tell you what a minor change is.
“It’s less to those [planning commission] who have been appointed than those who have been elected [Board of Supervisors] to look at a case on an individual basis and decide if that change is minor,” Coyer said. She said that her case was not the same as the burden put on schools by an individual coming in and building a new home.
New Bermuda Planning Commissioner Dale Patton said, “I’m in a bit of a quandary because it’s not my job to create policy.” He said that considering his neophyte status on the commission that he would ask for input from other commissioners. After considering input he made a motion and the commission voted to deny the request to change the conditions of the zoning.
The Ironbridge case will proceed to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation from planning staff and the planning commission to deny the case.