After seven months of trying, Ironbridge Corner approved

After being considered by the planning commission twice, and the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors (BOS) six times, the conditional use request by Ironbridge Corner LC to build up to 100 apartments at the corner of Ironbridge Parkway (in front of Arbor Landing) and Iron Bridge Road, the BOS approved the case on a four to one vote. Chairman Dan Gecker was the lone Supervisor to take a stand and continue it through from the first hearing to the final approval.

Initially, school proffers was the stumbling block for Ironbridge Corner representative Carrie Coyner. Ms. Coyner argued that since most of the apartments would be two-bedroom and would pose very little impact on schools, her client should pay only $3,009 of the $8,942 typically paid in school proffers. Ironbridge Corner LC, in this case is looking to remove the age restriction on the property but the company also had to address the impact of students coming out of the development.

“Tonight in the case before you is an addition to the school proffers,” Coyner said during her presentation to the BOS. “We looked at the impact of two bedrooms or less in this type of project and it calculates out to .25 [students] per unit, so this evening we are offering the full cash proffer as it relates to that number of children.

Coyner continued that the total amount of cash proffers on the project is about $2 million. She said the two-bedroom restriction would be similar to what you would see in an age-restricted project, and we also proffered a club house and pool facilities but no playground.
“I do believe we are offering a case that does account for our impact. I do believe that it does give this board an opportunity to look at our impact on capital facilities,” Coyer said. “And I do believe that we are developing in a thoughtful location…”

As the case proceeded from November, 2011 until last week, planning staff recommended denying the case as did the planning commission. The Bermuda District Supervisor, as is customary, has the lead recommendation on the case and last week motioned to approve the case. But first the board listened to comments from the public.

“How can we have someone who represents this project who is supposed to represent the children of this county, but doesn’t want to pay the full proffers for those children,” said Bob Olsen, a persistent county political motivator. “Because if they don’t pay the full proffers, I, as a taxpayer, am paying for it. So if you accept this project tonight and take only half the proffers for schools, you’re going to have to go back to your citizens and say ‘does the applicant pay for the public facilities or do my citizens have to cover the cost.’”

“You talk about quality proffers, and as I look at the design criteria, three-quarters of the building could be vinyl,” said Dan Gecker, Chairman of the BOS addressing Coyner’s presentation to the board. “Are proffering brick or stone veneer on 40 percent of the front face?”
Coyner responded, “That would depend.” She said that there is an architectural review board in the community and it is doubtful that would be approved.

Gecker asked Coyner quoting from the proffers, “How many people actually build a project like this with only a 20-year shingle life?”
“It happens,” responded Coyner. Gecker rebutted, “It happens, but not too often.”

“We have discussed the double proffer issue and that we were going to change our proffer policy,” said Bermuda District Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle. “I really believe this countywide proffer mythodology is really hurting our infill areas.” She said all the builder can do is put in enough quality as to keep rents low. “The more proffers they have to pay the less quality that is going to be in there,” Jaeckle said.

“Ms. Coyner and I have been intimately involved with several apartment complexes,” Jaeckle said. “If you have one- and two-bedroom apartments, you have no problem in the community. Three-bedroom and isolated apartments are really the ones that are making the impacts.” Jaeckle said that the proffers offered and the impacts on the community and public facilities were appropriate and she recommended approval.

Gecker concluded that the developer had gone from a building that would answer to the architectural review committee that would assure quality to a project that is going to be built on a very visible corner in your district to a building that does not have to meet any real quality standards.
“I’d be a lot more comfortable if the quality products proffered were actually assuring quality,” Gecker said.

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