On Sept. 22, the Chesterfield County Planning Commission voted 4-0 to recommend approval of a request to rezone about 40 acres from commercial C-5 to commercial C-4 with a conditional use permit to allow condominiums at Route 1 and Willis Road.
The development, which is called Bellwood Commons, would be on land where an outdoor flea market has been and previously was a drive-in theater.
There was some public opposition to the request, including from Rene Eldred and former county planning employee Jim Bowling, but Gib Sloan, the planning commissioner from the Bermuda District, held sway.
Jeff Geiger, representative of the developers, said he’s had a lot of conversations with the community, and Sloan said the current plan is the sixth or seventh version.
Geiger said he hopes the development will encourage development of property east of Interstate 95. He noted there will be a multi-use trail built on the property that will tie into a bicycle path from Petersburg to Ashland.
Eldred, vice president of the Route 1 Association, said the group voted against the project. “It just doesn’t meet our interpretation of what should be there,” she said. “Just putting anything there is not going to give the spur we need.”
“This is the biggest piece of property on the highway,” she said. “In 15 to 20 minutes, you can get anywhere in the Richmond region from there.”
“It’s not bad, but it’s not great,” she said of the project.
Eldred said the community association and the county have looked at developing the site for 30 years. “We need economic development into that area,” she said, noting the project calls for developing 6,000 square feet of retail and a gas station.
She asked the commissioners to “coax the developers to do a little more. It needs to go back to the drawing board.”
Bowling said he spent much of his career working on the county’s comprehensive plan. “I’m here to express concern that it doesn’t comply with the comprehensive plan,” he said, referring to 600-plus housing units and a gas station.
He said the case should be deferred.
Steve Meadows said he heard about “if” there is commercial development to come, adding that he doesn’t like ifs.
Kim Marble of the Route 1 Association for Revitalization (ROAR) said, “This was the crown jewel of the special area plan.”
Geiger said it could take six or eight years to develop the commercial aspects of the project, adding it depends on how fast the condos sell.
He called the project a consensus between the developer, citizens and the county.
Referring to The Jane residential development in Chester, Geiger said, “We’d like this to be the exact same catalyst as The Jane was” to commercial development.
In his remarks prior to making a motion for approval, Sloan said the project could spur $250 million to $500 million of economic impact.
“It is a negotiation,” he said. “The applicant has been very accommodating in the redesign.”
Sloan called Bellwood Commons “one of the highest quality projects that I’ve ever had to vote on … We are in very uncertain economic times. I see no reason to defer the case.”
In his motion, he asked for county staff to present some ideas to the county supervisors for adjacent commercial development when they consider approval of the case.
Ficke Park approved
In another case, the planning commission voted 4-0 to recommend approval a park on 11.3 acres on the west side of Conifer Road.
Stuart Connock, chief of park planning, construction and design, said the park would be a great addition to the Dale District and support what’s going on at Beulah Elementary School.
“It’s really nice,” said Dale planning commissioner LeQuan Hylton.