On Monday, March 17, residents and New Kent Planning Commissioners spoke on the Liberty Landing subdivision proposal public hearing. The commission voted 8-0 (with one abstention) to forward the proposal with an unfavorable recommendation.

Increased traffic, insufficient commercial space, and property flooding are just a few of the reasons why the 100-acre Liberty Landing subdivision proposal got thumbs down from New Kent planning commissioners Monday night.

The commission voted 8-1, with one abstention from supervisor Tommy Tiller, to forward the subdivision proposal to the New Kent Board of Supervisors with an unfavorable recommendation. Five residents, as well as commissioners, voiced their concerns during a public hearing about the project.

“One thing I would like to comment on is my never-ending concern about the Route 60 and Route 33 interchange,” said Chairman Jack Chalmers. “It would be nice if we could get something done as we go along. What’s going to happen, I envision, is if this is approved, we already know we’re creating a bigger mess at that intersection. And then the next business that comes in is going to get stuck with building the intersection.”

Developers Boyd Homes and Bridgewater Crossing, Inc., are proposing the construction of a 100-acre mixed-use development along Pocahontas Trail, or Route 60, in Quinton across from the Five Lakes and Patriot's Landing subdivisions, near the Chickahominy River.

Eighty-eight acres of the property would have to be rezoned from business to R-3 Multi-Family Residential, while 4.6 acres of land would have to be rezoned from A-1 Agricultural to B-1 Business.

According to Bridgewater Crossing representatives, "Liberty Landing is the next step in the County's effort to develop the Bottom's Bridge area into a vibrant, walkable village…and [it] will encourage a further fill-in of commercial and institutional uses."

The proposal includes 40 acres of green space, 200,000 square feet of business/commercial area, and a total of 450 townhomes and apartments.

Aside from additional turn lanes, expanded medians, new walkways and paths, and water conservation measures, the applicants are also proffering:

•$4,000 per unit for schools and $500 per unit for fire/sheriff's office - for a total of $15,000 going toward schools. The original proposal proffered only $1,500.

•The donation of two acres and the construction of a new fire station. The original proposal only donated the two acres.

According to Boyds Homes, a fiscal impact analysis reported that the Liberty Landing project will return over $30 million (net) to the county over the next 20 years, generate $5.6 million in one-time water and sewer fees, pay over $2.7 million in proffers, and generate $1.5 million of net revenue to the county every year (after the project stabilizes).

Despite these figures, Quinton resident David Mepham expressed his concern about Route 60 flooding and the construction of property on the property.

“My concern about this whole thing is water runs downhill, and they call this Bottom’s Bridge for a reason,” he said.

“You’re going to put high density housing on the other side of the river? This doesn’t make sense,” Mepham added. “I see it as a safety concern and we shouldn’t be putting people in harm’s way."

District 4 Commissioner Richard Kotny, Jr. echoed Mepham’s comments.

“I like the concept, but I have some serious reservations about the layout of the houses,” Kotny said. “Heavy rains cause that whole area to become flooded, and when I look at that plan, I see that basically the bottom half of that’s not going to happen. What you’re going to find is that if you do put property there, you’re going to have to fill in a tremendous amount of backfill to make that property viable for any length of time.”

“The area that you’re in is notoriously lowlands and we’ve had backups for years, especially in the Chickahominy swamp area,” he added.

Tiller also noted that the 200,000 square feet of commercial space is not as much as it seems on paper.

“Food Lion, which is located near the proposed Liberty Landing property is 45,000 square feet and any Lowe’s is about 145,000 – 150,000 square feet,” said Tiller, who also pointed out that several other subdivision developers, including those of Kentland and Farms of New Kent, have developed one percent of the commercial space they proposed.

Several residents, including Patriot’s Landing homeowners John and Kim Moyer, questioned the need for more housing, considering the subdivisions and housing developments that have not built out, including Patriot’s Landing, Maidstone, and Rock Creek Villas.

“Unmet needs in this county are a hospital, assisted living, nursing homes, a freestanding library, and a hotel. Those are some unmet needs. An apartment complex is not my idea of an unmet need,” said John Moyer.

“Most of us, I’m sure over 50 percent of us, leave the county to work.  We do a lot of our retail services and have our doctors outside of this county,” he said. “[Having our] jobs, our retail services, and physicians [in New Kent County] might be a good step, versus trying to house thousands of people at our expense.”

The Board of Supervisors may review the Liberty Landing subdivision proposal at its May meeting.

Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.