Rezoning could mean expansion of housing, businesses in Hopewell
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Jul 12, 2013, 14:02
HOPEWELL — At the council meeting on Tuesday night, the members of city council took votes that will expand areas of downtown Hopewell and possible create a new use for the Bluffs property.
The Bluffs property has sat undeveloped in the city for over three years. The 12-acre site was once home to 104 multi-family units. Council purchased the property in July of 2007 from F&W Management, which at the time was part of Section 8 housing. They decided to eliminate the property from that site.
F&W Management sent out a notice to the tenants the Section 8 contract would be discontinued and all the lease holders were given $500 in relocation costs.
Once the residents were relocated, after a year, the city issued a demolition contract and the buildings were torn down. It was soon after the city issued bids for development in August of 2008.
Soon after, City Council had agreed to move forward with Associated Contracting Service Inc. in 2009 for the company to have 180 days to come up with a development proposal. Then the state of the economy changed, and so did a future for the lot.
At a work session earlier this year, the Planning Commission presented a plan to council for some possible uses for that property.
One suggestion from the Planning Commission was to contact the Richmond Chapter of Urban Land Institute regarding the use of their Technical Assistance Panel program to assist with the comprehensive plan and development plans for the lot.
The Planning Commission told council the UPI study would cost about $10,000.
City Manager Dr. Edwin Daley said prior to the meeting in January that the best use of the property would be single-family residential.
“The city has more multi-family housing than it can handle at this time,” Daley said. “We’re already at our capacity. We do not need any more multi-family housing ... recreation or housing. Those would be two practical uses. And if you’re doing housing, I would make it single-family residential.”
Now, months after the presentation from the Planning Commission in January, council did just that and voted to refer to the Planning Commission for a resolution of rezoning the Bluffs property to single-family housing units.
Vice Mayor Jasmine Gore expressed concern before the vote, inquiring as to why the vote was being taken before a plan was in the hands of council.
Daley addressed her questions and said that interest has been shown in the property.
“There is someone interested in the property,” Daley said. “...They’re interested in having this property. Just so you know, before it goes to sale, that is going to be used for single-family residential and they have to come back with a subdivision plan.”
Daley said rezoning the Bluffs property also meant that council would be selling the land on the terms of just being used for single-family homes and if there would be any other usage for the property, it would have to be changed and voted on by council first.
A motion was made by Councilor Roosevelt Edwards to have the Planning Commission develop a resolution of rezoning the Bluffs. The motion was seconded by Councilor Wayne Walton with all councilors voting yes to the motion.
Council also voted during the meeting on Tuesday evening to extend the former Copeland site, which is located in Downtown Hopewell, to the river and change the zoning from residential medium density to the downtown central business district.
Currently, council owns the 9.6 acres. The expansion and rezoning recommendation of the property comes from a June meeting of the Planning Commission, in which a 5-to-0 vote was held to approve the expansion.
Before the vote was taken on Tuesday night, a public hearing was held in which, Barbara Parker, a resident living next to the property, was the only speaker.
She expressed her disdain for not only extending the property, but making it part of downtown Hopewell.
“I don’t go downtown,” Parker said. “I don’t like the area and I don’t want to see it come close to me. ... I’m selfish. I like my property, people don’t bother me. I’m really concerned about what might go in there.”
While she asked council what was proposed for that area, her questions went unanswered at the meeting. The motion was made by Walton and seconded by Gore to rezone and amend the property, which is located at 205 Appomattox Street.
Before the vote, Councilor Christina Luman-Bailey spoke out against the expansion, noting that if the property comes that close to the river there should be a protection in the proposed use of the property for a park, and have the upper part of the site used for businesses.
“If we approve this we could put some caveat to divide it into three sections, a park, recreational use and the upper area for the property,” Bailey said.
In the end, the rezoning and expansion of the site passed, with Bailey being the only councilor to vote against the proposal.