WINCHESTER – City council wants more information before deciding whether to approve a zoning change that would pave the way for the construction of an age-restricted subdivision next to the Shenandoah Valley Museum.
Meanwhile, neighbors of the proposed project, called The Preserve at Meadow Branch, continue to protest against the development, just as they did almost a decade ago when the museum wanted to build a network of trails to through part of the property which is now being considered for high-end housing for residents 55 and over.
Elevate Homes of Williamsport, Maryland, which specializes in building communities for active seniors, wants to build 74 single-family homes on the site, which would require extending Jefferson Street and Nester Drive and having them serve as main corridors. of the subdivision. According to documents submitted to the Winchester Planning and Zoning Department, the developer would build the extensions and the streets would remain public.
Eight different house models – each including a two-car garage – would be featured in the proposed community, with each house priced at $ 500,000 or more.
The 28.26 acre site that would house the subdivision is made up of two plots: 20.26 acres owned by the Glass-Glen Burnie Foundation, which is a private organization that supports the MSV, and 8 acres owned by the Bridgeforth family of Winchester . Both plots are zoned Residential Low Density (LR), a designation that would allow Elevate to develop up to 79 residential lots on the site as of right. However, Elevate wants to add a Planned Unit Development (PUD) overlay to the LR zoning so that homes and yards can be grouped more closely. While this would reduce the number of building plots from 79 to 74, it would provide additional space for roads and community amenities, including a dog park, lodge, fire pit and shared garden.
At Tuesday night’s board meeting, more than a dozen people living near the proposed development said The Preserve at Meadow Branch would have a detrimental effect on their homes. Their main concerns, which they have consistently shared with city officials since the proposal was first presented to the Winchester Planning Commission in early October, relate to stormwater drainage, Jefferson’s capacity and Nester to manage the increase in traffic, the developer’s franchise in discussing the potential impacts on the neighborhood and the loss of approximately 10 acres of woodland that is currently home to wildlife including deer, turkeys, coyotes and foxes.
Despite assurances from Elevate and city officials that all concerns will be factored into the site and subdivision plans that will be prepared if the PUD overlay is approved, residents say it is too risky to approve rezoning based on project designs that do not exist. .
Some of the neighbors’ arguments echo comments made between March 2011 and November 2013, when the MSV was developing a trail system on its Amherst Street property and considering using the 20.26 acres adjacent to the museum to expand walking trails. . According to a Nov. 17 email from Museum Director and CEO Dana Hand Evans to City Councilor Richard Bell, which was included in the documentation for Tuesday night’s council meeting, neighbors at the time objected to the trails. be so close to home.
âThe easiest thing to do was remove the trails from the property line to their current location,â Evans said in the email. As a result, the trail system that opened on the museum grounds a year ago does not encroach on the 20.26 acres adjacent to the MSV.
Some council members reminded neighbors on Tuesday that the LR zoning already in place for the Foundation and Bridgeforth properties would allow Elevate to develop an age-restricted subdivision without PUD overlay. In fact, a development by entitlement could include up to five houses more than what Elevate is offering under the PUD application and, if everything is built in accordance with the zoning code, the city council would have very little say. to say about how Elevate tackles issues like stormwater drainage. and landscaping.
“If the developer decides to go to the right, it’s not in our hands,” said Mayor and Chairman David Smith. “If the board doesn’t have control of this PUD, we can’t hold them in the fire.”
Not everyone on the board agreed. Councilor Evan Clark, for example, said he understands the possible ramifications of a development by right, but cannot support Elevate’s PUD request because no plan has been presented to show how the The company will preserve the integrity of neighboring properties.
Deputy Mayor John Hill moved that Elevate’s PUD request be approved, but his motion died for lack of a second.
Vice-Chairman Kim Herbstritt then brought forward a motion to postpone the zoning change until the next board meeting on December 14, as Elevate had not provided documentation on how the association of owners of The Preserve at Meadow Branch and on the amount that would be spent on the annual maintenance of the property. According to Winchester zoning codes, this information must be submitted as part of the PUD process.
Herbstritt’s motion was seconded by Clark and unanimously approved by council, meaning Elevate has until the next council meeting on December 14 to present this information to the city.
Mayor and Chairman of Council David Smith, Vice President Kim Herbstritt, Deputy Mayor John Hill and members Les Veach, Evan Clark, Corey Sullivan, Phillip Milstead, Richard Bell and Judy McKiernan attended the city council meeting and at the working session on Tuesday evening at Rouss town hall.