CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — On Wednesday, the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors approved 544 new homes across two new suburban projects. But a staff report warned the board that all of the schools serving the developments are projected to be over capacity by 2026.
Beach Road Infill
The smaller of the two projects is a 270-acre continuation of previous developments south of Hull Street Road. The long, narrow strip of housing is aimed at eventually connecting Brandy Oaks, an existing neighborhood to the north and west, with Beach Road to the south.
While the project is larger by acreage than Newmarket South — the other development approved Wednesday — it contains fewer homes as a result of the relatively large lot sizes, which average just over an acre.
County staff were initially optimistic about the proposal’s public reception on Wednesday, with one saying, “Several residents spoke in favor of this proposal, which is something I haven’t seen in years.”
Indeed, Courtney Lowitch, representing the Brandy Oaks Homeowner’s Association, spoke in support of the proposal, despite some reservations on the case.
But Wes Palmer, a resident of a neighborhood to the South, said the plan was environmentally unsound.
“Houses in Donegal Glen and surrounding neighborhoods were strategically designed around critical wetlands,” he said. “This neighborhood would be built on top of them.”
Palmer also raised concerns over the overcrowding of nearby schools, saying his daughter’s elementary school was already using trailers.
That concern was reflected in the staff report, which showed that Grange Hall Elementary currently enrolls 886 students and has a maximum capacity of 917. The report also projects 32 new elementary schoolers would join as a result of the development — enough to push it over capacity even if no other development occurs in the entire school zone.
The local high school, Manchester, is already at 107% capacity, and the middle school is expected to be over capacity by 2026.
But while Grange Hall Elementary is slated for a replacement under the upcoming bond referendum that voters will consider in November, no improvements to middle or high school capacity are planned for the area.
Instead, the staff report simply notes that staff are “evaluating alternative solutions and exploring strategies for addressing capacity, to include redistricting, program relocation or constructing a new facility.”
The other proposal on Wednesday’s docket was a 394-home suburb just off of Otterdale Road and to the North of the Swift creek Reservoir.
As part of the developer’s proffers, they agreed to make improvements along Otterdale Road, including widening a portion of the road and installing a high-water warning system at the crossing over Swift Creek.
The development also faces the same school capacity issues as the Beach Road infill, with Midlothian High School already at 101% enrollment and the developments 142 projected elementary students more than enough to push Old Hundred Elementary over its limit.
However, unlike the other development, this area is expected to get two new schools under the proposed bond referendum. The projects, currently known as Western 360 Elementary and High School, have not yet been sited, and will depend on county residents endorsing the bond referendum this Fall.