Chesterfield County Planning Commission recommends approval of first Special Focus Area plan

Chesterfield County

This image shows how parts of the Rockwood community could look after redevelopment, allowing for more pedestrian-friendly areas in what is currently a high-vehicle-traffic area. (Photo: Chesterfield County)

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The Chesterfield County Planning Commission is recommending approval of the Rockwood Special Focus Area (SFA) plan by the Board of Supervisors to provide flexibility for redevelopment and private investment.

An SFA is a long-range plan providing detailed development guidance to areas undergoing or having a high potential for change. This would be the first of its kind in Chesterfield County.

Department of Planning Senior Planner Jim Noxon said that the area is ripe for new development.

“Overall, the area lacks a true sense of place or something that attracts you to keep coming back and keep spending your time and your money there,” he said.

The Rockwood SFA would provide guidance to change that.

“Planning has really seen a need here to reverse years and years of a development pattern that doesn’t seem to be working any more,” Noxon said.

This slide from the Feb. 16 Planning Commission meeting shows the differences between the existing land use plan for the Rockwood community and what is being proposed. (Photo: Chesterfield County)

The plan encourages a multitude of uses in the area centered around Route 360 and Courthouse Road, which encompasses 673 acres. But the is goal to create greater compatibility among each usage, such as residential and commerical.

Noxon said that previous plans for the Rockwood community were ambiguous and included several mixed-use ordinances that wouldn’t be sensible.

“We’re hoping to correct a lot of that,” he said. “The new plan really looks to simplify desired land uses, and we’ve based them on roadways and the geography.”

The Rockwood SFA contains approximately 426,000 square feet of commercial space. While the plan would not change existing zoning and uses, it would allow for redevelopment consideration that is centered on the major intersection of Route 360 and Courthouse Road, making the area more pedestrian-friendly.

The plan suggests redevelopment in several phases, which Noxon said could serve as a guide for the next 20 to 50 years.

The County has offered several avenues for community outreach to collect feedback on the proposals. Noxon said that one issue raised was a concern about an increase in crime rates as the area is redeveloped to attract more people.

“As we get higher quality development, I would think that would be a deterrent to crime,” he said. “We see more care and ownership by not only the County, but also real estate investors, people who want to have high quality projects that are going to take care and maintain their properties, and that should deter criminal activity.”

Overall, Noxon reported that community members said they look forward to improvements to the Rockwood area encompassed in the plan.

“I love the vision,” Planning Commission Chair and Clover Hill District representative Gloria Freye said. “But there’s enough specific strategy in there that if a landowner of one of the shopping centers sees this vision and sees what the County can see, the potential there, and the County’s willingness to engage in partnering with them to make this vision really happen, something could be happening in five years because you’ve taken the strengths of the area [and] you’ve built on those.”

With the Planning Commission’s approval, the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the Rockwood SFA on April 28.

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