CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — New details have been released for Chesterfield County’s ambitious plan to transform a tract of land west of the Swift Creek Reservoir billed as “Upper Magnolia Green.”
The proposed development plan would transform the area — which is currently zoned for agriculture and large, single-family homes — to a high-tech industrial center with up to 600 new homes.
The project — split into eastern and western portions — goes hand in hand with a planned extension of Powhite Parkway from its current outlet near Brandermill to a junction with Hull Street Road, south of Swift Creek Reservoir. That extension has been in the works since the late ’80s, but never gained momentum.
Deputy County Administrator Jesse Smith told attendees at a community meeting last week that this time, the two projects would go hand in hand, “Certainly we do anticipate the completion of the Powhite Parkway will be necessary for complete development of Upper Magnolia Green West.”
The Needs of a “Quiet Community”
While county officials have enthusiastically endorsed the rezoning effort and planned development, community members who attended last week’s meeting expressed their reservations.
“When we moved out to Moseley, we moved out there with a purpose, an idea that we would have this quiet community,” said Cammie Bennet.
According to Bennet, she and other residents of the neighborhoods just south of Magnolia Green are concerned about the traffic impact a large development would have on their roads.
Bennet and other speakers said they and their children often ride bikes along Otterdale Road, but would be concerned about safety if traffic increased.
Residents also spoke out against the idea of bringing manufacturing to the rural Upper Magnolia West parcel. Under the county’s proposal for a “technology village,” the area would be set aside for high-tech manufacturing and logistics.
According to Planning Department Manager Stephen Donahoe, that could include computer equipment and plastics manufacturing, data centers, pharmaceutical research and warehouses.
Westerly Resident Anita Spain said the plan conflicted with the reason she chose to live in this rural corner of the county.
“I certainly don’t want to have manufacturing of plastic products or a warehouse… because I moved there for tranquility, for quality of life,” Spain said.
The planned extension of Powhite Parkway has also drawn opposition, with a petition circulating titled “#SaveSwiftCreekBerryFarm.” The petition claims the planned route of Powhite Parkway would take it straight through the “pick-your-own” Swift Creek Berry Farm.
How Light is Light Manufacturing?
Under the county’s proposal, Upper Magnolia West would be zoned as a hybrid of the I-1 and O-2 zoning regulations, permitting light manufacturing and corporate offices. Under existing county ordinances, that means that in terms of industrial development, only less-intensive manufacturing would be permitted.
For example, the development could include a workshop to assemble furniture from processed wood and paints, but could not include a sawmill to cut boards from raw wood or a facility to produce the paint itself.
“What we wanted to do is use the least intensive zoning district,” Donahoe assured Spain and other concerned speakers.
The proposal for the eastern portion would also set aside 200 acres for public use. Preliminary plans shared by the county show an elementary, middle and high school, shared sports fields, public parks and a public library.
While the community meeting lasted over an hour, a number of residents complained that the county had made a poor effort to contact those living in nearby communities who would be affected by the massive development.
While county officials said they directly contacted those they were legally required to – anyone living directly adjacent to the zoning parcel – many speakers at the community meeting called on the county to slow down the rezoning process, contact everyone in the area and allow for more public input and control.
8News asked county officials whether further public meetings would be held, but they did not respond before publication.