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Waynesboro residents speak out against planned development off Hopeman Parkway

smith PUD Waynesboro conceptual plan
Conceptual plan

A public hearing for a planned 400-unit development off Hopeman Parkway drew the biggest crowd that Waynesboro Planning Commission member Will Flory said he’s seen in his short time as chair.

Twelve residents spoke out during the public hearing with concerns for a rezoning request that would pave the way for a planned unit development on the property that was previously home to the Augusta County District Home.

The public hearing was to address the potential change in the zoning for the 147-acre property from single family residential large lots to a planned unit development, or PUD, managed as an HOA where every homeowner belongs to a homeowners association.

In addition to the proposed residential units, the developer’s plans include 60 acres of public park land and three-quarters of a mile of greenway. The developer, Stockbridge OPCO LLC, also has proposed additional improvements that might include a playground, picnic areas or community gardens.

Speakers from Waynesboro and Augusta County expressed concern over noise, traffic and conservation with the proposed development. In addition, one resident expressed frustration that the rezoning seems like a “done deal” and that nearby residents were only given a two-week notice to comment even though the city has been working on the project for much longer.

City Planner Alisande Tombarge made a presentation at the May 21 planning commission meeting on behalf of city staff and said the proposed project essentially checked all the boxes in being consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.

The property, Tombarge said, was intended to be a gift for the city to use as a park for passive recreation and conservation land. However, the city, she said, has concerns about the maintenance of the property given its size and also deterioration and potential liability of the old district home building that remains on the property.

Originally, Sheri Smith of the Sheri Legendre Smith Revocable Trust, has been named trustee of the property until her death. In 2023, Tombarge said, the city entered into a memorandum of understanding to examine the development potential of the property including the removal of the deteriorating building.

At the April planning commission meeting, there were questions about the impact of a 400-unit development on the local public school system, she said.

Tombarge reported that William Perry Elementary School was operating well below capacity, and while closer, Kate Collins Middle School and Waynesboro High School were also below the preferred class sizes.

Tombarge also said the Parks and Recreation Department for the city had no concerns about the plans.

“Staff does believe that this park would be a significant benefit to this area of the city,” Tombarge said. “You’ve got several new and planned subdivisions coming in, being built, recently completed. They’ll have sidewalk networks that will be connected, and this would be the only park within reasonable walking distance for these residents.”

“This will be a big step in addressing the area-wide housing unit shortage,” she added.

A traffic analysis related to the development has been sent to the Virginia Department of Transportation for review. The planning commission decided to move forward with the public hearing but then table the rezoning request until its June meeting giving VDOT more time to weigh in on the traffic report.

Scott Mares, owner of Heritage Hill Bed & Breakfast on Sherwood Avenue, said that customers to his establishment love the sweeping views and peace around the property, and traffic and noise could potentially put him out of business.

“We’ve had repeat customers come to our business and tell us the reason they love our place is the sweeping views of nature, the mountains and the peacefulness that our property and location possesses. However, over the last five years, traffic noise has progressively worsened in our area … and the peacefulness that once captivated us, and was key to our decision to purchase this property, is rapidly disappearing,” Mares said.

“We bought our property here because it would provide guests with a peaceful getaway and rolling views of rolling hills and mountainsides where guests could get away from the big cities. They don’t want to come visit another place like they just left behind for the weekend and have to listen to pimped out exhaust systems and loud motorcycles like we are now hearing on Hopeman.”

Mares said the city has a unique opportunity to choose to scale back and say no to developing this property.

“We will not be running a business for much longer in Waynesboro if the natural beauty of Waynesboro is replaced by unregulated, huge areas of high-density housing,” he said.

Stephen Strosnider also spoke out against the planned development saying, in part, that the city’s logo includes the motto “Where Good Nature Comes Naturally.” He said the city promotes its river, greenway and quality of life, and the planned unit development would detract from that.

“If Waynesboro wants to be a bedroom community for commuters working in Charlottesville or Harrisonburg, more townhouses are the way to go,” Strosnider said. “We could change that the town motto to ‘Close to I-64 for an Easy Commute to Charlottesville.’

“But that’s not what our community wants,” he said. “If Waynesboro is looking to attract families to make this their long-term home, to contribute to the community, to be citizens, to raise their kids here, single-family housing is a better solution.

“The planning decisions you’re going to make today are going to impact Waynesboro for a long time.

“Stockbridge isn’t going to be here five years from now, much less 20 years from now, but we and the other citizens that oppose it will be.”

The planning commission tabled the matter until its June 18 meeting.

“We value the feedback that we get from our staff, and we value the feedback we get from the community,” said Flory after the public hearing. “We hear you, and part of what tabling allows us to do is not hide this development but to collect the information that we need and staff needs to make a good recommendation on this matter.”

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Waynesboro explores 400-unit housing development on land intended for public park
Published date: April 30, 2024 | 2:58 pm

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.