This week in county government; Supes to consider changes to Zion Town Center; PC to consider more residential development in Lake Anna Growth Area; News roundup
Engage Louisa is a nonpartisan newsletter that keeps folks informed about Louisa County government. We believe our community is stronger and our government serves us better when we increase transparency, accessibility, and engagement.
This week in county government: public meetings, Feb. 6 through Feb. 11
For the latest information on county meetings including public meetings of boards, commissions, authorities, work groups, and internal county committees, click here. (Note: Louisa County frequently schedules internal committee/work group meetings after publication time. Check the county’s website for the most updated information).
Monday, February 6
Tuesday, February 7
Cutalong II Development Authority, Cutalong Clubhouse, 978 New Bridge Road, Mineral, 9 am.
Wednesday, February 8
James River Water Authority, Morris Room, Fluvanna County Administration Building, 132 Main Street, Palmyra, 9 am. (agenda packet)
Thursday, February 9
Additional information about Louisa County’s upcoming public meetings is available here.
Interested in taking your talents to one of the county’s numerous boards and commissions? Find out more here including which boards have vacancies and how to apply.
Amid concerns about water, supervisors to consider request for more dwellings at Zion
The Louisa County Board of Supervisors on Monday night could clear the way for more townhomes at Zion Crossroads amid concerns about the area’s water supply.
Supervisors are scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote on Emerson-Roper Companies, LLC’s request to add 124 dwellings at Zion Town Center, a Planned Unit Development slated for 113 acres at the end of Camp Creek Parkway behind Walmart (tmp 52-12-4). The development has already been approved for 599 units, a combination of single-family detached homes, townhomes and apartments, and nearly 275,000-square feet of commercial space.
Emerson-Roper has contracted to buy the project’s 90-acre residential component from Zions Town Center, LLC, the entity that, in 2019, won supervisors’ approval to rezone the property for mixed-use development. The Chesterfield-based company wants to put its own spin on the residential section, requesting amendments to the PUD’s proffers and master plan to up the number of dwellings to 723, tweak the community’s layout and design, and focus more heavily on townhomes.
Emerson-Roper, developer of The Highlands, Chester Village Green, and other communities south of Richmond, brands its proposed changes as upgrades that would diversify the housing supply in the county’s fastest growing area.
“There’s a lot of single-family detached homes in Louisa already. We’d like to create that middle market housing opportunity. We believe townhouses provide us with that opportunity not only for young people finishing their education and looking to buy their first home, but also the opportunity for somebody who is an empty nester and wants to downsize,” Emerson-Roper representative Jeffrey Geiger said at a community meeting last March. “We believe this particular design is more attractive to a wider segment of the market.”
Specifically, the developer would increase the number of townhomes from 99 to 275, decrease the number of single-family detached homes from 164 to 112, and maintain the number of apartments at 336 albeit with a revamped building design. The project could reach full buildout within the next decade, according to Emerson-Roper.
While the developer intends to add density, the project would maintain the 30 percent open space, roughly 34 acres, included in the original proposal. That’s accomplished, in part, by more compact building design that replaces a cluster of 14 walk-up apartment buildings with two fully enclosed elevator-serviced structures. The rental apartments are expected to include gathering spaces, a pool, and gym.
Emerson-Roper’s goal, according to Geiger, is to build a walkable residential community with ample green space that’s in proximity to restaurants and other service-oriented businesses. He’s said the project matches the vision articulated in the county’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which advocates for dense mixed-use development in targeted growth areas that protect the county’s rural areas from sprawl.
Community members have expressed a range of opinions about the project with some concerned that more residential development would clog roads, crowd schools, and tax emergency services and others contending that additional rooftops would finally deliver the commercial amenities they crave like a new grocery store and more dining options.
But a familiar issue that has long sparked controversy around development at Zion has emerged as perhaps the most pressing concern: the water supply in the ultra-deep wells that service the area.
Louisa County’s long-term plan for supplying water to Zion isn’t ultra-deep wells but a pipeline to the James River that, when complete, will channel millions of gallons of water to development along the Interstate 64 corridor. The multi-million-dollar project has been more than a decade in the making and it’s currently winding its way through the state and federal permitting process. Economic Development Director Andy Wade told the Planning Commission last month that the pipeline could be complete as soon as late 2025 or early 2026.
But, for now, the burgeoning development at Zion does rely on wells, several of which lie in the Green Springs National Historic Landmark District just to its north. The capacity of the aquifer that feeds those wells has long been a point of contention between county and state officials, who say there’s sufficient water to support current development, and residents of the historic district, who argue new businesses and dwellings are guzzling water that they rely on for their homes and farms.
During the Planning Commission’s public hearing in November, Steve Lucas, vice president of Historic Green Springs Inc., a land preservation group that has feuded with the county for decades over development in the area, questioned Geiger’s contention that there’s adequate water to support Emerson-Roper’s plan. Geiger said at a public meeting in March that the developer obtained a study from Dewberry Engineering that shows there’s enough water for its proposal and additional economic development at Zion, noting that the county plans to tap two additional wells. (The county released plans to tap the wells in May). Lucas asked Geiger to produce the study.
“As I look at the records from the Louisa County Water Authority, I see the water use going up and I see the water levels in the monitoring wells going down. The water is coming out of our historic district, and we are very concerned about that,” Lucas said.
In response, Geiger reiterated that Dewberry found there’s adequate water. But he said there are efforts to safeguard Zion’s water supply as the county awaits water from the James. He pointed to a proffer that Emerson-Roper maintained, first agreed to during the property’s 2019 rezoning, that stipulates that public water is available on a “first come, first serve” basis. The Board of Supervisors enacted a policy that year to cap water usage from the Zion wells at 75 percent of their capacity as determined by VDH. So, if demand for water reaches that threshold, per the policy, the county will curtail its sale to new development.
In December, the county released a study from Dewberry, dated May 20, 2021, that analyzed the water supply with respect to the 599-unit proposal. The study states that the wells, under their current capacity limit, don’t have adequate supply to support the development’s residential component.
The wells are permitted to pump 587,520 gallons per day, according to the Virginia Department of Health, and, as of May 2021, pumped about 186,300 gallons per day. But at peak demand, the wells used about 415,000 gallons, leaving roughly 172,520 in excess capacity, per the study.
The study says that the 599-unit development would require, on average, 179,700 gallons of water per day and more than 395,340 gallons at peak demand. The latter figure would push the wells beyond their current limit, leaving a potential deficit of more than 222,000 gallons on days when water use is highest, according to the study.
The analysis concludes that “the existing water system currently has capacity available to support 359 of the 599 units planned for the Zion Town Center development.”
The study points to several ways the Louisa County Water Authority could potentially expand the water supply in the near term including tapping two additional wells and acquiring water from Fluvanna. The study states that the new wells could supply enough water for the 599 dwellings, contending that they could pump roughly 118,000 gallons per day and 250,000 gallons per day, respectively.
The study also notes that its analysis '‘is based on current conditions and there’s no guarantee that the capacity will remain available based on other development occurring simultaneously.” The study doesn’t contemplate the water needs of the proposed 723-unit development.
In a December memo, Pam Baughman, executive director of LCWA, noted that the authority’s system currently uses about 35 percent of its daily pumping capacity, or roughly 205,000 gallons, but it has sold more than 40 percent of that capacity. She stated that LCWA plans to bring two additional wells online that draw from the same aquifer—the wells will add 204,800 gallons per day in capacity, per VDH—and that she has reached out to Fluvanna about acquiring more water.
Baughman said in an email last week that LCWA received a Waterworks Construction Permit from VDH in late December to draw from the additional wells. She said, pending final permits, connections, and tests, the wells could be online by May 1. Baughman also said that Fluvanna has not yet responded to LCWA’s inquiry about purchasing water.
The contents of the Dewberry study and its belated entry into the public record sparked strong pushback from HGSI. In a January 31 email to County Attorney Helen Phillips, Rae Ely, writing on behalf of the organization, said that the board is “barred from proceeding to hear (Emerson-Roper’s) application as it does not have a valid recommendation from the Louisa Planning Commission.”
Ely said that supervisors should return the application to the commission for a second public hearing, arguing that the study wasn’t made available to commissioners prior to or during the meeting and that its contents could’ve impacted their vote. Commissioners voted 5-1 to recommend approval of Emerson-Roper’s request.
In her email, Ely said that the study shows that the applicant was “relying on speculative ideas to urge Louisa County to strain all of its resources to obtain more water, none of which was available at the time or is currently available and all of which would open the county to multiple new problems and potential litigation.”
The promise of water from the James and the Zion Town Center proffer wasn’t enough to ease the concerns of Planning Commission Chair John Disosway, who cast the lone vote against Emerson-Roper’s request in November.
Disosway said that while he believes water from the James will eventually arrive, “it’s not here now.”
Since the proposal was first unveiled in March, community members have raised several other concerns including that the development would exacerbate traffic congestion at Zion Crossroads and burden the county’s school system.
The developer contends that its proposed changes won’t significantly impact county services including its schools. Geiger has noted that townhomes and elevator-serviced apartment buildings with club amenities tend to attract residents with fewer children than detached single-family homes. An analysis from Ted Figura Consulting, one of the developer’s consultants, projects that the 599-unit development would add 165 school-aged children while the 723-unit proposal would tack on just 9 more.
Geiger has also said that the additional units would only slightly increase projected traffic counts because shifting from single-family homes, which tend to have more occupants, to townhomes means fewer vehicle trips per unit. He points to a traffic study that states the 723-unit development would add about 30 vehicle trips at peak times over what’s projected for the 599-unit development. The traffic analysis for the already-approved PUD projects an additional 6,101 vehicle trips per day both entering and exiting the project and between 373 and 475 vehicle trips per hour during peak morning and afternoon travel times.
To mitigate that impact, the developer plans to implement the same traffic improvements okayed during the 2019 rezoning including adding and enhancing turn lanes and through lanes at Camp Creek Parkway’s intersections with Route 15 and Market Street.
In addition, the developer has agreed to prohibit the construction of an inter-parcel road connecting the PUD to the parcel directly to its east (tmp 52-22). A tweak to the proffers presented at the Planning Commission’s meeting permits some changes to the road improvement plan subject to VDOT’s recommendations and internal county approval.
Emerson-Roper has made several additional tweaks to its proffers in the last several months. When the Planning Commission reviewed the project in November, commissioners and residents said they worried about the potential for trespassing on large, undeveloped adjoining tracts and Fire and EMS Chief Kristin Hawk submitted a letter stating that the department would need to spend more money on fire equipment to service taller buildings.
In revised proffers submitted in December, the developer agreed to post eight no trespassing signs along the property’s border with an agriculturally-zoned tract to its east (tmp 52-22) and agreed to pay nearly $124,000 to the county’s Fire and EMS Department to offset its impact on emergency services.
In response to several community members’ requests, the developer also agreed to offer dwellings that include universal design concepts, which would make them accessible and could allow some residents to age in place.
Some residents have argued that Emerson Roper’s proposal won’t deliver much-needed affordable housing.
Geiger has said that the development’s single-family detached units could sell for a minimum of $375,000 in today’s dollars while the townhomes could be priced between $250,000 and $325,000 in today’s dollars. He hasn’t specified the rate for the rental units but has branded the complex as more upscale than the walk-up apartments already approved.
Community members contend that some working people in Louisa can’t afford the rent at upscale apartments, let alone the purchase price of Zion Town Center’s townhomes and single-family detached units.
“There are hundreds of Louisa people whose income is below 80% of the area median income ($49,000). They will have no options for any of the projected 723 units,” Louisa resident Mary Kranz wrote in a letter to the editor in the February 2 edition of The Central Virginian, urging the inclusion of more affordable units.
Geiger has said the development would offer “attainable housing,” providing a range of opportunities to buy and rent, some of which aren’t currently available in Louisa or in limited supply.
In response to concerns about affordability, Emerson-Roper agreed to construct a minimum of 24 two-story townhomes, which would sell at a lower price point than larger units. And in a recent revision to its proffers, the developer agreed to reserve 10 of the two-story townhomes for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville, contingent upon the developer and Habitat agreeing on a purchase contract.
Zion Town Center by the numbers
Emerson-Roper Companies, LLC has requested amendments to Zion Town Center’s proffers and masterplan that would increase its residential density while maintaining the 30 percent open space currently included in the Planned Unit Development’s design. Here’s what Emerson-Roper wants to do.
Increase the number of residential dwellings from the already-approved 599 units to 723 units
Increase the number of townhomes from 99 to 275
Decrease the number of single-family homes from 164 to 112
Maintain the number of apartments at 336 with a revamped building design
Maintain the 274,600-square feet of already-approved commercial space*
*Emerson-Roper’s proposal only applies to the PUD’s residential component.
For more information about Zion Town Center, check out some of Engage Louisa’s previous coverage.
Developer unveils proposed changes to Zion Town Center, April 3, 2022
PC to consider changes to Zion Town Center at Nov. 10 meeting, October 30, 2022
PC green-lights changes to Zion Town Center, November 13, 2022
Supes defer Zion Town Center public hearing, December 25, 2022
Supervisors to discuss FY24 budget, at-large livestock and more
Supervisors’ agenda for Monday night includes four discussion items and one action item.
Supes to discuss FY24 budget: The board will discuss the Fiscal Year 2024 Operations and Maintenance and Capital Improvement Plan budget. The discussion marks an early step in the annual budget process, which winds up in May with adoption and appropriation. The new fiscal year kicks of July 1.
Following Monday’s preliminary discussion, supervisors will hold a two-hour budget work session on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 3 pm, just before its regular meeting, where they’ll dig into the specifics of the spending plan. The meeting materials don’t include any additional information about the budget.
Board to discuss trespassing livestock: During public comment at previous meetings, several community members urged the board to rein in roaming livestock, noting that farm animals frequently trespass on their property and, in some cases, cause damage. The board will discuss the issue Monday night.
In a memo to the board, Assistant County Attorney Kyle Eldridge reviews how state code addresses at-large livestock, what’s currently in Louisa County code, and two ways neighboring counties handle the issue.
Eldridge notes that state code declares it “unlawful for the owner or manager of any domesticated livestock to permit any such animal, as to which the boundaries of lots or tracts of land have been or may be constituted a lawful fence, to run at large beyond the limits of his own lands within the county.” But code doesn’t provide any specific penalties.
Eldridge writes that Louisa County code establishes that a parcel’s boundary line is “a lawful fence,” but it doesn’t provide any penalties for livestock who roam beyond that boundary. Currently, Eldridge notes, the only legal recourse for a Louisa citizen harmed by at-large livestock is to sue the owner or manager of the livestock for trespass. The damages are limited to $20 for a first offense and double damages for every subsequent offense, per state code.
Eldridge points out that both Goochland and Spotsylvania counties specifically address trespassing livestock in their code. Goochland’s ordinance states that three violations within a six-month period constitutes a Class 4 misdemeanor while Spotsylvania’s ordinance makes the trespassing of livestock unlawful but provides no penalties.
Board to discuss family subdivision entrances, effective date for zoning ordinance amendment: Discussions about “commercial entrances for family subdivisions” and “zoning ordinance amendment-effective date” are also on the agenda. The meeting materials don’t include any information about either item. The board briefly discussed VDOT entrance requirements for family subdivisions at their January 3 meeting and instructed County Attorney Helen Phillips to gather information on the topic and report back to the board.
Board to consider resolution appropriating state grant funding to Shannon Hill Regional Business Park: In mid-January, Louisa County received $11.59 million in state grant funding from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s Business Ready Sites Program to develop utility infrastructure at the Shannon Hill Regional Business Park.
The board will consider approving a resolution that appropriates the grant money. Economic Development Director Andy Wade requested $27.5 million in the county’s preliminary FY24 Capital Improvement Plan to bring water and sewer infrastructure to the park. The grant will cover more than 40 percent of that cost.
The Shannon Hill site covers some 700 acres, 448 of which are contiguous, in south-central Louisa County just north of Interstate 64. The county began developing the property in 2019 with an eye toward attracting manufacturers, distribution centers or other large-scale economic development projects that diversify the tax base and create jobs.
Read more about the grant in the January 22 edition of Engage Louisa.
PC to consider green-lighting more residential development in Lake Anna Growth Area
The Louisa County Planning Commission on Thursday night will consider green-lighting more residential development in the Lake Anna Growth Area.
The commission will hold a public hearing and vote on whether to recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval of Jefferson Jakubowski and Mercerville Land Trust’s request to rezone 33 acres (tmp 30-74A, 30-74B) from agricultural (A-1) to residential (R-2). The parcels are located across Centerville Road from Lakeshore Woods subdivision in an area designated for low-density residential development on the Future Land Use Map in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The forested property doesn’t have direct access to the lake.
According to a conceptual plan, Jakubowski intends to divide the parcels into 13 residentials lots, ranging in size from 1.6 acres to 5.2 acres. Under its current zoning, the parcels can be divided into six pieces.
The 13 lots would each front Centerville Road. A letter from the Virginia Department of Transportation notes that each of the proposed lots “could potentially support its own private entrance.” A VDOT permit would be required prior to installing entrances.
Community Development Department staff recommends approval of the rezoning, stating that “the proposed subdivision goes beyond the bare minimum lot acreage compared to neighboring subdivisions and provides quality low density residential development for the Lake Anna Growth Area Overlay District.”
News of note: No more sirens at NAPS; State unlikely to fund bowtie; Louisa’s growth spurt
Dominion, VDEM shift to IPAWS alert system for North Anna: Sixty-eight emergency alert sirens, longstanding fixtures around the North Anna Nuclear Power Station, had their last hoorah in mid-November, sounding off in a final quarterly test. Since 1980, the sirens stood ready to notify residents in the event of a significant emergency at the plant.
On February 1, Dominion Energy, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, officially phased out the sirens, replacing them with the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), FEMA's national system for local alerting that provides authenticated emergency information to the public through two primary pathways.
One is Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). In the event of an emergency, mobile phones within a 10-mile radius of the plant will receive an alert and instructions.
The other is the Emergency Alert System (EAS), which communicates emergency information via radio and television.
In addition to these pathways, North Anna’s emergency notification plan includes automated calls to residential and business phones and a protocol to notify recreation areas such as parks and waterways.
WEA and EAS are identical in nature to Amber and Severe Weather alerts and have several advantages, according to Dominion and VDEM. Most notably, they offer real-time information and instructions in the event of an emergency instead of just the sound of a siren.
“As technology changes, it is important that we take advantage of new opportunities especially when it comes to ensuring the health and safety of the public,” VDEM State Coordinator Shawn Talmadge said in a press release. “Those working behind the scenes to make this transition happen have gone through several rounds of planning, surveys, and research to ensure that this system is optimal for notifying the public of an emergency at (North Anna). Unlike the sirens which simply make a noise, the alerts will direct you on what protective actions to take so you understand what to do to ensure you and your family are safe.”
The transition to IPAWS has taken several years and was approved late last year by both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and FEMA, according to the VDEM press release. Representatives from Dominion and VDEMS first publicly briefed the Board of Supervisors on the change in October 2021.
Read Dominion’s FAQ.
Controversial bowtie intersection not expected to receive state funding: Louisa County isn’t expected to get state funding for a controversial bowtie intersection at Zion Crossroads.
The Virginia Department of Transportation in mid-January announced its scores for hundreds of transportation projects submitted for funding via SMART SCALE, a data-driven program that pays for more than a billion dollars in road improvements every two years. The Commonwealth Transportation Board ultimately decides which projects receive funding, but its selections are based, in part, on staff’s scores.
Louisa County submitted three applications for improvements, using designs from VDOT engineers, none of which ranked high enough to earn a staff recommendation. Included in that trio was a controversial bowtie intersection proposed for the intersection of Route 15 and Spring Creek and Camp Creek Parkways. The novel design would’ve eliminated left turns on and off Route 15 and instead routed drivers to a pair of roundabouts on parallel streets.
The concept sparked strong opposition from Zion Crossroads residents and some county officials, who said it wouldn’t solve safety and congestion concerns along Route 15. Some critics pointed out that a bowtie intersection has never been built, and Zion Crossroads shouldn’t be a laboratory for VDOT to test “futuristic” designs. Zion’s exit off Interstate 64 was the site of the state’s first diverging diamond interchange.
Two other county projects weren’t recommended for funding: a proposed roundabout at the intersection of Routes 250 and 15 at Zion and a proposed roundabout and park and ride lot at Route 250 and 208 at Ferncliff.
The 250-15 project, with an estimated price tag of more than $15 million, ranked highest among Louisa County’s submissions, coming in 17th out of 38 projects in the Culpeper District and 174 out of 394 projects statewide. The 250-208 project, estimated to cost more than $14 million, ranked second highest, finishing 23rd in the Culpeper District and 233rd statewide. The bowtie proposal for Route 15-Spring Creek/Camp Creek Parkways was Louisa’s lowest scoring application, ranking 31st in the Culpeper District and 307th statewide. The project was expected to cost more than $42.5 million.
SMART SCALE uses a variety of factors to score projects with some carrying more weight than others depending on the locality. These include a project’s impact on safety, congestion, economic development, accessibility, land use, and the environment. The project’s cost is also considered versus its anticipated benefit.
For more information about SMART SCALE, click here.
Louisa ranks as third fastest growing locality in state since 2020: Louisa County ranks as the third fastest growing locality in the state since 2020, according to new population estimates from the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
While deaths slightly outpaced births in Louisa from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2022, the locality more than made up for it in net in-migration, meaning the number of people who moved in far outpaced those who left.
According to Weldon Cooper demographer Hamilton Lombard, 64 more people died in Louisa since 2020 versus those who were born, but the county netted 2,193 new residents. Its population increased by 2,129, or 5.4 percent, pushing the total number of residents to 39,925.
Only New Kent County, which lies along Interstate 64 to the east of Richmond, and Goochland County, Louisa’s neighbor to the south, grew faster. New Kent’s population grew 7.5 percent while Goochland just edged Louisa with a 5.6 percent increase.
Many Virginia cities saw residents leave in the last two years while some counties on the edge of metro areas, like Louisa, saw their population jump.
The population shifts are driven by a combination of factors, Lombard told UVA Today, including rising urban real estate values, lower home prices in the exurbs, and a shift by employers to remote work.
Lombard said many of Louisa’s new residents came from Prince William County as real estate values in that locality climbed. In 2010, the median home price in Prince William was $34,000 more than in Louisa. Last year, Prince William property was valued at nearly $200,000 more, Lombard said.
Some residents also moved out of Charlottesville and Albemarle due to rising home prices, Lombard said, contributing to growth in Louisa and surrounding counties.
Check out Weldon Cooper’s data here. Check out Weldon Cooper demographer Hamilton Lombard’s conversation with UVA Today here. Check out Dwayne Yancey of Cardinal News’ breakdown of the Weldon Cooper numbers here.
Click here for contact information for the Louisa County Board of Supervisors.
Find agendas and minutes from previous Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission meetings as well as archived recordings here.
Click here for contact information for the Louisa County School Board.
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Click here to access past editions of Engage Louisa.