Town OKs Zoning For Mixed Use

Published 4:22 pm Thursday, November 17, 2011

FARMVILLE – Town Council has approved all necessary zoning for mixed-use commercial and residential development at the former Newman Tire Company Inc. site at 315 West Third Street.

The four-story Walk 2 Campus development will have commercial activity on the ground floor, with three floors of two and four-bedroom apartments.

Town Council's votes were unanimous.

One zoning amendment adds “mixed use commercial and residential provided that all residential be located on the second story of the building or above, with a conditional use permit” to the Business B-3 zone.

The conditional use permit was also granted.

And a zoning restriction that limits buildings in the B-3 district to no more than 45 feet in height was deleted to accommodate the 55 to 65-foot tall project.

Walk 2 Campus Holdings founder and president Matt King told Town Council last month, “I do see students living here but I also think it would be a nice building for young professionals, faculty, staff. It offers itself to a variety of tenant types. While we tend to operate specifically in university towns, we do have a variety of tenants, not just students.”

Construction could begin in February or March, will completion in time for opening in May of 2013.

The total building area on the 1.28-acre property will be approximately 62,000 square feet, with an estimated 15,000 square feet being commercial space.

Approximately 90 parking spaces will be located in a lot behind the building, which will be broken up two breezeways allowing residents and shoppers walk from their vehicles to the front entrances facing West Third Street, though there is the potential to provide up to 146 parking spaces.

Public Hearing

During a public hearing on zoning to accommodate the project, one resident praised the project, another addressed his concerns about trash and the impact of new retail space on existing empty stores in town, while a third expressed support but wondered about the four-story height.

Both Spates and King addressed the trash concerns, while King also responded to the empty storefront issue and Town Council member Dr. Edward I. Gordon addressed the trash concerns and the height issue.

Christian Irby, a Longwood University senior, spoke of his support for the project. “In the coming years there will be an increase in demand for student housing,” he said, “and the housing provided by Walk 2 Campus will meet that demand.”

And because parking will be provided at the development, which is a short walk from campus, students will not have to use parking space on campus, he said.

Bruce Davis addressed his concerns over trash and empty stores in town. Referring to some existing Walk 2 Campus properties, Davis spoke of “trash and the way they're looking now with the students who are living in them on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday morning…Beer cans, the trash, how the porches are being used to store old furniture, just the look of the properties now.”

As for empty stores, Davis said, “we have so many empty storefronts now in downtown Main Street” and he was worried about how new retail space might add to the problem.

King responded to both concerns raised by Davis, saying, “We have been actively working with the citizens, the residents along Buffalo Street in that area…I understand this gentlemen's sentiment but I think there are folks who live in that area who might have a different sentiment. I think we do a good job of keeping up the properties…In some ways I feel the comments are a bit unfair.”

Regarding retail vacancies in town, King said, “I do think one of the issues right now with retail vacancy is the pricing of some of those retail spaces. So we're aware of what other people are charging the market and as we've looked at the financial model for this building our position is that our expectations on a per square foot basis are substantially less than some of what is already out there…”

Town Manager Spates then spoke up in support of Walk 2 Campus, both its existing properties and the proposed project.

“My dealings with Matt and Walk 2 Campus have been extremely good and I think Matt has invested a lot of money in the community, he's fixed up a lot of these houses. Problems in these areas are minimal, and we're glad to have Matt as part of the community,” Spates said. “With this new product he's talking about bringing in here I think it's going to add a lot to the community.

“As far as vacant stores,” the town manager continued, “a lot of those stores are going to be filled in with businesses…There are stores that are moving in there. You show me any (community) that doesn't have vacancies; there's always vacancies.”

Longwood University student Emily Engelking then addressed the comments made by Davis, saying, “Buffalo Street does have a certain demographic of students. It doesn't represent the entire student body of Longwood University. I'm pretty professional in how I live…I don't think it's fair to assume that adding one more building that is going to attract the student body is necessarily going to be attracting more trash. I think there's a great population of students who will take care of the building, who will take care of the area.”

The last speaker during the public hearing was Robin Sedgwick, who spoke of her concerns about the four-story height.

“I was excited to see the drawings for the new building,” she said, “with the exception of its height. Downtown Farmville is an area of one to three-story buildings, on the whole, and I'm just wondering how the four-story development would impact the feeling of downtown Farmville.”

Later, when Town Council took the rezoning issues up during the meeting's regular agenda, council and planning commission member, Dr. Gordon noted that the Town already has an ordinance to deal with the issue of trash.

“I don't expect that should be a problem (with the proposed project) and if it becomes one the Town will deal with it,” Dr. Gordon said. “The developer happens to have a good record already so I don't suspect it will…

“The height was brought up also…and that did become a bit of a discussion at the planning commission,” he continued, but “across the street the (Southern States) co-op is around the same height and there were great pains by the developer to make this look to fit into the area so the height basically does fit…”

And will now be built and opened for business.