Apartments need further study

Published 2:44 pm Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Farmville Town Council has much to digest before deciding what regulations it will place on construction of a 100-unit apartment complex on South Main Street.

Developer Russell Harper made the council’s job slightly easier with some voluntary concessions, including a proposal for two additional entrances to the apartments to take pressure off the primary entrance from South Main. A single entrance and exit, with no protected turns for motorists, would have been a traffic nightmare on a thoroughfare that is, by a rural community’s standards, already congested.

In the face of intense criticism from citizens, Harper also proffered land adjacent to the apartments for use by the town as public space, such as a park.

Harper deserves credit for making the project more palatable for a skeptical citizenry and a town council that is under a political microscope. He does not, however, deserve a free pass from council members.

The council should take its time and fully reconsider the project in light of the proposed changes. Acting at its July meeting next week would be too hasty.

Among other methods of due diligence, the council needs to order a full traffic study to replace the so-called “mini study” that the town’s planning commission relied on to recommend approval of a conditional use permit. One planning commissioner’s comparison of the study’s findings to a “letter from Grandma” was a little harsh, but unquestionably it lacked the detail that council members need to make an informed decision. Among other inadequacies, the study used archived South Main traffic data from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

A new, independent study is needed that includes fresh traffic counts at the precise location of the apartments and that weighs other factors, such as the supplemental entrances proposed by Harper, scheduled intersection improvements at nearby Milnwood Road, and planned retail development in the area. The cost of such a study, which should be reimbursed to the town by the developer, is a reasonable investment in the safety of Farmville citizens and visitors.