Housing for Cobbs Creek Reservoir workers discussed

Published 12:09 pm Thursday, July 27, 2017

Planners in Cumberland County discussed developments of a proposed land use plan for the area surrounding Cobbs Creek Reservoir during their meeting Monday, which could include plans to house reservoir workers.

The discussion regarding the Cobbs Creek Reservoir followed two public meetings in May and June where residents offered input in the Cartersville area led by County Planning Director and Zoning Administrator Sara Carter.

Carter said she is currently working on a draft of the land use proposal, which would include a diagram of the proposed changes in addition to text describing the plan details, and said she plans to have the draft available by the beginning of September.

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“My thought is, at this point, we’re very, very close,” Carter said. “(We’ll) go out there with the draft plan (and) get feedback from the community. If they feel like I am on the mark, then I will go ahead with the commission’s blessing and set a public hearing.”

A memorandum of understanding between Cumberland County and Henrico County was agreed to in 2010 for the Cobbs Creek Reservoir, and Henrico began the first phase of building its reservoir in 2015.

The reservoir is estimated to cost $280 million and permanently impact slightly more than 15 miles of stream bed.

The reservoir would collect water from the James River.

District Three Commissioner and Commission Chairman Bill Burger recommended a workshop be held before the public hearing is set. The hearing is estimated to take place in October.

Carter said several plans to house those working on the Cobbs Creek Reservoir were under discussion, including RV campgrounds. The campground discussion had not progressed after concerns were cited about the well and septic infrastructure around the area.

A relative of one of Cobbs Creek’s major contractors, Carter said, had suggested building a subdivision, or construction of between 5-6 houses on what may be a 40-acre property on Morningside Road in Cartersville.

Carter said the houses would be available for purchase after the reservoir’s completion, which is set for 2021.

During the process, Carter said the homes would operate as boarding houses for employees working on the reservoir. Carter said the homes would be developed and built by Haymes Brothers Inc., based in Pittsylvania County. The firm has already performed work for the reservoir.

“If someone is going to do this, this to me would be the absolute ideal way to do this,” Carter said. “The nice thing about this is you’re buying a piece of property, you’re putting in a private road and you’re getting that off and back into an area where there is a fair amount of buffer around it,” Carter said.

Carter said plans to purchase five existing homes also came under discussion, but she said that may encroach on other houses nearby. 

Burger asked when the housing project could begin if agreed to. Carter said the developers could work quickly and that the houses may be ready by next spring.

“This is kind of what (the developers) think makes sense in the long term for resale (and) makes sense in the short term for best provision for their workers,” Carter said.

Carter said the discussion, in its early stages, would not require action as of now by the commission.

The Monday discussion came after a June 20 land use meeting where Carter displayed a large replica of the land use map and between 20-25 members of the public got to interact with the map and include suggestions.

The largest change suggested by those at the June meeting — the majority of whom reside in Cumberland and some who live near the reservoir — was creating greater opportunities for development on both the east and west sides of Columbia Road, where the eastern side had received less development initially, Carter said.

Though land on both the western and eastern sides of Columbia Road may have equal potential for development, population density was cited as a concern for some of the residents who attended the meeting.