Martins’ request faces opposition

Published 12:20 pm Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Farmville Town Council voted Wednesday for moving a Conditional Use Permit, which was applied for by Robert “Bobby” and Sherry Martin and will include a 30-bed apartment complex, to the Farmville Planning Commission for a public hearing.

The Martins had requested to rezone more than an acre of property they own at the intersection of High, Oak and Appomattox streets for a proposed five-story, 95,000-square-foot student apartment complex from R-3 Residential to R-3A Residential.

Their previous request included repealing the density level maximum of 10 units per acre for the R-3A Zone to allow for the proposed 195-bed apartment complex. The R-3A Zone is the same zoning as Longwood University’s main campus. That request met with fervent opposition from property owners in the historic district as well as Farmville: This Place Matters, a group that’s stemmed from the Martins’ previous proposals while promoting smart growth and planning in the town.

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“On behalf of Bobby and Sherry Martin, what we’ve done, obviously we’ve listened to the community very closely from last time,” said architect Mike Kelley. ”We spent a lot of time studying the ordinance very carefully to make sure that what we present to you today would be keeping with the ordinance as well as keeping with the neighborhood design.”

He said the property would sit on one acre of land.

“What this design shows is 10 doors, three beds per door, and what they are, they’ll be a two-story flat,” Kelley said. “It’s kind of a courtyard effect is really what we try to create. So the two buildings will face one another, and then we build two townhouses because of the number we count to make it balanced.”

He said there will also be a recreational area which at this time has not been defined. Kelley said he was “100 percent open” for comments regarding design.

Harlan Horton, a member of Farmville: This Place Matters, said he was still opposed to the facility for several reasons.

“One of which is that the town is currently in the middle of updating its comprehensive plan, and what they are proposing will have a significant impact on the historic district,” Horton said. “Without a comprehensive plan with significant impact on the historic district, no conditional use permit with this amount of magnitude should be issued until after it’s complete. So we are absolutely opposed to anything proceeding until after the comprehensive plan is complete.”

He said with the comprehensive plan, one would hope that since it hasn’t been redone since 2005, that the plan through the process of taking public information and input would be considered.

“Looking at our woefully inadequate zoning ordinances that we have that haven’t kept pace with change in Farmville or the rest of the commonwealth, some things in the comp plan will be implemented through the legislative process that will have some ability to have developments that may be like this that will be appropriately cited and planned and designed to compliment the historic district as opposed to destroying it,” Horton said.

He said at the end of the process of creating the plan, if the town has a better understanding of place and identity along with tools so the town can have developments in a smart way in the historic district, then lots of things could happen.

“The question is if they’re going to issue a conditional use permit, what conditions are they going to put on it?” Horton said. “The conditions you would normally put on it would be something that would create a situation where what is going to happen in the way of development is compliant with the comprehensive plan. So once we have a comp plan, then we’ll know a bit more about what we think can happen in the historic district which hopefully won’t be … tearing down buildings without considering the impact on the surrounding buildings and the district itself.”

The request saw fervent opposition at Wednesday’s town council meeting.

“Please refuse this spot variance or just until the comp plan is complete,” said Adam Yoelin, who lives at the intersection of Oak and High streets and Griffin Boulevard.

Farmville resident Chuck Green cited traffic congestion as a reason to deny it and said he felt it should be tabled until a new comprehensive plan was in place.

Town Attorney Gary Elder told the council he didn’t know of any legislation that would allow for delaying of a permit until a new comprehensive plan was put in place.