More retail won’t come without change, Farmville residents told
Published 2:06 am Friday, February 17, 2023
FARMVILLE – Farmville is not getting more retail, grocery stores or restaurants unless things change. That was spelled out pretty clearly on Monday, Feb. 13, during the community meeting held at the Moton Museum.
“We’re not getting another grocery store, folks, unless we have more rooftops, more spending power in this area,” said Farmville Town Manager Dr. Scott Davis.
He was responding to questions from residents, many of whom didn’t want to see more apartments and townhouses spring up. But at the same time, they wanted more restaurants to eat at, more shopping options. Davis explained that you can’t have one without the other. He said the town is working with a national company called Retail Strategies and the response they’ve received so far is a simple “no thanks”.
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“(The grocery store) Aldi will not build here because we do not meet their requirements,” Davis said, adding that Retail Strategies found similar responses from other big companies. “If we want to change all that, we need another method, another tool.”
What is planned unit development?
That’s where the planned unit development (PUD) concept comes in. As it stands now, there’s not much flexibility with Farmville’s zoning ordinances. It’s either build single family homes or apartments in specific places. Basically, if a PUD is allowed, a developer could come in and propose something outside of those rules that the planning commission and then the town council could look at.
“We’re trying to get different generations of people to live here,” Davis said. “Not everybody wants a single family home and wants a yard to maintain. They want other opportunities. This is an option. It doesn’t mean it’ll happen tomorrow, it doesn’t mean it’ll happen five years from now.”
The current plan details multiple places in town where planned unit developments could make sense. One is the area of South Main Street and Clark Street, down by the Sheetz gas station. Another is the Sunchase area, with a possible front on East Third Street but behind the hotels. A third involves Merriwood Farms Road, in the area around and behind Walmart.
If you’re not growing, you’re dying
Prince Edward County Administrator Doug Stanley also attended the event, pointing out that current census figures don’t see significant growth for Farmville or Prince Edward County through 2050. And that’s a problem.
“If your community is not growing, it’s dying,” Stanley said. “You have to reinvent yourself and make changes for the future.”
The residents who attended were divided on what kind of change, if any, they wanted. Some wanted to actually see fewer houses, complaining that as more homes were built, their property values would decline. Some wanted more space between structures, so there’s access to fresh air and not as many buildings put together. Others wanted developers to do more for the community, like build a new highway in and out of Farmville. And yes, there were also requests, even after Davis spoke, for new stores and new places to eat.
“If we have developers who interested in investing money in the town of Farmville and they can get more rooftops, then perhaps the market can be a little bit more responsive (to what we want to see),” Farmville Director of Community Development Lee Pambid said. “It’s really not up to us to bring a Wegman’s or an Aldi to the town. That’s really up to those companies. One of the first things they do is check population figures, to see if the population and the market is there to support whatever their business is. We are asking to be more flexible. Right now, we are required to tell developers they can develop a certain way. We’re advocating for flexibility in government.”
Other residents asked if Farmville and Prince Edward County had brought the colleges into the discussion. Residents used Montgomery County, where Virginia Tech University is, as an example. If we can coordinate with Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College, residents said, then we should be able to better grow and develop.
Town and county officials said they’re working with all community partners.
What happens next for Farmville?
Now the PUD ordinance had been sent to the Farmville planning commission in January. The group decided, since they had a full agenda for their Wednesday, Feb. 15 meeting, to postpone any further talk about PUDs until March. The commission will take this back up during their Wednesday, March 15 meeting.
Reporter Connor Thompson contributed to this report.