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Great Bridge Town Meeting held February 3, 2015
Following are responses to issues, grouped under headings, raised at the Great Bridge Town Meeting.
The Estates of Hickory
Concerns were raised regarding growth in Hickory, and The Estates of Hickory in particular, with regard to the proposed number of homes and potential capacity impacts to school facilities and roads. The Estates of Hickory Planned Unit Development (PUD) will be located north of Sign Pine Road within the Edinburgh Parkway corridor. The applicant seeks approval of a zoning reclassification totaling 162.5± acres from A‑1, Agricultural District, and RE-1, Residential Estate District, to R-PUD, Planned Unit Development, to construct a combined total of 629 detached condominiums and single-family homes. In addition, the applicant is seeking approval of a Public Utility Franchise Area (PUFA) expansion to allow the development to be served by public water and sewer.
The Planning Staff Report finds that there are no failing transportation levels of service identified with the proposed PUD. With regard to Schools, the LOS data provided from School Administration on February 5, 2015 presently indicates a failing LOS for Hickory Middle School. Based on the current LOS policy, the Planning Department could not recommend approval. This policy is currently under review.
The proposal was approved at the February 11, 2015 Planning Commission Meeting and will be heard at the March 17, 2015 City Council Meeting.
Dominion Boulevard Corridor Study - Impact on Existing Business
A citizen inquired about the impact to an existing business from the details contained in the Draft Dominion Boulevard Corridor Study. With respect to the concern about potential development on or near the property in question, staff provides that no record could be found of plans submitted to the City for development on or near the property. The citizen may, however, have been referring to a rezoning application recently submitted to the Planning Department for a 30 lot single-family development known as Shillelagh Farms (R(C)-15-02). This proposed development is located on a roughly 12-acre parcel situated on the west side of Shillelagh Road, approximately 750 feet south of its intersection with Vincek Way. This parcel is not adjacent to the property; however, a proposed north-south oriented local road as shown in the Draft Dominion Boulevard Corridor Study would traverse both the citizen's property and the proposed Shillelagh Farms subdivision. The exact alignment of this proposed local road has not been finalized, and while it is not shown on the 2050 Master Transportation Plan, the Draft Dominion Boulevard Corridor Study recommends the proposed road as part of a local street network that will support the regional employment center being planned in this vicinity.
Regarding the impact to the citizen's existing business from the Draft Dominion Boulevard Corridor Study, the proposed land uses and other relevant details of the plan will not alter the existing zoning or use of the citizen's property.
Dominion Boulevard Project - Traffic Patterns
Traffic pattern signs have been installed to help cut down on lane confusion on Great Bridge Boulevard and Dominion Boulevard. With regard to the entrance and exit lanes near Dominion Lakes, the reason for the intersection at Dominion Lakes Boulevard was not only for access to the Dominion Lakes neighborhood, but to provide access to Bainbridge Boulevard. With regard to the closing of Mullen Road, an additional road will be built to connect Mullen Road and Jones Lane, providing additional access to Great Bridge Boulevard.
The City Manager, Mr. James Baker, sent a letter to the Board of Directors of Dominion Lakes Homeowners Association on February 13, 2015, addressing the issues raised at the February 3, 2015 Town Hall Meeting, in reference to the Dominion Boulevard Project. He has offered to meet with the residents as well.
Ditch Maintenance on Downing Drive
The Public Works Operations Manager reports that the inmate crews cleaned and cleared the ditch at this location from Back Road to the water's edge of Coopers Ditch on February 10, 2015.
Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project
On January 12, 2015 there was an open house for the Project at Jolliff Middle School. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was in attendance and was taking comments from recipients concerning the Project and the proposed routes. The Project designers have not proposed a final route of the pipeline at this time. A FERC application was projected for the summer of 2015. FERC and U.S. Department of Transportation have standards that regulate this type pipeline, and they will coordinate with other federal and state agencies to address all issues including safety.
City Council will likely participate in the Project through various land-use actions. Depending on the alignment selected, some zoning districts may require a rezoning, considered by City Council after a public hearing. In other zoning districts where the pipeline is a permitted use, a 2232 review by Planning Commission is required. This review would include a public hearing and would consider the consistency of the Project with the City Comprehensive Plan. While Planning Commission and City Council will likely have some land use consideration of the Project, the public is encouraged to express their concerns to the FERC during their permit process. There will be other public meetings and open comment periods after the Project application is received by FERC (summer 2015-summer 2016).
Use-permits are required for some "conditional uses" within specific zoning districts. The City's zoning ordinance does not currently require a use-permit for gas pipelines in any of our zoning districts.
Improvements on Mount Pleasant Road
The Assistant Public Works Director reports that the previous Mt. Pleasant Road project was managed by VDOT and included roadway widening from the Chesapeake Expressway to Etheridge Road (referred to as Phase I), a distance of approximately 0.8 miles. The project was funded through the federal Regional Surface Transportation Program (RSTP), and did not require a local match. Subsequent to the City receiving the RSTP allocation, new statutory requirements were enacted regarding timeframes for the obligation and expenditure of RSTP funds. These requirements mandated that all RSTP funds made available from FY 2011 and beyond be obligated within 12 months of their allocation by the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) and expended within 36 months of such obligation. After reviewing the Mt. Pleasant Road project in light of the new requirements, both VDOT and City staff realized conformance to the new timeframes would be virtually impossible given the required design, environmental coordination, and right-of-way acquisition.
Additionally, VDOT's preliminary roadway design indicated a number of total acquisitions would be required in order to construct the project, and the project estimate was increased accordingly from $15.7 million to $23 million to account for the anticipated right-of-way costs. Consequently, with no prospect of completing the Mt. Pleasant Road project within the statutory timeframes and with no realistic options for addressing the funding shortfall, the RSTP funds were transferred to the Dominion Boulevard project.
In recent years, available RSTP funds have shrunk and competition for the available funds has increased. Presently, all available RSTP funds have been allocated by the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization through FY 2021.
Mt. Pleasant Road continues to be identified as one of many needed transportation projects in the City and the Council has requested funding assistance for this and other strategically important projects through VDOT. A resolution approved on April 9, 2013 expresses the Council's most recent prioritization of such transportation projects (including Mt. Pleasant Road).
Note that the Mt. Pleasant Road improvements have been broken down into three distinct phases. These include roadway widening from the Chesapeake Expressway to Etheridge Road (Phase I), roadway widening from Etheridge Road to Centerville Turnpike (Phase II), and interchange improvements at the Chesapeake Expressway and Mt. Pleasant Road (Phase III). The associated estimated costs for the identified phases are $23 million, $20 million, and $25 million respectively for a total cost of $68 million. These estimates are not based on detailed design and could vary significantly, particularly the right-of-way costs.
In short, the first phase of the Mt. Pleasant Road project is not currently listed as funded in the proposed 5-year Capital Improvement Plan because, at present, the City lacks sufficient City funding to embark on the project and, as indicated above, neither federal nor statewide funding (which was also the premise of the April, 2013 resolution) is likely to be available within the next five years. Council has asked staff, however, to determine if there are any lower cost solutions to address concerns along Mount Pleasant Road.
Traffic Signal Fernwood Farms Road and Great Bridge Boulevard
The existing timings are appropriate for the traffic demand from Fernwood Farms Road at this time; however, staff also noted that construction along Great Bridge Boulevard has required closure of several lanes causing traffic to back-up to the Fernwood Farms intersection. Additional lanes are expected to be open early this spring which will reduce the majority of congestion at this intersection. Staff will continue to monitor this area as construction activities progress and will modify signal timings as necessary.
Since FY 2009, public funding for Chesapeake Schools has fallen by $30.2 million; practically all of the decline is in payments from the Commonwealth of Virginia. State payments totaled $242.9 million in FY 2009, but are only estimated at $212.5 million for FY 2015. A small portion of the $30.4 decline in state funding was caused by a drop in enrollment. Since 2009, Chesapeake's student membership has fallen by 337 students which accounts for $1.16 million of the decline in state funding since FY 2009. The far larger portion of the decline ($29.2 million) is a result of reductions in the state budget for public schools.
The school district has also experienced a $1.2 million decline in annual federal funding since 2009. Initially, federal funding rose from temporary grants resulting from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Education Jobs Act of 2010. This federal funding was intended to replace state funding declines during the recession. Federal funding from these two acts is no longer available.
City funding of schools has risen modestly since 2009 after falling in the intervening years. The growth in local funding is shared equally between the City and Chesapeake schools. Annual funding of Chesapeake schools from local tax revenue has increased from $178.0 million in FY 2009 to $179.4 million in FY 2015. In order for the City to replace the reduction in state funding of Chesapeake Schools, the City would need to identify funding equivalent to fourteen cents (14¢) on the real estate tax rate.
HRT Bus Routes in Chesapeake
City's Traffic Engineer reports that presently, Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) operates eight bus routes that service all the Chesapeake boroughs. These routes operate to at least 7:00 p.m. Five of the routes operate late into the evening, some as late as 12:45 a.m. HRT also provides paratransit service for customers with disabilities and Metro Area Express (MAX) bus routes with stops in Chesapeake that provide regional express bus service to the Hampton Roads area. Last year HRT provided the Chesapeake area with a total of 56,752 service hours (bus and paratransit service) for which Chesapeake subsidized $2,390,809. Collection of bus fares pays for only about 20% of the total operating cost for bus service and the rest is paid through federal, state, and local funds. Adding new bus routes and/or extending service hours is not planned for in the FY 2015 budget. Recent HRT budget reports project shortfalls in the operating budget beginning in FY 2016. Declining capital revenue, the need to divert a large portion of federal funds to maintenance, and aging fleet and facilities have all compounded to contribute to this shortfall. The budget shortfalls will prevent the agency from making any major service improvements. They will keep their focus on maintaining current levels of service.