Available below for download, are several correspondences from a committee within our task group, which for the past 6-months has been attempting to address a number of concerns with the City regarding the Seminary and Bristol Development's Plan of Development (POD) as originally submitted to the City Planning Department for administrative review in June of 2015. Additionally, a chronology of the group's efforts since December of last year is summarized in Pierce Homer's e-mail below, which he sent to those of us who attended a meeting of the task group on April 20, following the meeting.
These correspondences address specific issues in the areas of traffic, storm water management, landscaping, and existing resource protection, with a particular focus on what the committee members believe to be flaws in the traffic study that was performed on behalf of the developers by Timmons Group. At the same time the efforts summarized below were underway, we were also attempting the obtain access to the subsequent POD revisions that were submitted to the City last fall. After many unsuccessful attempts to do so, we were finally able to obtain a copy of the final "for signature" version from the City dated January 2016, only last week.
Stephen Weisensale, AIA, CSI
Chair, GPRA Planning & Zoning Cmte
The following is an e-mail as sent to some of our group members by Pierce Homer on April 20, summarizing the efforts of a committee of Task Group members to address traffic and other concerns with the Planning Department:
From: Homer, Pierce
To: Task Group members
Subject: FW: Westwood Tract Traffic Impact Report
Ways that the City could have protected our neighborhoods -- and chose not to
* BZA. City Code Section 114-1040.3 provides that the BZA may grant "additional exceptions...or restrictions" provided such exceptions "shall not increase congestion in streets" and "shall not diminish or impair the property values in surrounding areas." The City Code provides that the BZA may attach specific conditions to the exception. In other words, the BZA could have imposed some reasonable conditions on as part of their proceedings. They chose not to.
* Traffic. The City has broad discretion in granting access points to City streets and is now accepting financial responsibility to whatever "traffic calming" measures are ultimately approved. The City is under no obligation to provide access to Westwood, yet that access point will impose significant traffic impacts on Laburnum Park neighborhood and have significant conflicts with Veritas traffic at Lamont Street. Neither Public Works, nor Planning, nor even the developer's engineer Timmons have addressed this issue.
* Community Involvement. Will Scribner and I met with Planning Director Mark Ohlinger on December 21, and followed up with the attached letter. The letter was never acknowledged by Planning staff, and despite numerous follow-up calls from Will, we were essentially excluded from the review process.
The following chronology is instructive:
- December 21 - Homer/Scribner meet and send follow-up letter to Planning w/ cc's to Hilbert, Samuel, CAO, and Public Works - no acknowledgement of receipt from anyone.
- January 7 - Homer/Scribner meet with traffic engineering to share independent review of Timmons traffic study.
- January 14 - Homer/Scribner send follow-up letter to traffic engineering.
- January 15 - Timmons Group provides City with response to Homer/Scribner letter that was never shared with us until after POD approval - we believe that several of the Timmons responses are incorrect and that Public Works acceptance of them as "reasonable" is in fact "unreasonable”.
- February 5 - Planning Department approves the Plan of Development.
- February 10 - Public Works sends email rejecting all of our traffic concerns - 5 days after POD approved (see text of e-mail from Travis Bridewell, below).
- February 11 through April 1 - Scribner calls numerous times to seek follow-up with Planning, no response regarding status of POD.
- April 1 - We learn through a third party that the POD had been approved on February 5.
- April 19 - After four months of effort, we finally get a copy of the complete final POD submission.
The following e-mail was sent to Mr. Homer and others on February 10, as noted in the chronology above:
From: Bridewell, Travis A. - DPW
Sent: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 12:34 PM
To: Homer, Pierce; Willard Scribner
Cc: Markham, Lory P. - PDR; Kelley, Leigh V. - PDR; Olinger, Mark A. - PDR; Khara, M S. - DPW; Sawyer, Michael B. - DPW; Feliz-Reyes, Maritza - DPW
Subject: RE: Bristol at Westwood Traffic Study
Mr. Homer and Mr. Scribner,
RE: Timmons' June 25, 2015 Bristol at Westwood Development Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA)
We shared your local traffic engineer's comments on the June 2015 TIA with the Timmons' consultant who prepared the report for 301 units. Please see Mr. Dunn's response on each item. I find his comments reasonable in response to your local traffic engineer's comments.
As mentioned in our January 7 meeting we have a city-wide traffic calming program to address speeding on neighborhood streets. First we will review the street to ensure proper regulatory and warning signs are provided. Studies may be advanced to include speed sampling, crash history analysis, operational analysis… all which may identify a physical traffic calming measure is needed. A residential circle is one measure that we install on neighborhood streets pending support from the neighborhood and the Council Representative for the area. Please let me know of any streets that you want us to review.
As one of our task group members has noted with regard to the Developer's traffic study:
So, what I get from the Timmons response is that more cars and trips without any road improvements, yields less traffic impact. Man they are good!
Timmons's comments regarding not having to take into consideration the "by right" zoning uses of the adjacent acreage when considering the impact of development, is evidence of how detached they and sadly the city, appear to be from citizen concerns and predictable outcomes. Timmons' response is theoretical.
The following related files may be downloaded at the links below:
Watts Hall Chapel (building #3 on the map in PDF)
October 22, 2015
Please see the attached flyer regarding an informational meeting at Union Presbyterian Seminary, scheduled for 10/22/15, regarding UPS motion before the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) of the City of Richmond.
As you all may know, a number of people in the community have been working over the last six months to develop a plan to save from any future development, the 19 acres of the Westwood Tract that were not slated for development in the Seminary's plan. During this same time, the possibility of accomplishing this through a conservation tax easement was studied for the whole 34 acre parcel, in order to avoid any development at all. Unfortunately, the effort to preserve the entire parcel has not been successful, as UPS has elected to proceed with the plan that they presented last October for the eastern portion of the site.
Below is the press release regarding the Westwood Tract which was sent out on Thursday, 04/23 at 3:42 PM by the Seminary. Near the bottom, there is a link to an FAQ site with details regarding the project. The plan appears to be that which we were last shown in October, wherein they reduced the 4-story buildings to 3-stories, and reduced the number of units from 349 to “up to 310”.
We have requested the City Planning Dept. advise us as soon as the Plan of Development (P.O.D.) is filed, so that any interested persons can review it at the same time the City does so. The City will review the P.O.D. for zoning, traffic, utilities, storm water management, initial landscaping, fire and police related issues, then these comments will be returned to the developer for revisions and/or responses. Building permit review will not be a part of this submittal, so detailed plans of the individual buildings will likely not be included. However, the detailed layout of the development as well as the street views of the building elevations will be part of the P.O.D.
Also, should you have questions / comments which you wish to direct to UPS, there is an e-mail address in the press release.
Finally, given the fact that UPS did give very serious consideration to applying the conservation easement to the entire parcel, one would think UPS would be even more inclined to apply it to that remainder of the tract for which they currently have no plans. We therefore plan to pursue this option in order to preserve the remaining 19 acres of the site.
Stephen Weisensale, AIA, CSI, Chair, GPRA Planning & Zoning Cmte
Union Presbyterian Seminary Press Release