Henrico County VA
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‘Lower-income’ apartments at Rocketts Landing?

Resolution would permit use of bonds for construction, but required terminology gives county officials some pause
An artist's rendering of a proposed apartment building at Rocketts Landing.

A new mixed-use apartment building could begin to take shape soon at Rocketts Landing, but it may not come without some controversy.

The county’s Board of Supervisors Jan. 22 will consider approval of a resolution that would allow the community’s developer, WVS, to obtain construction funding for the 156-unit building through the sale of Virginia Housing Development Authority bonds.

Those bonds are designed in part to enhance the availability of lower-income housing in areas where such units do not current exist and where they likely would not otherwise be built by private developers.

The proposed five-story building would offer studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments for rent at prices ranging from $788 a month to $1,339 a month, as well as 11,000 square feet of commercial space, according to Henrico Community Revitalization Director Mark Strickler.

The building, expected to cost $18 million, would become the first at Rocketts Landing to feature rental units. The board’s approval next month of a resolution designating the site of the structure, at Route 5 and Stancraft Way, as a revitalization area would clear the way for the use of VHDA bonds.

But during a Dec. 11 work session, County Manager Virgil Hazelett told the board that although he supported the resolution, he did have some hesitation about it. That’s because the document must indicate that “private enterprise and investment are not reasonably expected, without assistance, to produce the construction or rehabilitation of decent, safe and sanitary housing and supporting facilities that will meet the needs of low and moderate income persons and families in the [a]rea.” It also must assert that sufficient housing needed to support other development in the area does not currently exist.

Both could be challenging claims, Hazelett conceded, given that Rocketts Landing already is home to hundreds of people and a number of commercial and retail businesses and that the anticipated apartment rental costs may be too high to qualify as “low-income” housing.

The latter point could be particularly murky because of the way the VHDA defines income levels. Its guidelines for the bonds require that at least 20 percent of the units be rented to households that make less than 80 percent of the region’s annual median income (AMI) – in this case, less than $60,500. Another 20 percent of the units must be designated for households that make between 90 and 120 percent of the AMI (less than $90,750). But the guidelines do not consider how many members a household includes, Strickler said.

So, although the bonds are designed to help provide housing to low-income households, “that may not always be true” in this case, Hazelett said. The implication: a single person making less than $60,500 per year, for example, would qualify as “low-income,” as would a married couple making a total of $85,000 annually.

On the other end of the spectrum, board members wondered aloud how the implication of “low-income” housing at Rocketts Landing might be received by residents who already live in the community – many of whom paid a premium for luxurious condos and most of whom likely know nothing of the developer’s proposal.

That’s a concern that weighed heavy on the mind of Varina District Supervisor Tyrone Nelson initially, though he said that upon consideration, he believes it can be allayed.

“If it’s explained properly, I don’t see a big public outcry from the people who are already there,” Nelson said. “I feel comfortable enough that I can support [the proposal]. I want to see the project move forward.”

Passage of such a resolution would set a precedent for the board, which has never before approved one similar, Strickler said. That likely would encourage other developers seeking to build similar projects to ask the board for additional resolutions in the future, Hazelett said.

The Board of Supervisors approved a provisional use permit for the site of the proposed apartment building July 24, authorizing “an increase in building height limitations for residential townhomes, office and commercial buildings, and an increase in density for multifamily dwellings and residential townhomes,” according to a planning report.

As part of that case, WVS presented a master plan for a larger portion of land at Rocketts Landing, which in addition to the apartment building also would include a 150-unit condominium building along the river; a 15,000-square-foot commercial building adjacent to the condos; and three nearby commercial buildings, totaling 105,000 square feet of space.

Incoming County Manager John Vithoulkas, who will take over for Hazelett next month, said that the impact of Rocketts Landing has been significant.

“It’s been a very good project for Henrico County,” Vithoulkas said.

Said Nelson of the proposal: “It will continue, I think, to move forward a project that is both beneficial to Henrico County and Varina.”


Community

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Is there an Echo in here?

‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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The Henrico Concert Band will perform at 7 p.m. at Dorey Park, 2999 Darbytown Rd. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and spend a casual evening by the lake. Admission… Full text

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