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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

MADD walk raises more than $26,000

The Central Virginia chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) hosted its annual Walk Like MADD fundraiser April 12 at Dorey Park in Varina. More than 20 teams of walkers raised money from individual donors by participating in the walk, and in total the event generated more than $26,000 in donations for the organization. > Read more.

Varina Ruritans honor students

The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.

The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)

The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.

Baseball game to benefit Glen Allen Buddy Ball


For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.

The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Do the Bunny Hop over to Meadow Farm on Saturday for an introduction to all the farm animals there! An introduction to “Global Sounds” – featuring Japanese, Indonesian, West African, Indian, and Brazilian music and dance performances – can be found at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond will also host the annual Spider spring game, as well as the inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

A fun, fuzzy ride

‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise

Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.

They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.

As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.

Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.

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Registration ends today for the Varina High School Athletics Booster Club Golf Tournament, to be held May 18 at The Brookwoods Golf Club in Quinton, Va. Entry fees are $75… Full text

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