Sixteen months after the Chesterfield Economic Development Authority purchased the sprawling Upper Magnolia Green property with permission and funding from the Board of Supervisors, and following a series of community meetings, the county’s Planning Commission voted Tuesday night to recommend approval of a plan for its future development.
The proposal to rezone the site was submitted as two separate cases: 1,728 acres west of the future Powhite Parkway Extension that is envisioned as an employment-generating technology village, along with sites for a new high school and fire station; and 700 acres to the east that would accommodate middle and elementary schools, a public library and as many as 600 single-family homes.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to hear both cases at its May 26 meeting.
Site consultants, as well as state and local economic development officials, agree that Upper Magnolia Green West -- with approved zoning and planned infrastructure improvements – would be attractive to high-tech companies, such as computer chip manufacturers, and other advanced manufacturing operations.
Chesterfield leaders believe such commercial investment is necessary to diversify the local tax base, which skews residential, and create high-paying career opportunities for county residents.
Developing Upper Magnolia Green West as a major employment center also would greatly improve Chesterfield’s chances of securing state and federal funding for construction of the Powhite Parkway Extension. The roadway is an important element of the county’s plan to alleviate vehicle congestion in the fast-growing western Route 360 corridor.
Over the past several months, staff from many county departments – including Planning, Economic Development, Transportation, Environmental Engineering and Utilities – have worked to craft proffered conditions that will mitigate adverse impacts on nearby property owners.
The West case is “arguably more restrictive than how we would treat a private [rezoning] application,” said Stephen Donohoe, an assistant director of planning, in his presentation to the Planning Commission on Tuesday.
For example, only seven primary uses are proposed from among 345 potential uses permitted in a general industrial (I-2) zoning district: computer equipment manufacturing, data centers, electronic component and accessories manufacturing, laboratories, offices, pharmaceutical products manufacturing and research and development facilities.
Plastics manufacturing originally was included among the primary uses, but has since been removed in response to citizens’ concerns; it now is proposed only as an accessory use.
“The amount of care and time and effort that went into this case … this was not taken lightly or rushed. We have been working on this for quite a while,” said Frank Petroski, vice chairman of the Planning Commission. “The case is very different today than it was a year ago and that is due in large part to [community] feedback.”
In a December 2020 press release announcing the Upper Magnolia Green acquisition “for the pursuit of future economic development opportunities,” Chesterfield leaders noted that having control of the property would enable them to work with citizens and shape the long-term vision for its development.
As a topic of countywide interest, input from all Chesterfield residents has been an integral part of the rezoning process.
Chesterfield launched and continues to maintain a website to keep the public informed about the two zoning cases, including an online portal for submitting questions or comments.
Board of Supervisors members, planning commissioners and county staff also have participated in numerous community meetings – most recently on April 14, when Planning Commission Chairman Tommy Owens held a detailed review of the proffered conditions and took questions from citizens.
In response to concerns raised at that meeting, revisions were made to two proffers and a new one was added that requires the adoption of restrictive property covenants as part of the West case.
That case also includes a variable-width perimeter buffer of at least 200 feet, as well as a 750-foot buffer between any adjacent homes and the closest structure that can be constructed as part of the proposed technology village.
Buffers comprise 378 acres, or more than 20% of the total property on the west side of the Upper Magnolia Green site.
“The amount of green space, natural habitat, that is being preserved is unprecedented,” Petroski said. “I believe that would not happen under the [property’s] current [residential] zoning.”
There are conditions in the two Upper Magnolia Green cases that address required off-site transportation improvements, as well as environmental protections, standards for noise and light and numerous other issues noted by citizens during the community meetings.
“There have been a great number of opportunities for citizens to give their input,” said Gloria Freye, planning commissioner for the Clover Hill District, “and it is evident in the proffered conditions that the citizens have been heard.”