Warsaw has shut down hope for Timothy and Brenda Dolan to build a self-storage facility on their property at the corner of Community Park Rd. by rejecting a proposed change to the zoning ordinance.
But this is “not your run-of-the-mill situation,” Mr. Dolan explained.
Local officials opposed
The Dolans wanted to put a 326-unit self-storage facility on their 2.52-acre commercial parcel.
As an initial step in that process, they applied to change language in Warsaw’s Zoning Ordinance to allow self-storage facilities in a C-1 zone with a conditional use permit.
In January, when the Warsaw Planning Commission began reviewing the Dolan’s application, they were “blindsided” that Richmond County Administrator Morgan Quicke spoke in opposition on behalf of the county.
Quicke’s reasons included the county’s decade of investments in Community Park, home to the Richmond County Little League, the fairgrounds and the emergency medical services building. “Those properties are focal points of community activities,” he told the commission.
He added that Richmond County won VDOT grant funding to build a network of trails that the county hopes will eventually connect Community Park to areas deeper in town, such as The Bounds and RCC.
Furthermore, Richmond County used about $350,000 of funds from a VDOT Recreational Access Grant to construct Community Park Rd. Quicke cited Section B, number 1 noting that it says “a road alignment which opens adjacent land to residential or commercial development should be avoided.”
According Quicke, the grant’s guidelines, made it clear that Community Park Road would not be allowed to serve residential or commercial traffic.
The planning commission tabled the Dolan’s request for further discussion.
Meanwhile, Warsaw Town Council began discussing the issue that month, and Mayor Randy Phelps made clear that he was “adamantly opposed” to the project.
The town council sent the matter to the ordinance committee for further insight.
Dolans discover rezoning approval
Recreational access grants like the one used to build Community Park Rd. are intended to provide entryways to either recreational or historic properties. Before funding is awarded, a locality needs to pass a resolution committing to uphold the spirit and intent of the program.
Richmond County did so in December 2010, making a list of acknowledgements and vows, including that it would request that the state designate Richmond County Community Park as a public recreational facility and the county would use its good offices to protect the aesthetic or culture value of Community Park Rd.
Since then, Richmond County has been pushing forward with its vision of making Community Park “an environment the community has for fun and entertainment.”
Last fall, the county added to its large land package along Community Park Rd. by buying an additional three acres of land across the road from the Dolan’s parcel.
Then, about six months ago, nearly a decade after Community Park Rd. was built, the county asked Warsaw to rezone its property surrounding the Dolans. Warsaw obliged converting the plots to manufacturing, or M-1.
The Dolans were once again allegedly blindsided because the town didn’t provide the Notice to Adjacent Property Owners as it should have.
Town manager Joseph Quesenberry said the notice wasn’t sent because of “an oversight within our office.”
“The Dolan’s parcel is listed under Belle Ville Landing, LLC, and was initially overlooked as a parcel that was directly a part of the rezoning process,” Quesenberry explained.
However, he said the public hearing for the county’s rezoning request was properly advertised, and although it was already a done deal, the town reached out to the Dolan’s to explain the error.
Quesenberry said the county sought the M-1 zoning around the Dolans largely because it’s working to boost its economic development rankings through the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and needed to officially re-zone this property either commercial or manufacturing. Adjacent property towards Helena Chemical and the Horse Track are already zoned M-1, so the county’s request was for M-1.
County proposes a trade
Meanwhile, although Warsaw hadn’t made a decision on the Dolan’s application, Mr. Dolan said Quicke told them to get their property appraised and proposed trading it for county property.
“We have declined to do that because the land that he’s talking about possibly trading is way in the back of the Commerce Park. I mean all the way in the back. Our land is right on Route 3… we don’t think [what the county is offering] is appropriate for what we were proposing to do,” he said.
The Dolans believe Richmond County “apparently took money under conditions that it could not fulfill,” referring to use of the Recreational Access funds to build Community Park Rd.
The grant’s guidelines say “if the recreational access road must traverse privately-owned property, efforts should be made to impose restrictions on such development through appropriate means, such as zoning and deed restrictions.”
But the county doesn’t have zoning authority over the Dolan’s property. That power is vested in the town.
Furthermore, discussions about what type of traffic travels on Community Park Rd. are near moot at this point.
“The road is already the primary source of EMS traffic. And VDOT’s role is limited to working with localities to ensure the stated plan met the requirements of the program at the time that the applications are submitted and funds are awarded,” said Kelly Hannon, Communications Manager for VDOT’s Fredericksburg district.
“Once a public road is open, it is open to all types of traffic unless otherwise posted. It’s up to localities to honor the requirements as they balance land use decisions,” she added.
Warsaw’s planning commission opposed the Dolan’s project. Warsaw’s ordinance committee opposed allowing self-storage facilities on C-1 parcels.
Vice Mayor Paul Yackel said the ordinance committee didn’t consider the Dolan’s case specifically. Rather, it made a decision based on the fact that a change opens up the option for all C-1 parcels, and since there are some around town, other property owners could pursue self-storage facilities in places the town wouldn’t want them.
And last week, the Warsaw Town Council followed suit rejecting the Dolan’s application to amend the zoning ordinance.
Dolan’s useless parcel
“Our property is virtually useless if it can’t be used for commercial purposes,” said Mr. Dolan.
The Dolans took Quicke’s advice and had their land appraised. It was valued at $125,000, and they want the county to buy it.
They’ve sent the appraisal and offer to Quicke and are waiting for a response.