A delayed vote Monday has put the city and Bon Secours Richmond at risk of missing an agreed-upon July 1 deadline to decide the fate of the former Westhampton School property — and it’s unclear what the consequences could be.
The Richmond Planning Commission voted Monday to hold off its recommendation on the health system’s request to rezone the property at Patterson and Libbie avenues. Bon Secours needs the rezoning to build a three-story, 55,000-square-foot medical office building on a parcel adjacent to the existing school structure and allow developers to pitch ideas for the rest of the site.
Part of a 2013 lease agreement between the city and Bon Secours included a five-year deadline to determine the property’s use. They now face missing that July 1 deadline, as commission Chairman Rodney Poole said Monday’s continuance means the City Council could not consider a recommendation before that day.
Council is scheduled to hear the request at its next meeting June 25, but Poole said it could not take action without a recommendation from the commission.
“There is no question this will not permit this matter to go to City Council before July 1,” Poole said.
Bon Secours is seeking to rezone 6 acres from R-4 Single-Family Residential to B-7 Mixed-Use Business District as it mulls what to do with the property.
Several dozen area residents attended and spoke at Monday’s meeting.
Rezoning opponents, including representatives of nearby neighborhood associations, voiced concerns about traffic, parking and preserving the school building’s facade.
A representative from the Westhampton Merchant’s Association spoke in support of rezoning, stating that the vacant building is an eyesore and not serving the neighborhood.
Some commission members said they believed more due diligence is necessary before deciding whether to rezone the property. Bon Secours said it has received 11 proposals from developers but has not disclosed any details.
Some citizens and commission members said they think a special-use permit would be a viable alternative to rezoning, as that process would require more transparency about what redevelopment of the school building would look like.
Bon Secours has not committed to preserving the existing buildings, but has said repeatedly that preference would be given to developments that preserve the oldest part of the school. In 2016, Bon Secours scrapped plans to turn the school structure into a medical office building and move its nursing school to the property.