A group of Goochland landowners is calling for the county to delay an update to its future roads plan, arguing that the new plan omits previously mapped-out roads that they were counting on to be able to develop their properties.
County supervisors are set to vote following a public hearing today on the proposed 2040 Major Thoroughfare Plan, which maps out anticipated transportation improvements across the county in the next two decades.
The plan would replace a 2005 version that, among other things, more explicitly called for north-south and east-west collector roads in the vicinity of Hockett Road and West Creek Business Park, where a landowner group led by William Garner controls multiple tracts totaling nearly 1,000 acres, primarily west of the transforming former industrial park.
Where the old plan showed paths such roads might take, the new plan takes a different approach and stops short of recommending possible routes. It instead identifies the area in and around West Creek as a “designated growth area” and describes what roads there should eventually accomplish.
Garner, who owns about 400 of the group’s collective 988 acres, said that approach runs counter to the purpose of a transportation plan, describing it as essentially kicking the can down the road. Garner said that part of the county has been long-identified as a prime economic development area and requires road routes that are spelled out in the plan.
“An empty circle is the opposite of what a major thoroughfare plan is supposed to do,” Garner said. “The whole reason for a major thoroughfare plan is that you have a comprehensive plan and you want to figure out what the infrastructure might be.”
At issue is a difference of opinions on how and where future roads should connect in that corner of the county. Goochland staffers, who have been working on the plan since February with consulting firm Kimley-Horn, said the change in approach to that part of the plan was decided in August, when meetings with landowners, businesses and residents in that area failed to find a consensus on where such north-south and east-west roads should go.
Effects on West Creek
The north-south road, which was to serve as a bypass for the two-lane Hockett Road, would have connected Tuckahoe Creek Parkway with Patterson Avenue west of West Creek. Garner said a concern is that losing the bypass could increase the chances of Hockett Road being widened to four lanes – a concern shared by area residents who signed a petition that the group has presented to the county.
Garner said some routes considered for the east-west road, which would have connected Hockett Road with West Creek Boulevard near its interchange with Route 288, required running through parts of residential neighborhoods and Richmond Country Club. An alternative favored by the group would require a path through West Creek, which is owned and operated by The Pruitt Cos. and Bill Goodwin’s Riverstone Group.
“For our roads to work, it would need 670 feet from West Creek to connect straight across West Creek Parkway into the on-ramp onto 288,” Garner said. “It’s just a version of the old 2005 (plan), the east-west collector.”
Pruitt Cos. principal Tommy Pruitt said he is wary of such a connection to West Creek’s road network, particularly in the area of that interchange, which he described as minor compared to the cloverleaf interchanges at Patterson Avenue and Tuckahoe Creek Parkway.
With new uses such as apartments and a planned retirement community adding traffic to West Creek’s roads, and with congestion common on 288 during peak traffic hours, Pruitt said the east-west connection as previously proposed could exhaust the interchange.
“I haven’t been asked to participate, but I would be very reluctant to grant access for 1,000 acres coming into West Creek Parkway and 288 because of the existing traffic and the design of that interchange,” Pruitt said. “That interchange is the most minor interchange in all of West Creek, and to bring out 1,000 acres of new development at that point would really affect the users and future users of West Creek.”
Road network to be developed later
Jo Ann Hunter, community development director for Goochland, said such concerns from West Creek’s businesses and property owners prompted the change in approach for planning roads in that area. While the plan does not specify routes, she said, it does call for a road network that would be determined later on, through development proposals and updates to the plan, required every five years.
“The property is in a designated growth area, we know there’ll be a future road network there, but there was no real consensus on how to establish what that specific road network would be,” Hunter said. “We also have no development proposals, and the land use plan calls for it to be pretty flexible, so we don’t know how the vacant land there will be developed.
“Instead of drawing lines on the map that are sort of arbitrary, we’ve decided to just pull that area, star it and develop some parameters. We’re still planning for the area, but instead of it being in a map form, it’s in a text form,” she said. “It gives the future guidelines for how the area’s roads should develop, but it doesn’t show exactly where those roads could be.”
Garner maintained that such an approach opens the door to a potential widening of Hockett Road and connections needed for the group to develop their properties. The group has hired an attorney, Gifford Hampshire of firm Blankinship & Keith in Fairfax, to represent them in their requests to defer the plan’s approval. They’ve also consulted with a local traffic engineer, Dexter Williams of Midlothian-based DRW Consultants.
Garner said the group has not discussed what actions it might take if the county approves the plan as proposed. Supervisors are scheduled to hold the public hearing at their meeting that starts at 3 p.m. today.
“We were expecting to have some reasonable long-term planning network: the east-west collector, which everybody seems to have agreed on, and north-south, including the Hockett bypass,” Garner said. “What they did is draw a big red circle and it’s empty.”
County Administrator John Budesky said the group’s concerns were and will continue to be weighed as development proposals come forward and the area’s roads needs become clearer. But he said other concerns need to be taken into account as well, including those of neighboring businesses and property owners in West Creek.
“Substantial feedback from West Creek property owners do not concur with Mr. Garner’s concerns, so from the county’s perspective, until we have more of a plan of development for that particular area, we have not identified specific roads that would address that corridor and plan to revisit that in the future when we do get some development proposals,” Budesky said.
“Our plan clearly says that, in the future as development comes through, we will be identifying additional north-south, east-west roads in that area. They’re just not identified where Mr. Garner would have preferred to see them.”