The stage is set for the development of 2,400 acres in western Chesterfield County with a new technology park and hundreds of homes.
The Chesterfield Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to approve a county-initiated rezoning request needed for a proposed technology park and public facilities on a 1,700-acre portion of the site in the so-called Upper Magnolia Green area near Moseley.
Supervisors also approved a separate rezoning application related to the development of up to 600 single-family lots and public facilities on the 700-acre eastern portion of the Upper Magnolia site. About 150 acres of the eastern area would be used for a middle school, library and potentially an elementary school.
The board split 3-2 in approving the rezoning for the tech park. They voted unanimously in favor of the residential portion.
Supervisors who voted in favor of the tech park piece cited the chance to use it for economic development and to help unlock state and federal funding for the extension of Powhite Parkway.
“I’m concerned about our water, I’m concerned about transportation,” Supervisor Jim Holland said, referring to concerns raised by residents about the project’s potential impacts. “The question really is, is this case in the best interest of Chesterfield County and the extension of the Powhite? I’ll have to say yes … I do believe this case will be transformative for Chesterfield for diversifying its tax base, its economy.”
The vote followed a failed attempt to defer the technology park case for further study and potentially additional county oversight over the rollout of the development, an idea that was supported by Supervisors Kevin Carroll and Jim Ingle, who ultimately voted against the technology park zoning.
“I think this case is not quite ready. I think there’s some guardrails we can put on it to hold future boards accountable,” Carroll said.
County officials envision the technology park as a new hub of advanced manufacturing, research and development and offices on a single campus in a fast-growing western area of the county north of Hull Street Road.
The park’s development is limited to seven principal uses: computer equipment manufacturing, office, laboratory, data center, electronic component and accessories manufacturing, pharmaceutical products manufacturing and research and development facilities.
Accessory uses include warehouses and plastic products manufacturing among several others.
The new general industrial (I-2) zoning for the western part of the property typically allows for more than 200 by-right or with-restriction uses. The county slashed the number of uses for the property to focus on select industries, according to a staff report.
Building heights in the park would be limited to 150 feet, which is 13 stories. About 100 acres of the western Upper Magnolia area would be set aside for a new high school and fire station.
The project site is bisected into its western and eastern portions by a future extension of Powhite Parkway that would connect it to Hull Street Road. County officials have said that the technology park would help secure funding for the project, which is estimated to cost around $700 million.
Prior to the approval of plans to develop facilities within the technology park, the county would be required to create a plan to build the extension of Powhite Parkway to Hull Street Road. That would include a funding plan that would have to be approved by the Board of Supervisors, according to the staff report.
The rezoning approvals Thursday capped off months of deliberation and public meetings related to the proposed development, which has drawn criticism from some county residents throughout the process. In a split vote, the Chesterfield Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the two applications tied to the Upper Magnolia project in April.
Opponents of the proposal continued to criticize the technology park during the public hearing that preceded Thursday’s vote. More than a dozen picketed outside the board meeting room prior to the vote.
Almost 40 people spoke during Thursday’s public hearing. Most of them opposed the project. Their concerns — some expressed in a poem by one speaker — focused on environmental impacts, what they called a lack of information about the project and other issues.
The proposal includes county-created buffers of 750 feet measured from existing homes on properties adjacent to the project area, in addition to 200-foot buffers along the proposed extension of Powhite Parkway, in a bid to address some concerns posed by residents.
Buffers will account for about 380 acres of the western area of the project site.
Some critics of the project also questioned how much of the technology park would be developable given the topography and wetlands in the project area.
Lawyer Andy Condlin of law firm Roth Jackson, who represented the county in the case, estimated more than 1,000 acres of the technology park would be potentially developable, though he said further engineering would be needed to confirm the final number.
In a public meeting last month, Planning Commissioner Gib Sloan estimated 500 to 550 acres would be “easily, readily available, developable land.” A VDOT traffic impact analysis dated May 6 is based on the assumption the technology park would be about 300 acres.
Assistant Planning Director Steve Donohoe, who was the case manager for both rezoning cases, declined to give an estimate on expected usable acreage when reached last week and said that additional engineering would determine the final developable area.
The technology park project had the support of ChamberRVA, which encouraged its members to support the development. The head of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Jason El Koubi, told supervisors in a presentation earlier this year that the technology park would be a boon to the county and region.
The majority of the 2,400-acre site is owned by the county’s economic development authority, which bought its portion of the assemblage in 2020.