Henrico approves scaled-down Arcadia project in Varina

A conceptual site plan for East West Communities’ Arcadia development, which would fill 250 acres east of Pocahontas Parkway and Route 5. (Henrico County documents)

After a two-hour hearing and as many hours of discussion, Henrico supervisors signed off late Tuesday evening on a massive residential development in Varina that drew considerable opposition from some area residents, despite an eleventh-hour reduction in the project’s size.

The board voted around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday to approve East West Communities’ Arcadia development, which the Midlothian-based developer reduced from 1,000 proposed homes to just under 800, in one of several proffer amendments that county staff said were finalized just hours before the meeting.

Other changes included a phased development schedule, in which the eastern half of the project would not be developed before 2030, meaning only 500 homes could be built in the next seven years; removal of all vehicular access from Route 5; and commitments for some homes to be priced more affordably and for plantings of native species beyond county requirements.

The additional proffers drew the ire of speakers opposed to the project, who argued they were submitted too late for the board to consider that night.

Supervisors maintained that the changes had been in the works for several weeks and were mostly known to them well before the meeting, but the bulk of the more than two dozen speakers who addressed the board in the hearing urged them to hold off a decision to consider the changes.

Supervisor Tyrone Nelson, who represents the Varina District, maintained that deferring the case would not change anything about it and would only result in another four-hour discussion at the board’s next meeting.

“The proffer conditions that came in today, they were for the better,” Nelson said before motioning to approve the rezoning. The vote was unanimous.

The approval clears the way for the project, which would fill roughly 250 acres of farmland just east of Pocahontas Parkway where it crosses Route 5. The site, Nelson Farm, straddles Willson Road north of its intersection with Route 5.

A closer view of Arcadia West, which could include condos lining Pocahontas Parkway.

Planned to consist of a mix of houses, townhomes and potentially condominiums, the development would be split into two sections: Arcadia West, between the parkway and Willson Road; and Arcadia East across Willson, which would connect the two. The project would also include a central park area and 80-plus acres of open and recreational space with bike and pedestrian connections to the Virginia Capital Trail.

Under the conditions that were presented before the hearing, Arcadia West would consist of 500 units that would make up an initial phase of development over the first seven years.

Arcadia East would potentially total 295 homes – for a development total of 795 homes – but only 50 of those could be built before the developer provides a second vehicular access to the site – one that wouldn’t connect to Route 5. Such an access would require additional land acquisition at the developer’s expense, county planners said.

Arcadia East would consist of single-family homes and a cluster of townhomes around a central park area.

The developer also proffered to put all common areas beyond recreational amenities into a conservation district. It also proffered that at least 20 of the homes would be built for lower-income households, through a collaboration with the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust. The housing proffer is a first for Henrico County, administrators said.

The rest of the homes would be priced between $200,000 and $500,000, said Mark Kronenthal, a local real estate attorney who represented East West along with Roth Jackson attorney Andy Condlin.

Architectural styles for the houses would include Arts & Crafts, Classical, Contemporary and European Romantic.

Among those who spoke in opposition to the rezoning was state Sen. Joe Morrissey, who owns a residence along Osborne Turnpike. Arguing that approval would jump ahead of a planned update to the county’s comprehensive plan, Morrissey also echoed other speakers who said the project’s density would be out of character for Varina and negatively impact current residents’ way of life.

“Bringing in 800 units is a complete change in the nature and character of what Varinians” have enjoyed, Morrissey said. Closing his comments, he added, “Consider the lifestyle that Varininians have enjoyed for a century, and realize that’s important to their very being and vote against this project.”

Other speakers described Varina as a rural asset to the region and said they didn’t want it developed like Short Pump or Brandermill, the latter of which was East West Communities’ first development.

Jeremy Rowan, who said he has resided in Varina for 20 years, told the board: “I ask you, I beg you: Please don’t ‘Short Pump’ Varina.”

Bill Nelson, whose family owns and is selling the Nelson Farm property for the project, was among a handful of speakers who voiced support for the development. Describing himself as the last farmer in the family, Nelson said the decision was made to sell the land, and East West was identified as a preferred buyer.

“Land is a farmer’s IRA,” Nelson said, describing the move as a needed retirement plan. “We decided to execute our constitutional right to sell our land for the highest and best use.”

Nelson’s comments struck a chord with some of the supervisors, who noted the family’s wish to sell the land and see it developed.

“He had made plans for this, and he is the one who owns the land. We also have to take his wishes into consideration,” Supervisor Pat O’Bannon said.

In addition to Brandermill, East West’s developments around Richmond include Woodlake, Hallsley, Hampton Park and River’s Bend on the James, all in Chesterfield County. The firm also developed Giles in Hanover County and Patriots Landing in New Kent. Arcadia is its first project in Henrico.

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Tom Porch
Tom Porch
11 days ago

Not surprising at all that Morrissey would take a NIMBY stance for much needed housing in the area.

Eric Roberts
Eric Roberts
11 days ago

There’s been a concerted effort underway for MANY years now to preserve the Route 5 corridor and its viewshed as a scenic and historical byway. Part of that effort is limiting population density in areas that feed into it as a primary artery. That road is so old, when the earliest English-speaking settlers arrived in Virginia, the native footpath that Route 5 follows was already called “Old Indian Road”. That same Route 5 is the horse cart path everyone we’ve heard from our nation’s history took to get to and from Williamsburg. There’s so much land that’s located on better… Read more »

John Lindner
John Lindner
11 days ago

It’s too bad they have cut off access to Route 5. That decision is likely to make the traffic even worse in other areas of the county. And it’s unlikely that the remaining undeveloped land along Route 5 will stay that way, no matter how badly long-term residents want that.

“When the gods want to punish you, they answer your prayers.”

Zach Rugar
Zach Rugar
11 days ago

Stinks, they couldn’t build more of a full village style development and just keep out the suburbia part. If you want to keep the rural areas more scenic, we have to build more density in the areas that already have development or minimize the amount of land we waste on housing. Just more development that only caters to the automobile!

Tim Harper
Tim Harper
11 days ago

They need to cut down all the forests so the people from New York and Northern Virginia will be able to move down here.

Zach Rugar
Zach Rugar
11 days ago
Reply to  Tim Harper

You must not be human at all. Or you’re one of those globalist in disguise trying to further divide our country. Keep Virginia as a strong southern and patriotic state that believes in the Lord above and for people who ACTUALLY believe in our CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. ESPECIALLY OUR BEAUTIFUL 2ND AMENDMENT! WITHOUT OUR 2ND, WE LOSE THE REST!

Zach Rugar
Zach Rugar
10 days ago
Reply to  Zach Rugar

And of course the bot downvoters got me again LOL. Your whiny downvotes just shows that this area is filled with commie traitors.

Last edited 10 days ago by Zach Rugar
Justin Ranson
Justin Ranson
10 days ago
Reply to  Zach Rugar

I was with you until you brought your deity to the mix.

Zach Rugar
Zach Rugar
6 days ago
Reply to  Justin Ranson

Still doesn’t change the fact that this site and so many other places online are filled with bots posing as people.

Justin Fritch
Justin Fritch
5 days ago
Reply to  Zach Rugar

Honestly, when I read your irrelevant comment I assumed you were a bot. Here, have my inconsequential downvotes.

I kid, I appreciate the sarcasm 🙂

Last edited 5 days ago by Justin Fritch
Zach Rugar
Zach Rugar
4 days ago
Reply to  Justin Fritch

Will see who has the last laugh soon, kek. Watch this site drastically change once all the bots are taken down.

Ramone Antonio
Ramone Antonio
11 days ago

Every side of town in RVA should have its own community. Places of Work, Homes, Store’s of Convince & Parks. It’s good to keep history. And it’s even better to make it beautiful again. That whole area has looked outdated for decades I’m all for it.