Injunction halts eight-home infill on Riverside Drive

SouthBankRidge1

A security guard’s car blocks access to the site along Riverside Drive, where work was stopped this week due to a court injunction. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

Concerns from neighbors that rock blasting for a residential development along Riverside Drive would damage their homes have brought the project to a halt, at least for now.

A judge on Monday granted an emergency temporary injunction to a group of Forest Hill residents who claim that the planned blasting would exacerbate damage to their homes that they allege started with previous land disturbance work for South Bank Ridge, an eight-home infill development at Riverside and Southcliff Road.

The injunction was requested by owners of four homes in the area, including the owners of 4614 Riverside Drive, the century-old house whose 3-acre lot overlooking the James River was subdivided for the project.

SouthBankRidge2

The century-old house at Riverside and Southcliff is adjacent to the new home sites, which were subdivided from its lot.

The house was sold to them five years ago by the project’s developer, an entity called Riverside Southcliff LLC, whose members also include residents in the neighborhood.

According to a lawsuit that sought the injunction, the group of homeowners learned the developer planned to use explosives to blast granite bedrock on the same day, June 20, that the work was scheduled to start. The suit says a blasting permit had been approved that morning, and that the work was to start that afternoon.

Calls to city officials and district councilmember Kristen Nye resulted in the blasting being postponed to this past Monday, June 26, according to the suit. The suit was filed Friday, June 23, and the injunction was granted Monday, the day the work was rescheduled to start.

The suit alleges that the homeowners’ homes have sustained damages due to “hoe-ramming” over several weeks last fall. One of the homes’ foundations allegedly shifted by three inches, and its chimney collapsed and had to be rebuilt.

Other reported damages to the homes include cracked plaster, walls and ceilings. Two of the homes are on Southcliff several doors down from the site, while another is about a block away from the site.

SouthBankRidge3

Land disturbance equipment on the site sat inactive Wednesday.

The suit alleges negligence and “dangerous instrumentalities” and seeks compensatory damages of up to $1 million per plaintiff, in addition to the injunction. An evidentiary hearing is scheduled Friday morning.

The plaintiffs in the suit are Mari Lee and Brian McClure, Anne Wright, Carrie and Eric Haacke-Golden, and Lee and Mary Katherine Chaney. They are represented by D. Hayden Fisher with Fisher Law.

Fisher said Wednesday they’ve hired a geologist who has talked to the blasting company and determined that the Riverside Drive house is “definitely in jeopardy of being damaged” if the blasting is allowed to go forward.

Hayden Fisher mug

Hayden Fisher

“We’re going to be arguing that it should not go forward,” Fisher said. “His opinion is what they’re intending to do will jeopardize bodily injury and property damage to the adjacent homeowner.”

Fisher said their focus is not on the blasting company, who he didn’t identify, but rather the development group. A zoning compliance letter filed with the city last fall lists Benchmark Construction as the project contractor and “responsible land disturber,” but Fisher said the blasting company was hired as a third-party firm.

Fisher said the purpose for the blasting is to connect the lots to sewer and water utilities and provide stormwater drainage. He said the site has been floated for development in the past but plans never materialized due to the conditions.

“You’re dealing with Petersburg granite. It’s one of the hardest rocks in the world,” Fisher said. “Nobody’s developed on there for a reason.”

Fisher said it wasn’t clear who approved the blasting permit. The lawsuit notes involvement by the Richmond Fire Department, which it says held a community meeting in response to the concerns and confirmed to the homeowners that the permit had been approved.

“Regardless of who approved it, our lawsuit is not against the city; our lawsuit is against the developer,” Fisher said. “The permit probably should not have been granted. If they go forward with their plans, they’re definitely going to risk damage to the adjacent property.”

Michael Lacy with Troutman Pepper is representing the developer LLC, whose members include Chris Bossola, Doug Hilemn and Burt Pinnock. Calls to Lacy and Pinnock were not returned Wednesday. Bossola declined a request to comment.

Bossola is one of the heads of local startup The Endowment Project and once owned Need Supply Co., the former Carytown clothing store. Hilemn owns a namesake construction firm and is a former president of Eagle Commercial Construction. Pinnock is a principal and board chairman at architecture firm Baskervill.

south bank ridge site REV2

A site plan shows three of the new home sites fronting Riverside, two behind those and three fronting Southcliff.

In an interview about the project in 2021, Pinnock said the development had been years in the making and came about from conversations with Bossola and Hilemn, who he said are friends and have worked on several projects together.

Pinnock said the pandemic slowed down the project but that work had picked back up with engineering design for stormwater drainage and utilities. Parker Design Group was the civil engineer, and he said Bossola was working with local developer John Nolde as a project manager.

SouthBankRidgeRendering

A rendering of the homes. (Courtesy One South)

Pinnock said the new homes were planned to range in size from 2,600 to 3,000 square feet. He said he hoped to make one of the homes his own residence.

“Part of my personal interest in it is to build a forever home,” said Pinnock, noting family members who live nearby.

Of the project, Pinnock added: “The intent is really to continue the pattern of the neighborhood. It’s nothing drastically different.”

The group purchased the property for $1.4 million in 2017 and had it subdivided the following year, when the existing 1920s-era house was sold to the current owners for $1.2 million.

The group has been working with One South Realty Group to market the homes. The brokerage’s webpage for the project lists Pinnock as the architect.

SouthBankRidge1

A security guard’s car blocks access to the site along Riverside Drive, where work was stopped this week due to a court injunction. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

Concerns from neighbors that rock blasting for a residential development along Riverside Drive would damage their homes have brought the project to a halt, at least for now.

A judge on Monday granted an emergency temporary injunction to a group of Forest Hill residents who claim that the planned blasting would exacerbate damage to their homes that they allege started with previous land disturbance work for South Bank Ridge, an eight-home infill development at Riverside and Southcliff Road.

The injunction was requested by owners of four homes in the area, including the owners of 4614 Riverside Drive, the century-old house whose 3-acre lot overlooking the James River was subdivided for the project.

SouthBankRidge2

The century-old house at Riverside and Southcliff is adjacent to the new home sites, which were subdivided from its lot.

The house was sold to them five years ago by the project’s developer, an entity called Riverside Southcliff LLC, whose members also include residents in the neighborhood.

According to a lawsuit that sought the injunction, the group of homeowners learned the developer planned to use explosives to blast granite bedrock on the same day, June 20, that the work was scheduled to start. The suit says a blasting permit had been approved that morning, and that the work was to start that afternoon.

Calls to city officials and district councilmember Kristen Nye resulted in the blasting being postponed to this past Monday, June 26, according to the suit. The suit was filed Friday, June 23, and the injunction was granted Monday, the day the work was rescheduled to start.

The suit alleges that the homeowners’ homes have sustained damages due to “hoe-ramming” over several weeks last fall. One of the homes’ foundations allegedly shifted by three inches, and its chimney collapsed and had to be rebuilt.

Other reported damages to the homes include cracked plaster, walls and ceilings. Two of the homes are on Southcliff several doors down from the site, while another is about a block away from the site.

SouthBankRidge3

Land disturbance equipment on the site sat inactive Wednesday.

The suit alleges negligence and “dangerous instrumentalities” and seeks compensatory damages of up to $1 million per plaintiff, in addition to the injunction. An evidentiary hearing is scheduled Friday morning.

The plaintiffs in the suit are Mari Lee and Brian McClure, Anne Wright, Carrie and Eric Haacke-Golden, and Lee and Mary Katherine Chaney. They are represented by D. Hayden Fisher with Fisher Law.

Fisher said Wednesday they’ve hired a geologist who has talked to the blasting company and determined that the Riverside Drive house is “definitely in jeopardy of being damaged” if the blasting is allowed to go forward.

Hayden Fisher mug

Hayden Fisher

“We’re going to be arguing that it should not go forward,” Fisher said. “His opinion is what they’re intending to do will jeopardize bodily injury and property damage to the adjacent homeowner.”

Fisher said their focus is not on the blasting company, who he didn’t identify, but rather the development group. A zoning compliance letter filed with the city last fall lists Benchmark Construction as the project contractor and “responsible land disturber,” but Fisher said the blasting company was hired as a third-party firm.

Fisher said the purpose for the blasting is to connect the lots to sewer and water utilities and provide stormwater drainage. He said the site has been floated for development in the past but plans never materialized due to the conditions.

“You’re dealing with Petersburg granite. It’s one of the hardest rocks in the world,” Fisher said. “Nobody’s developed on there for a reason.”

Fisher said it wasn’t clear who approved the blasting permit. The lawsuit notes involvement by the Richmond Fire Department, which it says held a community meeting in response to the concerns and confirmed to the homeowners that the permit had been approved.

“Regardless of who approved it, our lawsuit is not against the city; our lawsuit is against the developer,” Fisher said. “The permit probably should not have been granted. If they go forward with their plans, they’re definitely going to risk damage to the adjacent property.”

Michael Lacy with Troutman Pepper is representing the developer LLC, whose members include Chris Bossola, Doug Hilemn and Burt Pinnock. Calls to Lacy and Pinnock were not returned Wednesday. Bossola declined a request to comment.

Bossola is one of the heads of local startup The Endowment Project and once owned Need Supply Co., the former Carytown clothing store. Hilemn owns a namesake construction firm and is a former president of Eagle Commercial Construction. Pinnock is a principal and board chairman at architecture firm Baskervill.

south bank ridge site REV2

A site plan shows three of the new home sites fronting Riverside, two behind those and three fronting Southcliff.

In an interview about the project in 2021, Pinnock said the development had been years in the making and came about from conversations with Bossola and Hilemn, who he said are friends and have worked on several projects together.

Pinnock said the pandemic slowed down the project but that work had picked back up with engineering design for stormwater drainage and utilities. Parker Design Group was the civil engineer, and he said Bossola was working with local developer John Nolde as a project manager.

SouthBankRidgeRendering

A rendering of the homes. (Courtesy One South)

Pinnock said the new homes were planned to range in size from 2,600 to 3,000 square feet. He said he hoped to make one of the homes his own residence.

“Part of my personal interest in it is to build a forever home,” said Pinnock, noting family members who live nearby.

Of the project, Pinnock added: “The intent is really to continue the pattern of the neighborhood. It’s nothing drastically different.”

The group purchased the property for $1.4 million in 2017 and had it subdivided the following year, when the existing 1920s-era house was sold to the current owners for $1.2 million.

The group has been working with One South Realty Group to market the homes. The brokerage’s webpage for the project lists Pinnock as the architect.

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Marshall Ray Eichfeld, PE
Marshall Ray Eichfeld, PE
10 months ago

Rock Blasting within 1,000 feet of several public roads and neighboring houses within a residential area without warning or obvious safety protocols? And they say they are following state law? Please tell me this isn’t true.

Brett Themore
Brett Themore
10 months ago

I don’t see anything about not following safety protocols in the article. Maybe I missed it? Being a PE, you surely understand that approved permits must show compliance with building codes as well as local/state laws, and the permit wouldn’t have been granted if those were not followed and a plan provided showing compliance. Hyperbole by a lawyer is to be expected, but the real misstep here is lack of public engagement to handle their concerns and questions. I suspect proper documentation is lacking on the part of the homeowners to really prove any true damage. My 100+ year home… Read more »

Victoria Woodhull
Victoria Woodhull
10 months ago
Reply to  Brett Themore

I own a house that is 100 years old and foundation shifts (cracks) are not charming – they leak water into my home. So yeah, I am team “stop the rock blasting.”

Last edited 10 months ago by Victoria Woodhull
Brett Themore
Brett Themore
10 months ago

I think that’s kinda my point. Pretty good chance these cracks and foundation issues were already present but have recreantly been “found” because of the homeowners newly focused attention to them… like when you buy a new car, you swore it wasn’t that popular, than all of a sudden, you see them all over. If there is a direct cause I hope the owners have taken good photos, or had a conditions survey done by a third party to prove their claims, otherwise it likely just a waste of time or a money grab, in hopes of a settlement. I’ll… Read more »

Boz Boschen
Boz Boschen
10 months ago

Are the blasting permits separate from construction permits or included within them? The construction permits for all of these properties have expired. https://energov.richmondgov.com/EnerGov_Prod/SelfService/richmondvaprod?fbclid=IwAR35sXXpze8RBLDGMfDOy-EUO-t-_2YbLE-69sM2_HFUesIzNW3JOyxBHtA#/permit/c968a707-96e8-49c9-8ec0-50570fc30057

karl hott
karl hott
10 months ago

Richmond…Virginia’s infill capital.

Victoria Woodhull
Victoria Woodhull
10 months ago
Reply to  karl hott

Isn’t this a good thing? Reduce sprawl! I would love it if some of my neighbors would subdivide their property to me so I can build a new home!

Leon Phoenix
Leon Phoenix
10 months ago

Instead of blasting down into the bedrock they might need to raise up the existing land to accommodate the pipes and sewage. Builders often do this on uneven land.