New Island Hill development upsets neighbors

By Heather Michon

Residents from two neighborhoods met at Fluvanna County Public Library last Monday (March 25) to discuss Island Hill, a controversial new housing development planned for the entrance to Broken Island Road.

Southern Development bought the 115-acre parcel earlier this year. According to planning documents submitted to the county in January, the company envisions 49 homes built on approximately 25 acres, with the 90 remaining acres left undeveloped.

The Planning Commission preliminarily approved Island Hill Feb. 12.

About 40 residents from Broken Island Road and Lake Monticello’s Riverside section met to talk about their concerns regarding the impact the development might have on local traffic, the environment, and the view from their own backyards.

Lee Hinkle, who just moved near the entrance of Broken Island Road, could find her five-acre property abutting up to six new houses. She said she’s had lengthy discussions with members of the county Planning Commission and representatives of Southern Development about their plans for the land.

Hinkle’s son, Eric Quackenbush, is a Richmond-based architect. He gave a presentation on how rural cluster developments can be planned to best preserve the natural landscape.

“It doesn’t seem like a cluster development,” said one resident, looking at the plans submitted to the Planning Commission. “It seems more like a clump development.”

“I do not disagree with you,” said Quackenbush. Local jurisdictions decide what they think a cluster development should be, he said, and “Fluvanna County zoning has some holes in it.”

Residents expressed anger that there had been no prior warning a development was in the works.

Under county zoning rules, a rural cluster development is allowed for the parcel as a “by right” use, and the developer was not required to hold a public meeting.

Supervisors Tony O’Brien (Rivanna) and Trish Eager (Palmyra) were on hand to answer questions about county’s role in the planning process.

Asked if community pressure on the Board of Supervisors might have an effect, O’Brien explained that, while they received presentations on the development, their part in the process was limited.

“It’ll never even come to us,” said O’Brien. “It’s an administrative decision.”

O’Brien added that supervisors could use community input and recommendations to potentially improve county zoning rules regarding rural clusters in the future – but cautioned those rules couldn’t be applied retroactively to developments like Island Hill.

After more than an hour of discussion, the group decided to start a petition to the county about their concerns, and there were tentative suggestions about hiring a lawyer to represent the residents going forward.

Most seemed resigned to the inevitability of the development.

“It sounds like it’s a done deal and there’s nothing we can do about it,” said one Riverside Drive resident.

Hinkle struck an optimistic note. She agreed that it probably wasn’t possible to stop the construction, but they might be able to play a role in Island Hill’s final design and implementation.

“I think if there’s enough pressure we could have an impact,” she said.

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