For more than a year, a large gold-and-black sign advertising the Rosedale development has stood alone in a large open tract of land on Graves Mill Road, near the intersection of Old Graves Mill Road in Lynchburg.
The proposed 62-acre, mixed-use development is planned to include a mix of office space, nature trails, dining, a hotel, shopping and about 135 residential units. After City Council voted late Tuesday to enter into a performance agreement with the developer to fund $5.9 million in roadwork necessary for the project’s completion, Rosedale is moving ahead.
According to the developers, the bidding process for the construction of the main road through the property will begin in the next two months. They expect groundbreaking to begin during the spring or early summer of 2017. Upon completion, the roadwill be turned over to the city. Dick Schoew, president of Hopkins Brothers, the developers behind the project, praised City Council on Wednesday for its support.
Schoew said the next step for the development will be to secure contracts for a boutique hotel with 80 to 90 rooms, an upscale restaurant and a microbrewery he said would be similar to Devils Backbone.
Rosedale project moves forward
Reporter: Margaret Carmel
Lynchburg News & Advance
October 13, 2016
The 6-1 vote to fund the road construction was preceded by a heated discussion between council members in favor of the deal and Councilman Jeff Helgeson, who voted against it.
“There is nothing about this that I like,” Helgeson said during the meeting Tuesday night. “This is $5.8 million you cannot cut from our heavy tax burden on our citizens. It’s not money we can give to our firefighters or our teachers because we’re going to give it to these guys so they can build a driveway into their property.”
Councilman Randy Nelson countered with the argument developers are under much stricter regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Americans with Disabilities Act and other legislation and need assistance to undertake large projects.
“All of the requirements that the city expects its projects to have included in there, that didn’t used to be the case, make it extremely difficult for any developer to take upon themselves the financial expenses of any large project,” Nelson said.
Money reimbursed to Hopkins Brothers for the construction of the road will come from tax revenue raised by the Rosedale property and the adjacent Bella Rose Plantation and Events Center during the course of 15 years, according to the performance agreement. Up until the first $3 million is paid out, the city will reimburse Hopkins Brothers 75 percent of annual tax revenue, and from that point onward, the city will return 55 percent of the collected tax revenue. This will continue up until the cap of $5,879,794 is reached or the 15-year agreement comes to an end.
Helgeson said the agreement is not in line with what the city and developer had discussed in 2014, when City Council rezoned the land.”I see this as a deal that has changed so drastically when it was put to us as a council two years ago,” he said. “It wasn’t a decade ago when development was so different; it was two years ago. Two years ago, you said you were going to [build the road]. I don’t think it’s the city taxpayer’s responsibility to make up for poor financial projections.”
In September 2014, City Council laid out its criteria for participation in such an agreement. Council’s Finance Committee said the new road would have to provide connectivity to Breeze wood Drive, and the city would provide no more than a 50 percent reimbursement for the hard costs of the road and reimburse the developer for 10 years.
According to meeting documents about the agreement, the developer originally asked for a cap of $8 million for the road construction, but city staff recommended a lower amount. Nelson lobbied for the higher cap Tuesday, citing inflation and shifting federal loan rates over time that could raise costs.
“Projecting the cost of a project that is going to be completed years and years from now to say that $5.9 million is a reasonable cap is to ignore what can and will happen,” he said. “I don’t want to approve a project and put an artificial cap on it that may not be realistic given a changing economy and have to pour money into this because we got the developer to build it at minimum quality.”
When Councilman Turner Perrow called his abstention “a cop out” and pressed Helgeson to “hit yes or no,” Helgeson replied he “wasn’t voting because you’re an a–,” and said Perrow should “stop getting in a hissy fit like a schoolgirl.”
When reached by phone Wednesday, Perrow chose not to comment on the interaction.
On Tuesday, Perrow emphasized the importance of having connectivity from Rosedale to a large piece of land behind it, referred to as the Skinner tract, and the potential for future connectivity to Breezewood Drive.
“This is a road that connects through this project that unlocks other pieces of land,” Perrow said. “This is a road that we very well could be paying for ourselves, and this is a good way to finance a project for something we desire to have.”
According to a project timeline included in meeting documents, developers have been in talks with the city over funding for road improvements both within the proposed development and on Graves Mill Road since 2012. Originally, the developers approached the city and requested they build a road and turn signal in exchange for a donation of the right-of-way. The turn signal was not discussed as part of the approved agreement.
In 2014, City Council approved a conditional use permit and the rezoning of 42 acres off Graves Mill Road just past Home Depot to allow the project. The following year, City Council approved a conditional use permit that amended the earlier conditional use permit and the rezoning of about 27 acres that was not included in the previous rezoning.
This arrangement resembles the performance agreement between the developers of The Virginian hotel and the city, for a total of $5 million in gap financing for the project.
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