Growth is coming to Scottsville, whether the community likes it or not.
Scottsville Town Council voted 4-3 Monday night to approve a special-use permit that will allow 36 houses on Bird Street. The approval came after more than 10 meetings involving the proposal.
The request to build houses on about 12 acres of a property next to the former Hyosung Tire plant has divided factions of Scottsville residents and surrounding community members. They worry about the area’s small-town character if the community grows, or if it continues to lose population.
With the approval, Scottsville will see its first substantial housing development in the town’s modern history.
Scottsville’s Mayor Ron Smith cast the tie-breaking vote, saying “this is the change we need.”
“This is for the greater good, this is for the future of the town and I think we will be making the right decision to have those homes up there,” he said.
Charles W. Hurt, a local real estate entrepreneur, developer and founder of Virginia Land Co., bought the plant property for $600,000 in 2011. The plant sits on 41 acres and is adjacent to an empty nearly 20-acre parcel, both owned by Hurt through limited liability companies, or LLCs.
The special-use permit allows for the houses to be built on about 12 acres of the nearly 20-acre property, which the town voted 4-3 in June to rezone from Industrial to Village Residential, with Smith again casting the tie-breaking vote.
The council also voted at that time to add incentives for cluster development to Village Residential-zoned land where public water and sewer service is available. With a special-use permit approval, the town council can allow for a cluster development of up to four units per acre when a third of the project area is left as open space.
The council also approved conditions for the Bird Street permit, which include requiring the final site plan to conform generally to the concept plan shown in the application; building at least six – and no more than 10 – duplex homes with the remainder being detached single-family houses; a phase two environmental impact study on the site; trails; sidewalks; and native plants used in the development.
The two newest councilors, Meredith Hynes and Alex Bessette, joined Councilor Eddie Payne in voting against the permit.
“The biggest impediment to better development in many small towns is a fear of saying no to anything,” Payne said. “The communities that will not say no to bad development will get the worst of everything. If they say no to bad development, they will get better development in its place.”
Councilor Stuart Munson, who seemed to be the swing councilor vote, said he thought this was a very well thought out compromise.
“I don’t think that anyone’s gonna get everything they want here — I’m not getting everything that I want — but I think it’s the best thing for the town,” he said. “We’ve all agreed that we need to have some growth here if we’re going to be able to mulch the parks and maintain the police and we are struggling now to find a way to balance our budget with the taxes that we receive.”
The town’s population in the 2020 census was 524, a decrease of 42 residents from the 2010 census. The town currently does not receive property tax revenue. The core of its local revenues come from taxes on local businesses and those who patronize them — meals taxes, cigarette taxes, business licenses and bank franchise taxes. The recommended fiscal year 2023 budget, which starts July 1, is $1,200,558.
Currently, the town’s meals tax is 4.5%. The recommended budget includes raising it to 6%. The council will be discussing the budget at its next few meetings and will hold public hearings in May.
“These [revenues] are not providing the structural growth to keep up with the increased cost of doing the basic services that we do,” Town Administrator Matt Lawless said later in the meeting. “So the basic question for council and the community as we review this budget and discuss tax rates is, do we feel like we’re at a ceiling for services?”
During public comment, six people spoke in favor of the permit, while two spoke against it.
Sarah Woods, who has spoken out against the project since it was proposed, said council should make considerations based on town supporting documents. She noted that the town’s Comprehensive Plan mentions the entire former factory site as one 61-acre property.
“We should wait for the studies that have grants, that are items that people have requested and will help provide answers and build community support,” she said.
Frank Ballif, the president of Southern Development Homes, and Keith Lancaster, a land planner with Southern Development, were on hand to answer questions from council and confirm that they had a contract to build homes on the property.
When asked about prices for the homes, Ballif said it is hard to give specific price ranges when there is not yet a site plan. He did not offer a price range at the meeting.
“As y’all can imagine, as a home builder today with lumber costs and supply chain issues, everything’s all over,” he said “But I think one of the ways we were trying to at least adopt more of a variance were those couple of duplexes that were mixed in, which would certainly be at a lower price point than the singles.”
Ballif said they would start work immediately on the site plan. In Scottsville, site plans are reviewed by the Planning Commission, and can take several months. When that is approved they will start putting in the infrastructure.
That time frame for review did not faze Ballif.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a site plan in Albemarle County approved in less than a year,” he said.