Hearing Date Set For Bray’s Fork Development

The Essex County Board of Supervisors has set Monday, October 2, as the date for a public hearing regarding a mixed-used development proposed for Bray’s Fork.

The hearing will take place in the Essex High auditorium starting at 7 p.m.

Earlier this month, the Essex County Planning Commission voted 5-2 to recommend denial of the rezoning request for the project called Essex Point at Mount Clement.

Shiree and June Monterio have submitted the application which has been under review for about a year.

Shiree Monterio is the president and founder of project developer 7 and M Development, LLC. She is the granddaughter of the late Thomas Harris, a prominent African-American Tappahannock businessman, whose property is being utilized for the project.

They have requested that a 13.186-acre site be rezoned from Business to Planned United Development to accommodate the project. The property fronts approximately 554 feet along the westbound lane of U.S. Route 360 and is about 1,500 feet from the Bray’s Fork interchange.

If approved, the development will bring a variety of housing and business opportunities, including housing for ages 55-plus and workforce housing for teachers, nurses, law enforcement and local government employees.

The project has been slimmed down from its original status after concerns were raised during a June hearing.

The original proposal included around a dozen variance requests, while the amended version includes only three.

Those are:

• Less acreage than the 15-acre minimum requirement;

• The desire for private roads to be created within the project. Such roads would have public easements.

• A single entrance/exit off Route 360 with a secondary emergency only access while providing two future connector roads to adjoin Hospital Road.

The revised proposal also:

• Eliminated residential buildings closest to the neighboring LaGrange Industrial Park;

• Reduced the senior living component from 91 units to 56 units;

• Reduced the workforce housing component from 48 units to 28 units;

• Reduced the commercial footprint by 36 percent to 41,494 gross square footage;

• Reduced the community center space by 18 percent to 11,799 gross square footage;

• Increased the number of parking spaces from 395 to 456;

• Increased buffering and open space; and

• Added a secondary emergency only egress access.

Certain proffers were included in the proposal. Some of those were covenants (proximity to industrial, leasing office/residential services), utility extensions and road improvements, and cash contributions to address utilities and transportation issues.

A total of $403,000 was proposed towards water/sewer (which would aid the LaGrange Industrial Park clients) and $297,000 for the road system.

Shiree Monterio also noted that real estate taxes for the site would jump from the current $4,000 annually to $500,000 per year once the project is completed.

During last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Chairman Rob Akers — whose Greater Tappahannock District is where the project is proposed — noted that the supervisors had yet to receive any details about the project or information from the county’s zoning staff.

He also noted that the September 12 session was not a public hearing date for the proposals, however several people spoke in support of the project during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“Each technical question that was raised… was answered,” the Rev. Cornelius Holmes told the supervisors. “It looked like it made no difference. It was if as what was said (at the Planning Commission public hearing) didn’t amount to anything.”

Raymond Whitaker, chairman of the Essex County School Board, said the project will be a financial boon for the school system.

“We need money, but you all need real money because you support all the agencies in the county,” he told the supervisors.

“I want you to have an open mind and think outside the box,” Olander Washington remarked. “People around here are looking for housing.”

Brenda Anderson Diggs, a former Essex educator, told the supervisors that the housing component of the project is an important issue for attracting teachers.

“Essex is at a disadvantage because there are no creature comforts,” she remarked. “It’s the right time and the right offer. It’s not going to cost Essex a dime.”

“This is an opportunity to improve the well-being of everyone who lives here,” Madeline Lawson said.

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