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Waiting for a better housing economy

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Phase I of the large Rosegill housing development near Urbanna was approved in 2008, but no houses have been built.

by Tom Chillemi

In 2008, the Middlesex Board of Supervisors approved 329 building lots in subdivisions, but just 2 houses have been built on those lots.

The total number of building lots approved in 2008 was 382. The total number of lots for 2009 through 2012 was 149, with just 5 lots approved in 2012.

According to Middlesex Planning Department records, construction of single family dwellings is less than half of what it was during the boom years of 2003 through 2007 when 570 houses were built. From 2008 through 2012 just 210 houses were erected. Manufactured homes fell from 152 to 71 over the same period.

The housing bubble that burst has not recovered in the ensuing 5 years. Hardest hit was the market for second homes and vacation homes, said Diane Cox Basheer, a principal in the firm of Basheer and Edgemore, developers of Rosegill, which has yet to break ground.

In 2008, Phase I of Rosegill was approved for 95 lots with 123 dwellings. The parcel is located just south of Urbanna on Route 227 (Urbanna Road).

Basheer said recently that the second-home market is still in a slump. “It’s just not as strong as I would like to see it yet. People are still focusing on their primary homes.”

Meanwhile, Basheer said her firm has been taking a close look at the Annapolis, Md., market because it may be similar to the market in Middlesex for second homes.

Basheer and Edgemore have built a few homes in East Port, an older fishing section of Annapolis. She is using the same “neo-traditional” neighborhood design that she has planned for Rosegill. “I have tested one of the Rosegill floor plans and they liked it.” The 3-to-4 bedroom homes have a 2-car garage in the back and vehicle access is from the rear.

Basheer said landscaping includes “rain gardens” that collect storm-water runoff and allow it to soak into the ground rather than run into the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries. “It does work and people like it and take care of it,” she said.

The Basheer and Edgemore firm is based in Northern Virginia where there “almost is a scarcity” of new building lots, said Basheer.

The economic downturn resulted in fewer lots on the market, and now there is a slight increase in demand for lots, she said. “It’s increasing, but it’s not exploding. It’s not like it was in 2004 and 2005.”
Basheer remains optimistic. “We are watching and hoping people will gradually feel better about their overall economic situation.”

Stonebrook in Saluda
In May 2008, 85 lots were approved for a 36-acre parcel on Route 17 Business Saluda called Stonebrook at the Courthouse, which was to be developed by Zandler Development Company of Hayes. Unlike Rosegill, which required rezoning, Stonebrook was zoned Village Community (VC) and did not require rezoning. 

The approved density for Stonebrook is 2.4 units per acre. However, VC zoning density permits 4.4 units per acre, according to planning department documents.

With the economic downturn, ground has not been broken for Stonebrook. Instead, Zandler Development turned its attention to building Coleman’s Crossing in Hayes, said Charles Records, a business partner with the firm. The mixed-use development includes 85 townhouses and a plan for 40,000 square feet of commercial space. Records said 25 of the townhouses have been sold.

The development is located on Route 17 about 3 miles north of the Coleman Bridge.

Records said his firm plans to develop Stonebrook when Coleman’s Crossing is completed in about 2.5 years. He added preliminary work could begin sooner. “It’s a great spot right there at the courthouse and we really look forward to developing the property.”

Stonebrook was approved with on-site disposal of wastewater, but Records said central sewer would be preferable. “We would love to see the opportunity for sewer come available via HRSD (Hampton Roads Sanitation District).”

A new wastewater treatment plant for the Urbanna-Saluda area is the top priority for the HRSD, which is studying the possibility of land application of the treated wastewater that would be used for irrigation. 
A five-year deadline has been set and that could mesh with Stonebrook—if the economy improves enough.

“The economy is a humongous driver,” said Records. “Things are certainly improving, and improving at a much greater pace than they have.”

The local economy improvement last year has been far greater than the prior 3 to 4 years. “It’s nice to see the construction industry starting to pick up,” said Records. “We use all local people, so it has an impact.”

Water View
Also in May 2008, an 88-lot subdivision called Waterview Landing was approved on an 83-acre parcel zoned VC that is adjacent to the Upper Middlesex Volunteer Fire House in Water View. An attempt to contact the developer was unsuccessful.

posted 08.14.2013

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