Friday, December 4, 2015

Proposed Rezoning Q&A Part III

The Town of Abingdon has published several posts regarding the concerns of the proposed rezoning of the CEMA Corporation property. The staff received several questions and wanted to provide information by disseminating informational bulletins.

The final set of questions address the studies that have been conducted on the property, the issue or historic preservation, a consultants review of the proposed concept and the next steps if the rezoning is passed on December 7th

1. The proposed development requires several studies to be conducted.  Can you provide information on the traffic impact analysis, the archeological study, and the environmental impact study?

       The Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) has been completed and presented to the Virginia Department of Transportation for their review pursuant to Section 527 under VDOT guidelines.  You can click on the following link to review the letter received from VDOT on the TIA and it is
       The archaeological study is complete and is being reviewed by the state. It has not been released to the developer as of this date, but is expected within the next week.
       The Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment Executive Summary is accessible by clicking on the following link

2. What are the town’s plans to address issues of historic preservation on the proposed development site?

       The town motto, “Honor Pro Antiquis, Fides Pro Furturis” means honor the past and have faith for the future.  The town was the second locality in the state of Virginia to establish a historic district in 1970.  Since that time, the town has established a Historic Preservation Review Board (formerly known as the Board of Architectural Review) to assist homeowners in the historic district maintain the standards allowed in the district relative to preservation.  The town owns several historic sites within town limits and has a documented history of commitment to historic preservation.  

       The property in question for rezoning contains 30 +/- acres and does not contain any historic structures.  The 40 + acres that the town is considering for the development of a sports complex contains 2 identified structures, namely the main house and a building to the right rear of the main house commonly referred to as the slave quarters.  The main house sits on an original limestone foundation but the original home burned in the late 1920's.  Salvaged materials from the original home were incorporated into the current structure and include such things as fireplace mantels, front entrance door, staircase, stone foundation, wooden joist supporting the first floor, recessed wall niche in the staircase wall, and custom made table to fit under the staircase.  

The current proposed concept for the sports complex shows all the structures on the town's property being removed from the site.  Please note that this is only a concept to show what playing fields could look like and lay on this tract, and is not a final conceptual design or site plan.  Given the town’s documented commitment to historic preservation, every option will be considered relative to the structures and those include but are not limited to the following:

   Moving the house to another location on the property with the possibility of using the house as an event facility for the sports complex (estimated cost of moving the house is $1M). 
   Moving the slave quarters to another location on the property with the possibility of using it as an information center for Abingdon attractions including the Creeper Trail.
   Removing the house and the slave quarters after all of the original items, i.e. mantels, staircase, etc, have been removed and properly stored for incorporation into another historic property owned by the town or a newly erected structure on the property properly commemorating the home and slave quarters.

       It is important to note that the if the rezoning is approved, the rock, dirt and fill on the site will need to be used for the road improvement project for the Cook Street extension and the developer will need to access the entire site in order to complete the site preparation for the 30 + acres.  Any remaining dirt and fill will need to be used to ready the site for a sports complex.
       It is also important to note that the main home is fragile in its current state and site prep work could take a toll on its stability.  
       The town does expect that the archaeological study review will incorporate recommendations on how to preserve and/or commemorate certain aspects of the home and those will be made available to the public. 

3. Has the town had a consultant review the proposed concept for the development and sports complex sites?

       Prior to proceeding with the construction of a sports complex, the town will procure a consultant to recommend a conceptual design of an acceptable facility on this site.  The consultant will be focusing on items such as:

   the number of baseball fields
   soccer fields
    multi-use fields
   walking trail
   proper lighting
   irrigation needs
   and the necessary accessory buildings for use with the complex.  

       Ultimately the site plan for sports complex would have to be reviewed by the town planning staff and town engineer and be approved by the Abingdon Planning Commission in accordance with current applicable zoning ordinances and guidelines. Currently the property being considered for the placement of the sports facility is zoned AFOS (Agriculture, Forestal and open space) and rezoning will not be required.  It is the current intention of the town staff to recommend to the Council that this property be placed into a conservation easement and/or to place a declaration of restrictive covenants on the property that would prohibit the property from ever being put to any other use than those allowed under the AFOS zoning district.

4. Has the town had a consultant review the proposed concept for the development relative to the financial viability of the project, including revenue projections and costs of operation?

       Several months ago the town hired a Richmond Virginia financial consulting firm to analyze the financial viability of a development of this nature.  That firm was charged with considering the overall out of pocket costs for the town of Abingdon relative to the Cook Street realignment and the buildout of a 40 + acre sports complex and compare that to the revenue projections for an anchor store and a total of 7 out parcels, including 5 restaurants and 2 hotels on the 30+ sought for rezoning.  

       After receiving financial direction and advice from this firm, the town staff began developing a viable business plan for this project.  The business plan would consist three (3) phases as set forth below:

   I. Phase 1 - This phase would include the construction of the realignment of Green Springs Road and Cook Street as well as involve earthwork on the proposed rezoned property for use in the road realignment project. The projected estimates in cost of Phase 1 would range between $7M and $8M, of which VDOT would be responsible for 50% under its revenue sharing program and the town of Abingdon would be responsible for the remaining half of the project.  The buildout phase is expected to take approximately 12 to 18 months.   This road realignment project has been contemplated by both the town and VDOT since 1996 and is necessary from a safety and traffic impact perspective regardless of whether a commercial development is adjacent to this realignment or not; 

   II. Phase 2 - Phase 2 of this proposed development would involve the commercial buildout of the proposed 30+ acre rezoned property which would consist of an anchor retail store and 7 out-parcels, including 5 restaurants and 2 hotels.  The vertical costs of construction for the buildout of this development are estimated at $21,562,250 dollars.  In addition, it is anticipated that furniture, fixtures and equipment would be $8,612,500 dollars.  It is important to note that these costs do not include the purchase price of the property or the cost of the earthwork necessary to prep the site for development.  All of the cost of the commercial development property on the proposed rezoned site would be incurred by the developer and/or owner. In addition, it is important to note that there have been no incentives or financial contributions made by the town of Abingdon relative to the commercial development.  It is expected that the full buildout of this phase would be between 2 and 3 calendar years from the date of the beginning of construction;

   III. Phase 3 - This phase of the project would occur after the necessary earthwork had been completed under Phase 2 and the appropriate final design of the sports complex has been completed.  It is anticipated that the town, after hiring a design consultant, would hold public forums to allow the public to view any proposed concepts and provide comments on the same.  The anticipated cost of the buildout of the sports complex component is estimated between $4.5M and $5.5M.  The town staff will be pursuing all avenues of funding, both publicly and privately, to cover the costs of this project. At this time, town staff is unable to project a timeline for this project but does expect that it would occur within 2 to 3 years of acquiring the property. 

       With this business plan in place, the town staff and town financial advisors have indicated that there are the following reasonable expectations of revenue from the commercial development that could be used to fund the sports complex:

o   Real property taxes $60,000 + per year

o   Total sales revenues of $57,610,413 dollars per year, of which the town of Abingdon could reasonably expect $288,000 + per year from sales its portion of sales tax

o   Meals and lodging taxes of approximately $1.3M dollars per year 

o   Projected new jobs 438

o   There will be additional tax revenues that are currently unknown and have not been projected but are based upon BPOL tax and personal property taxes.  

o   During the 2 to 3 year construction period, it is anticipated that the town will receive additional revenues from the construction work force developing the project

       Relative to the development of the sports complex, the town has an estimate of a full buildout which totals approximately $4.5M to $5.5M.  If re-zoning is approved, the town staff will begin working on projections for costs of operation of the facility, development of a marketing plan for tournaments to be held at the facility as well as development of a schedule for use of the fields by town and county sports leagues.  The town's primary vision for the sports complex is to provide a quality facility for use by the town and county's youth as well as competitive tournament play which could bring in leagues of all ages.  

       The town anticipates that the revenues from the commercial development will exceed what is necessary to cover the cost of the buildout of the sports complex.  Any remaining revenues could be used to increase the town's public safety operations, maintenance and repairs to the trestles on the Creeper Trail, increase in marketing budget for the town to promote tournament play, historic preservation of currently owned town properties, infrastructure improvements, sidewalk projects, and increase of the town's tree canopy.

       It is anticipated that if the 30+ acre tract is rezoned for commercial use, the town of Abingdon will acquire the remaining 40+ acre tract of land from the CEMA Corp. on or before December 31, 2015. 

5. If the re-zoning is approved on December 7th, what happens next?  

In the event that the rezoning is favorable for the applicant, they would then begin the process of meeting the numerous site plan reviews required by the town.  These reviews can generally be classified into two types of review – 1) technical and 2) design. 

       Technical reviews would involve a great deal of engineering and requires multiple reviews by the Town’s Engineering Dept. Staff members to ensure compliance with stormwater regulations, erosion and sediment control, roadway design standards, and utility design standards, just to name a few of the myriad design criteria that must be considered.  This helps ensure public safety by applying local, state, and federal law requirements to each site equitably.  Often, components of technical plans are reviewed simultaneously with other plan reviews to permit grading operations to commence while design reviews are being completed.

       Design review involves consideration by the applicant’s architects, in close coordination with civil engineers, to present the Town with a design for the aesthetic components of the site – or “what it will look like”.  This design review is required by the Town Code for certain commercial zoning districts located along entrance corridors (e.g.- streets leading into town) and if this particular site is rezoned as proposed, it would become subject to these additional review standards.  This review is often the most important component for citizens, as it deals directly with how a new development will both “look” and “feel”.  Since this review is often the most important component to our citizens, we’ll take a closer look at the procedure for design review in the entrance corridor.

Design Review

       Before any building permit may be issued on a property located in the entrance corridor, the applicant must receive a “Certificate of Appropriateness” or “COA” from the Planning Commission.  The intent of this part of the Town Code is to help ensure that changes to commercial properties along the main entrance roads to town are complimentary to the character of Abingdon.  The power to review requests for COAs is delegated to the Planning Commission; however, the Town Council has the ability to hear appeals of decisions made by the Planning Commission.  Applicants are required to submit plans showing elevations of all buildings, faรงade designs/color schemes for all facades visible from public streets, samples of proposed building materials, lighting plans, architectural plans, and landscaping plans, to name a few of the many design elements considered by the Commission.  Once plans are reviewed by the Planning Commission and considered to be favorable to the board, a COA is issued for the development and building permits may be issued. 

       In the case of the CEMA Corp. request, the applicant has agreed that each parcel of land (even if subdivided into out-parcels in the future) would be subject to this strict design review by the Planning Commission.  This would be a legal requirement of the Special Use Permit and would carry forward into the future, regardless of the ownership of the property.  Additionally, the applicant has requested a number of additional restrictions – utilities shall be underground; buildings will not contain vinyl siding/unpainted concrete block/corrugated metal siding; additional screening of service/loading areas; comprehensive signage plans to be required; lighting shall not exceed 24 ft. in height; environmental studies and archeological studies shall be completed – which are above the minimum standards required by the Town Code. 

       It is understood that design review is inherently subjective because it is influenced by the personal feelings, tastes, and opinions of the reviewers – whether they be members of the public or members of the Commission.  Any design that the Planning Commission will consider will be given the utmost scrutiny to ensure compatibility with the character of the town.  Still, the design may not be able to satisfy the desires of every individual.  The purpose of design review is to enact fundamental principles of design which help guide the development to be more compatible with the character of the town than it may have otherwise been presented.

If you have further questions about any of the procedures listed above, you are encouraged to contact the Town of Abingdon Planning Department at 276-628-3167.  Staff members are eager to help citizens understand the often complex requirements that precede any development approval. To view all the blog posts, visit


  1. Could the redesign of Exit 17 occur before the redesign/extension of Cook Street? (I know the redesign of Exit 14 is about to occur now.)

    Could the pace of events just slow down a bit? People are seeing what is happening at Exit 19 and see a domino effect of new construction leading to empty buildings of older businesses.

    What actual demand is there for more hotels or restaurants? To what extent is this going to hurt Abingdon-owned businesses?

    If this shopping center becomes reality, the Meadows complex could become a boutique hotel. However, its charm is the complex in the midst of meadows, more than just the main house.

  2. I knew we were in trouble when somebody commissioned that lady to paint "that mural" on the side of the building across from the Post Office. I just knew there was going to be trouble from the people who would flock to Abingdon to see that. And then to top it off somebody let them put "that graffiti" on the traffic signal control boxes. People are coming from everywhere just to see these two marvels, I just didn't think it would take three new hotels to take care of the crowds. I seen the protestors Friday afternoon, poor bunch had recruited Santa Claus to join in and one poor guy can't figure out where French Moore Blvd is.

  3. You folks expecting any quality of life improvements from this proposed development might take a look at Hendersonville, TN. While is was no Abingdon, Hendersonville was a very nice, quiet place to live when I moved here i 1979. Since then we have seen explosive growth and much commercial development.

    Reading the Blog I got deja vu. The Streets of Indian Lake in Hendersonville, Tennessee came with many of the same concerns and promises. We had no real debate here. Our city leaders never saw a development they didn't like. The promise of tax windfall was not realized. Property taxes were raised this year. The original developer has declared bankruptcy. Traffic has increased so much that TDOT states it will close the only North-South crossing of the CSX RR for many miles. Fixing that will cost millions the city does not have.

    All the grocery stores that were in walking distance from me have closed. Traffic is so heavy and continuous it sometimes takes me ten minutes to exit my subdivision in a car. Thank God for Dollar General.