Friday, November 27, 2015

Proposed Rezoning Q&A Part II

For the next few weeks, the Town of Abingdon will be publishing several posts regarding the concerns of the proposed rezoning of the CEMA Corporation property. The staff has received several questions and wants to provide information by disseminating informational bulletins.

The second set of questions addresses safety issues related to traffic on Green Spring Road, safety issues for the Virginia Creeper Trail, the proposed sports complex, and the role that VDOT will play in the proposed development:

1.      How does the town plan to address safety issues relative to vehicle traffic coming in and out of the proposed development should the re-zoning be approved?  How will the Cook Street extension and the road into the proposed development improve safety on Cummings Street?

The Traffic Impact Analysis for the proposed development on CEMA Corporation property is being finalized and reviewed by VDOT and the Town of Abingdon. Since January 2000, there have been forty-eight (48) crashes within the 400 block of Green Spring Road which causes a safety concerns. This area includes the S-curve, which is the site of the majority of the crashes.

Of the forty-eight (48) crashes:

       42 crashes involved a single vehicle, and 6 involved two vehicles
       30 of the crashes were in/at the S-curve, 11 were in front of the property at 410 Green Spring Road, and 7 occurred between the properties located at 430 – 492 Green Spring Road
       26 crashes occurred while the drivers were northbound, 22 occurred involving southbound traffic
       27 were on wet pavement, while 21 were under dry conditions
       36 occurred during dawn/daylight hours, while 12 occurred under dusk/dark conditions
       41 involved NO alcohol use by the drivers, 7 were alcohol related

If the re-zoning is approved, the Town will address safety issues relative to vehicle traffic entering and exiting the proposed development. The town will require the realignment of Green Spring Road to be in place before any businesses open. Realigning Green Spring Road, from its current intersection with Cummings Street to the Cummings/Cook signalized intersection will be a major improvement. Currently, the Green Spring/Cummings Street intersection is controlled by a stop sign. This intersection is prone to angle collisions as drivers enter Cummings Street, from Green Spring Road, attempting to beat on-coming traffic as it approaches the intersection. This is a considerable challenge given the traffic volume on Cummings Street. The site distance, due to the angle of the intersection, and the uphill grade on Green Spring Road, also presents a challenge for motorists attempting to enter Cummings Street. 

The realignment of Green Spring Road with Cook Street will force traffic to one intersection, providing motorists with a safer controlled entry on to Cummings Street. Additionally, the realignment will reduce the number of intersections with Cummings Street, thus lessening the chance of crashes related to left hand turns and creating a more efficient flow of traffic.

Since January 2000, there have been fifty-three (53) crashes at the intersection of Green Spring Road and Cumming Street.

Of the fifty-three (53) crashes:

       37 (69.8 %) involved vehicles making left turns at the intersection; either from Green Spring Road on to Cummings Street, or from Cummings Street on to Green Spring Road.
o   25 (67.6 %) of the crashes were caused by vehicles making left turns from Green Spring Road.
o   12 crashes were the result of vehicles making left turns from Cumming Street on to Green Spring Road.
       16 (30.2 %) were either rear-end or side-swipe collisions.
The data shows that driver actions during left turns are the greatest contributor to crashes. These crashes will be significantly reduced by funneling traffic to the signalized intersection at Cummings and Cook Street.

2.      How is this development going to impact Washington Crossings Shopping Center from a safety standpoint?

The existing entrance to Cummings Street from Washington Crossings Shopping Center is uncontrolled.  It appears that Washington Crossings would benefit from the development because of the required realignment of Green Spring Road.  By creating a new access road from the Washington Crossings Shopping Center to Green Spring Road, traffic will have a direct entry and meet at a controlled intersection.

An analysis of crash data from the intersection of Cummings Street and the Washington Crossing Shopping Center entry revealed similar traffic concerns to the intersection of Green Spring Road and Cummings Street. Since January 2000, there have been twenty-five (25) crashes at this location.

Of the twenty-five (25) crashes:

       19 (76 %) involved vehicles making left turns at the intersection; either from Washington Crossing on to Cummings Street, or from Cummings Street in to Washington Crossings Shopping Center.
o   15 (79 %) of the crashes were caused by vehicles making left turns from Washington Crossings Shopping Center on to Cummings Street.
o   4 (21 %) crashes were the result of vehicles making left turns from Cumming Street in to Washington Crossings Shopping Center. 
       6 (24 %) were either rear-end or side-swipe collisions.
Again, the best solution to the issue of left turn crashes is to move the traffic to a controlled intersection; thus allowing left turns to be managed by a traffic signal.

3.      How will this development impact the Creeper Trail from a safety standpoint?

From a vehicular standpoint, it is anticipated that the development would increase traffic on Green Spring Road. This could create safety concerns for the pedestrian crosswalk located between the Creeper Trail parking lot and Trestle #1. However, with a relatively low speed limit, and good visibility from both approaches, the crosswalk is more than adequate to provide safe access to the trail.
From a law enforcement perspective, the Creeper Trail is relatively crime free.  When crime occurs in relation to the trail, it is usually at the designated parking areas. The tables below depict crimes that have occurred in relation to the parking areas since 2003.  Data indicates that crime is more likely to take place in the most secluded parking area, Watauga Road, as opposed to the parking areas within the territorial limits of Abingdon.  
Kings Mountain Parking Area
Theft from
Hit and




Green Spring Parking Area

Theft from





Watauga Parking Area
Theft from







4.      The concept plan for the proposed development currently shows a sports complex.  Why is this property the best alternative for the sports complex and is the facility adequate enough to meet the needs of town residents?  

   In 2006, the Town Council appointed a three (3) member team, with knowledge and expertise in local sports, to review properties inside and outside of the town limits as potential sites for a multi-use sports facility.

   The review team rated the properties based on criteria including, adequate amount of acreage, slope of the land, access to water for irrigation, accessibility, and site preparation relative to rock and dirt removal.

   The team reported to Council that they had reviewed numerous sites and the property currently owned by CEMA Corporation, and the subject of rezoning, was the most desirable site as it most closely met the criteria for a multi-use sports facility.

   Prior to the current proposed development, the Town Manager had been in negotiations with CEMA Corporation to purchase the entire 70 acre tract for use as both a sports complex and for a multi-use development that would generate enough revenue to pay for the build out of the sports complex.

   The Council has affirmed their commitment to see the development of a sports facility in the town through its capital improvement plan and comprehensive plan for over seven (7) years. Both of those plans can be accessed on the town's website at or through the following links: and

   The 70 +/- acres owned by the CEMA Corporation, less the 33.189 acres that is subject to re-zoning, is the most suitable site because of its proximity to I-81, the demonstrated suitability of the land for a sports facility, the opportunity to develop a public/private partnership that will work together to develop a site that will improve road accessibility and safety, provide revenue for the town through collection of local taxes i.e. meals and lodging; but most importantly it is a solid opportunity to provide a multi-use sports facility that will meet a long standing for the youth of the community. Further, the Town possesses power, once it secures the 43.27 acres for the Sports Complex, to control the use of this land in perpetuity by possibly granting a conservation easement on the property that would limit all future development.  The Town has done this elsewhere, for the perpetual preservation of property, most notably on the Historic Muster Grounds property that it previously purchased.

5.      What role does the Virginia Department of Transportation play in this proposed development?

The Virginia Department of Transportation will provide the following for the proposed development:

       Guidance on state and federal funding for a project of this type 
       Review and approval/disapproval of Revenue Sharing Program fund application
       Conduct their SERP (State Environmental Review Process) for the project
       Review engineering plans and specifications at different stages of design
       When deemed appropriate and all Local Administered Project requirements have been met, authorize the Town to advertise the project for bid
       Perform occasional inspections as deemed appropriate during construction (in addition to Town's full-time inspection)
       Review requests for reimbursement under the Revenue Sharing program

Please feel free to contact the Town Hall at 276-628-3167 if you have more questions and ask to speak with the Town Manager’s Office or the Office of Planning. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Proposed Rezoning Q&A Part I

For the next few weeks, the Town of Abingdon will be publishing several posts regarding the concerns of the proposed rezoning of the CEMA Corporation property. The staff has received several questions and wants to provide information by disseminating informational bulletins.

The first set of questions addresses zoning, an overview of the development project proposed for re-zoning, and the effects that the proposed rezoning would have on the Virginia Creeper Trail:

1.      What is Zoning and why is it an important tool for municipalities?

·         Zoning is a land use tool that originated in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s in urban areas such as New York City, to help regulate the development of land and to promote “health, safety and welfare” of the community.  The constitutionality of zoning was upheld by the US Supreme Court in a landmark case in 1926.  Shortly thereafter, zoning ordinances were enacted in many jurisdictions around the nation.
·         In Abingdon, the earliest records related to zoning appear in the late 1940’s.  The Town’s Planning Commission was established in 1947 and that board passed the town’s first zoning ordinance on December 8, 1948. 

For the Town of Abingdon, just like other jurisdictions, zoning is a tool to help the town achieve certain objectives:

1) Improve or protect public health, safety, and welfare of its citizens
2) Plan for future development
3) Develop new community centers with adequate transportation, utility, health, educational, and recreational facilities
4) Recognize the need for agricultural, industry and business growth
5) Provide residential areas with amenities for family life
6) Assure that the growth of the community is compatible with the efficient and economical use of public funds
7) Encourage economic development activities that provide employment and enlarge the tax base

While these are general “objectives”, the source of the town’s zoning power resides with the Town Council.  Zoning decisions are one of the most important, and often most difficult, judgments made by the Town Council. The law gives the Council the explicit legislative authority to make changes to the Town’s zoning map and ordinances.  According to the Code of Virginia, zoning ordinances and districts are to be drawn and applied by reasonably considering the following:

1) The existing use and character of the property
2) The comprehensive plan
3) The suitability of the property for various uses
4) Trends of growth and/or change
5) Current and future requirements of the community as to land for various purposes as determined by population and studies
6) Transportation, utility, recreation areas, schools, housing, and other public service needs
7) The encouragement of the most appropriate use of land throughout the locality
8) And, the protection of life and property from failures of natural systems (ex – floods, fires, etc.)

2.      What is the process for rezoning a piece of property in the town of Abingdon?

·         Often, property owners wish to change the zoning district on property they own (or otherwise have an interest in) to accommodate a new land use.  This is known as a “rezoning”.  The process for changing a zoning district through either a map change (ex – from one district to another) or through an ordinance amendment (ex – adding a permitted use in a particular district) is prescribed by the Code of Virginia. 

·         The general procedure is as follows:

1)       A request is received by the local jurisdiction (ex – Town of Abingdon)
2)       Staff members process the application, including setting times/dates for public hearings (as necessary), advertising the hearing per the requirements of the Code, and providing materials and information for the various boards and commissions that may review the request.
3)      Any request related to zoning must first have a public hearing to be heard by the Planning Commission, which makes a recommendation to the Town Council.

A)     The Code of Virginia does allow jurisdictions to conduct joint meetings of the Council and Planning Commission.

4)      Following consideration by the Planning Commission, the Council will additionally hold a public hearing to consider the request.  The Council may adopt the resolution before it, reject the resolution, or it may continue the matter to another date and time for further consideration.  Additionally, an applicant reserves the right to withdraw their request at any time up to the time of the vote.
5)      Once the Council has voted on a matter and it has been adopted or rejected, the matter is deemed to have been completely through the “rezoning process”.  There are provisions for appeal of decisions made by the Council to the Circuit Court, however these are generally appeals based on the correct application of the zoning procedure and not to reverse the outcome of the decision of the Council.  

In the Town of Abingdon, there are a few nuances that are worthy of note related to this process.  The Town Council and the Code of the Town of Abingdon, understanding that items such as rezoning and amendments to the code of ordinances may be complex at times, allows for two readings (or two opportunities for consideration) of such items.  The purpose for two readings is to allow the public ample time to consider a proposal, as well as time for the Council to consider such items and discuss it with their constituents.  The Council, at its sole discretion, may elect to dispense with the second reading if (in its opinion) the second consideration of an item is not warranted. 

3.      Can you provide an overview of the development project proposed for re-zoning involving approximately 30+ acres off of Green Spring Road in the town of Abingdon?

·         There is a tract of land currently owned by CEMA Corporation of approximately 70 +/- acres and a local developer Marathon Corporation has an option to purchase this property for a proposed development. 
·         The development project currently before Council for re-zoning involves a section of land situated off of Green Spring Road and in close proximity to Exit 17 off of I-81.  It consists of 30+/- acres and is currently zoned AFOS (Agriculture, Forestal, Open Space).
·         The proposed development concept plan requires that it be re-zoned to B2 to accommodate a new Food City grocery store, 5 restaurant sites, and 2 hotels. (see the picture below)
·         The project would also require road improvements affecting Cook Street, Cummings Street and Green Spring Road and involves the town of Abingdon as well as the Virginia Department of Transportation.
·         The remaining 40 +/- acres is being considered by the town of Abingdon for the placement of a sports complex facility.  This tract would remain with its designated zoning of AFOS and would provide a natural buffer between the proposed development and the Creeper Trail. 

4.      Why is the Creeper Trail important to the town of Abingdon? 
  • The Virginia Creeper Trail is a 34.3-mile rail-to-recreation trail starting in Abingdon, traveling through Damascus, VA and ending just past Whitetop Station at the Virginia-North Carolina border. 
  • This spectacular trail attracts over 100,000 visitors each year to partake of the natural and scenic beauty of this area.
  • The Virginia Creeper Trail runs on a rail right-of-way dating to the 1880s. In the early part of the last century, the rail line carried lumber to feed the busy sawmills of Virginia and North Carolina.
  • Its name was inspired by the steam engines that slowly crept up the mountainside, although some argue that the name actually comes from the native Virginia Creeper vine that can be found growing along the trail.
  • By the 1970s, many railroads were abandoned so the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy began converting old railroad beds into trail systems for hikers and bikers. After the last train ran the route in 1977, the idea for The Creeper Trail was born, and it was completed in 1984. 
  • Much of the trail goes through private land. In many places, the public trail corridor is only 80’ wide. The trail is maintained by public-private partnerships between the U.S. Forest Service, the Towns of Abingdon and Damascus, and “Creeper Keeper” trail volunteers.  In 2014, the Virginia Creeper Trail was inducted in to the Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame. This national honor has only been given to 27 trails. The Rails to Trails Conservancy singled out the Creeper Trail for its remarkable scenery, fascinating railroad history, and excellent trailside amenities. 
5.      How will the Creeper Trail and it proximity to the proposed development be affected by the re-zoning referenced in Question 3?

·         The proposed development is approximately 650 feet (almost the length of 2 football fields) from the center of the right of way of the Virginia Creeper Trail, one of the town’s greatest assets.
·         There is no projected land disturbance of any portion of the Creeper Trail and with proper bufferings and tree plantings, it is expected that only a very small portion of a proposed hotel would be visible from the Creeper Trail.
·         The proposed sports complex, currently being considered by the town, would provide a natural buffer to the proposed development and the planning commission will be reviewing the site and making recommendations to the developer to minimize the impact on the view shed of the Creeper Trail
·         Further, the town’s planning commission will be reviewing the site plan and will make recommendations relative to minimizing light pollution and noise pollution that may be generated by the development and the sports complex
·         The proposed development would also include a walking path around the entire tract of land which would join the Creeper Trail and provide additional parking for trail users