Article from Cardinal News | Written By: Grace Mamon
An investment group wants to bring 1,900 new residential units to 600 acres of southwestern Pittsylvania County in a master-planned community that would be a mix of single-family homes, townhouses, apartments and senior living.
If approved, the project by Southside Investing LLC would take a decade or longer to complete, according to a news release from the local investment group.
A master-planned community is a large, custom-built residential community.
The release identified a 614-acre parcel of land east of Martin Drive, only 9 miles from the Southern Virginia Megasite at Berry Hill, a 3,528-acre publicly owned site that has almost landed a major developer several times in the past year.
Thomas Gallagher, a spokesperson for Southside Investing, said in an interview Monday that this project would be “unlike anything else in the area” and said it had the potential to be “a catalyst to growth and progress in the county.”
In addition to housing, the proposed community would also include a hotel, a daycare center, a community center and a retail shopping center with a neighborhood grocery store.
Still, “this is a housing project, first and foremost,” said Vic Ingram, who represents the Tunstall district on the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors.
“We do have a housing shortage, and anybody that owns a house or piece of land has been inundated over the past year with calls from somebody trying to buy your property,” Ingram said. “It’s just been unreal.”
The county and the city of Danville have both been experiencing soaring demand for housing, and a low supply of new housing stock. And the proximity to the megasite makes this potential housing even more valuable, Ingram said.
“When a corporation announces that they are going to build there, there will be a drastic need for additional housing,” he said.
Approval of the project would help the county and its partners attract businesses to the megasite, the release says, “by providing housing and services for an enhanced labor force that will drive continued growth in the region.”
Growth is a big goal of this project, according to the news release.
“Southside envisions building a multigenerational community that will assist Pittsylvania County in providing new opportunities for current and future residents, especially for younger generations who have had to often times look elsewhere in the past for viable job and housing options,” it says.
In the release, Gallagher said that the investing group recognizes the need for housing in the county, and the opportunity to bring growth to the larger region.
“It’s hard to attract job creators without the continued development of nice communities for folks to live in and which add to the area’s great quality of life and are also close to work,” he said.
The investing group purchased two large tracts of rural land to create the 614-acre parcel, Ingram said. These tracts are largely undeveloped and had been on the market for more than 30 years, he said.
The investing group is requesting approval to launch the community under Pittsylvania’s Residential Planned Unit Development District.
Southside Investing has met with all seven county supervisors as well as with members of the planning commission, Ingram said. Next, the group will meet with the community at several outreach and informational events to gather input.
The first will be held at 7 p.m. May 24 at the Brosville Fire and Rescue Station at 11912 Martinsville Highway, and the second at 7 p.m. June 1 at Faith Memorial Baptist Church at 7450 Martinsville Highway.
The community meetings are an important part of the process, Gallagher said in the interview.
“It’s all about outreach and over-communicating,” he said. “It’s critical, because this is a big project. It’s a large-scale, mixed-use residential and commercial community, and for a lot of folks that could be scary.”
Southside Investing wants to make sure county residents understand the intent of this project, which is to provide housing, retain talent and create a sense of community, he said.
After the community meetings, the application will go before the county planning commission at its June 6 meeting. If the commission recommends approval for the project, it will then go to the board of supervisors.
It’s too early to estimate the cost of this project, Gallagher said.
“I would say it’s going to be substantial,” Ingram said. “They bought the 614 acres of land, and that is humongous. So now it’s a matter of working that land to benefit everybody, including the investors.”
Ingram said this project fits well with the county’s existing comprehensive plan, which includes among its community goals “encourag[ing] aesthetic, health promoting residential communities, and provid[ing] choices in the housing market so that all county residents may find affordable, comfortable, safe and sanitary housing.”
But some county residents tend to be opposed to development, Ingram said, because they love the beautiful rural landscape of the county.
“I do understand the people who say they want the area to remain rural,” Ingram said. “I get it. … But you can’t have this narrow-minded attitude that you’re going to be against any kind of growth or development, because that’s just life. And part of life is providing homes for people to live in and welcoming new folks into your community.”
The planned community is actually “a way to maintain smart growth” and preserve the natural scenery of the county, said Tony Salah with Southside Investing.
“Its concentration allows us to save larger swaths of existing land by having a more condensed approach to density,” Salah said Monday. “You still maintain a vast amount of the wonderful, natural features of Pittsylvania County by having a smart, efficient community that has everybody’s needs attended to.”
Ingram said he hopes that the community outreach sessions will emphasize to residents how beneficial this project could be.
“It’s just a tremendous opportunity for us,” he said.