• Supervisors table rezoning request

    Wednesday, May 09, 2018

    HARRISONBURG — Rockingham County officials are concerned a proposed 220-unit development in McGaheysville might exacerbate traffic woes on an already busy road.

    The Board of Supervisors tabled Gary Sandridge’s request to rezone 54 acres on Island Ford Road from agricultural use to planned single family at its meeting last Wednesday.

    Sandridge intends to build up to 220 units that would connect to the existing Whispering Pines subdivision, which is near the intersection of Island Ford and McGaheysville roads. The property, valued at $889,000, is owned by Glenda Knight and under contract with Sandridge.


    Supervisors were concerned about adding traffic to Island Ford Road, which they said is congested in the morning as parents take their children to school and the evening when workers leave the MillerCoors and Merck & Co. plants. The road is often used as a cut-through from U.S. 340 to U.S. 33.

    The proposal doesn’t warrant a traffic analysis, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation, but would likely require right- and left-turn lanes at the entrances, according to county documents. The turn lanes would be discussed during site plan review.

    “I’ve seen traffic bottleneck back to this subdivision,” Supervisor Mike Breeden, whose District 5 includes Mc-Gaheysville, said of the development. “I don’t know if turn-off lanes are going to be all it takes to fix that.”

    The development would straddle both sides of Island Ford Road, with a single entrance on each side that intersects with the road. It would have four cul-de-sacs on the west side of the road and three on the east.

    Both sides of the development would each have a park area away from the road.

    Supervisors want to secure dedicated right of way to leave room for future expansion of the road. The road, Supervisor Bill Kyger said, is already “somewhat of a problem, and it’s only going to get worse.”

    “There’s going to be five people sitting up here having to deal with Island Ford Road at some point to a significant extent,” he said of the county’s governing body. Kyger pointed to right of way agreements with developments on U.S. 11 south of Harrisonburg that made it easier to plan an upcoming widening project. It would be “prudent,” he said, for the county to start the same practice on Island Ford Road.

    Ed Blackwell of Blackwell Engineering said space could be taken from the park areas to account for future widening. Supervisor Pablo Cuevas also questioned the construction timetable. Development would occur in phases of about 20 units, according to county documents, but a time frame for phases wasn’t included with the proposal.

    Cuevas said the board prefers construction to be slow enough that the county can keep up with increased demand for services. Blackwell said construction would be tied to the housing market and likely wouldn’t happen all at once.


    “We like to be market- driven about how we can phase this and not get into a specific number,” he said. “Because that’s hurt some subdivisions that were done 10 or 15 years ago, where they could only do so many lots a year and then the economy crashes and they could have sold [sooner], but they couldn’t.”

    A shared-use path would also be constructed along Island Ford Road once the west side of the property begins development. Kim Sandum, executive director of local conservation group Community Alliance for Preservation, said the path would be an asset.

    “With residential [development] and schools in that area, that’s going to be more and more important to making that a livable area as opposed to an area ... where everybody’s got to get in a car or you can’t go anywhere,” she said.

    No one spoke against the request at a public hearing Wednesday, but Breeden said some Whispering Pines residents expressed concern. His biggest issue is the size of the proposal.

    “Maybe the drawings scare me,” he said. “It looks so big driving in on Island Ford Road.”

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