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York County development leaves group of residents on a very Rough Road
VA Gazette, July 15, 2023
Residents, county officials and contractors at odds over access to a housing community under construction.
Article link: https://www.dailypress.com/2023/07/15/york-county-development-leaves-group-of-residents-on-a-very-rough-road/
Kim O’Brien Root/staff
By BEN SWENSON | Correspondent
July 15, 2023 at 9:00 AM
YORK — Until 2021, Springfield Road was a quiet country lane tucked in
the woods of York County. Late that year, work began on a 213-home,
age-restricted community called Tranquility, transforming the dead-end street
into a thoroughfare for commercial and private vehicles.
Residents of Springfield Road and community members advocating on their
behalf are now pleading with York County officials to alleviate what they say
is a constant stream of construction traffic — a stream that will last for
years of the development’s buildout — on a street that’s largely home to
elderly and working-class people.
Many of them hope that an ongoing study of an alternative access — one
that itself would require significant effort to come to fruition — will show
that Springfield Road can be bypassed altogether for the remainder of the construction.
County officials say their hands are tied, and that developer Tranquility
Residential, site contractor Henderson, Inc. and homebuilder Ryan Homes have a
legal right to use Springfield Road. There are no other practical options.
ToHenderson has taken measures to soften the effects of
contractors’ use of the road, remains engaged in ongoing dialogue with
Springfield Road residents and is looking for ways to relieve issues that
Once the development is complete, which the original developer said
might take five or six years in phases, Springfield Road will no
longer be used for access, and residential traffic will exclusively use a
different private road running through an adjacent timeshare community.
Development finds community Again
The area encompassing Springfield Road was once known as Jones Point and
was a rural enclave of displaced Black families who had lost their homes when
the U.S. government commandeered tens of thousands of acres for what would
become the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station and Camp Peary in the first half of
the 20th century.
For decades, Jones Point was off the beaten path. But development crept
closer to this corner of York County over the years. Water Country USA was
built to the south in the mid-1980s, and King’s Creek Plantation, a timeshare
resort, put development on Springfield Road’s doorstep around 2007.
One of the large properties to the northeast of Springfield Road is the
former Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Fuel Storage Facility, a site
abandoned for decades but that the Eastern Virginia Regional Industrial
Facility Authority is now transforming into an industrial park and solar farm.
There is also an 83.7-acre parcel to the east of Springfield Road that is
zoned for economic opportunity and that county officials approved in 1997 for
additional units in King’s Creek Plantation. But the timeshare resort let its
option on that property lapse, and the parcel was open again for new proposals.
In 2018, Lamont Myers, president of Mid-Atlantic Land Management LLC,
appeared before York County officials with a plan to build a community for
people aged 55 and older. It would develop a parcel already approved for such
an endeavor, providing upward of $500,000 in annual revenue to the county while
avoiding the sort of industrial enterprises that might cause issues with the
adjacent residential communities.
But a major concern was construction access. The only public road into
and out of the parcel is Springfield Road, and its condition wasn’t great.
A 2018 York County Planning Division staff report described Springfield
Road, which it said was between 10 and 13 feet wide, as “an older, substandard
road serving 12 to 13 residential properties.” The road was crumbling in many
places and not wide enough for large vehicles to pass one another.
Tranquility Drive, a much newer and wider road that ties into the new
development from the south, is a private street maintained by the timeshare
resort. In 2018, King’s Creek Plantation managing partner Kevin Jones threw the
resort’s support behind the Tranquility development based on three conditions,
among them that all construction vehicles access the site through Springfield
Drive. Residential vehicles — estimated to be 770 vehicle trips per day once
the development is complete — will exclusively access Tranquility through the
timeshare resort once residents move in.
In February 2018, the application for the rezoning needed for the
Tranquility development went before the York County Planning Commission. The
evening of the meeting, two planning commissioners were absent, and one recused
himself from the vote because of a potential conflict of interest. With four
planning commissioners voting, the application failed to gain Planning
Commission approval — which is an advisory and not a binding vote — with a 2-2
Montee Jons was chairman of the Planning Commission at the time and cast one of the
no votes. He said that while on paper the development looked like a good fit
for that parcel, routing all the construction traffic onto Springfield Road was
Jons is now an officer with the Conserve York County Foundation, an organization that advocates
for responsible development in the jurisdiction’s rural areas.
Not only was Springfield Road substandard, he said, but the optics were
not good. Jons said he was not comfortable with the timeshare resort being OK
with high volumes of residential traffic permanently on its private road while
routing all the construction traffic through a less-visible and less-well-off
“These are plain people — the elderly and people who work on their feet
all day,” he said. “These are poor people and people of color.”
The volume of traffic on Springfield Road again came up when the
Tranquility application went before the York County Board of Supervisors in
Myers said the road, which he measured at 14 feet wide, would encounter a
limited amount of traffic on any given workday. Myers deferred to the expertise
of Mid-Atlantic Land Management’s traffic consultant, Chris Lawrence, who
framed the traffic issue as a question of numbers.
“Do we put construction access through Tranquility and through the
timeshare property, or do we do it on Springfield? So, it’s about a dozen homes
versus 460 timeshares,” Lawrence said at the public hearing.
“We discussed construction traffic with the builders, and our best
estimation is that we’re going to have roughly 20 construction vehicles on a
typical day,” he said.
The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the application.
Big trucks on a narrow road
Chairman Thomas Shepperd, who voiced strong concerns in the public
hearing about the traffic impact on Springfield Road, said that the number
quoted by the traffic consultant had little bearing on his vote.
“The issue of 20 (vehicles) … was not in my calculation, my
consideration,” he said. “No one knows that answer, and to throw out a number
like that to me didn’t make any sense at all.”
Shepperd said the vote instead reflected the board’s inability to force a
private road owner to allow access.
“All of a sudden, (residents of Springfield Road) have logging trucks,
etc., and it’s a mess,” he said. “No one would want to have it happen on their
street, but you run into a legal issue. What are your options?”
A limit on the number of vehicles on Springfield Road was not in the
final ordinance approved by the board, but it did include a couple
stipulations, namely that construction activities be conducted only between 7
a.m. and 7 p.m. and that the developer post a surety to return Springfield Road
to its original or a better condition than it was before Tranquility’s
Construction on Tranquility did not begin until 2021. By then, the
original parties involved in the approval process had moved on. Myers’
Mid-Atlantic Land Management had sold its stake in the development. King’s
Creek — which dropped the word “Plantation” from its name but still retains it
in its URL — was bought by Spinnaker Resorts.
A spokeswoman for Spinnaker Resorts declined requests to comment.
Current site contractor Henderson Inc. purchased the development in the
summer of 2021. Since then, according to civil preconstruction manager Peter
Henderson, the firm has been working to mitigate the inconveniences for
Springfield Road residents.
“We have added pull-off areas to help with passing traffic, and we have
put signage up to remind contractors to be respectful of the neighbors,” he
said. “We have also set up an email and phone line for the residents to
communicate any concerns that arise so we can attempt to address and remedy
what we can and what we have control over.”
Henderson said that on a typical day, Springfield Road encounters roughly
40 work vehicles that are contractors’ means of transportation to work, along
with 15 or so larger trucks delivering materials to the job site. Henderson
said it’s impossible to know now how long construction will take.
Construction and private vehicles access Tranquility, an age-restricted community under
construction in York County, exclusively via Springfield Road. A sign asks
passersby to be respectful of the neighbors. Kim O’Brien Root/staff
Springfield Road resident Josh Mullins, however, said the volume of daily
traffic is in the triple digits. On June 8, with a camera he has on his
property, Mullins said he counted 240 vehicle trips, or roughly 120 individual
vehicles of different sizes, going into and out of Tranquility via Springfield Road
For Mullins, the volume of traffic is not the only issue. The traffic
creates noise and dust in the 12-hour window when it’s permitted. Especially
worrisome is the narrow width of the road, which is frequently occupied with
large trucks. In the event of an emergency, according to Mullins, EMS might not
be able to arrive in time.
York County Supervisor Walter Zaremba voted to approve the
application for Tranquility but said he is not happy with the way things have
“The current use of Springfield Road is not a winning solution,” Zaremba
said. “There is no reason for us to abuse the citizens who live on
No help coming soon
Zaremba said it is worth considering an alternative suggested by
community activists, among them Doug Holroyd, who is running for
the seat that Zaremba will vacate later this year.
According to Holroyd, it might be possible to access Tranquility via a
road to the north of the property, Hawks Nest Drive. The biggest issue would be
a ravine the road would have to cross to get to the construction site.
County Administrator Neil Morgan commissioned a feasibility study by AH
Engineering Consultants to look into using Hawks Nest Drive. But Morgan said
that he suspects there will be obstacles that would make such a road
For starters, Morgan said, there will be several agencies, among them the
Virginia Department of Transportation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers if
the proposed path contains wetlands, that will add numerous layers of
regulatory red tape, meaning that completion of a road would be years down the
road — likely as construction on Tranquility is wrapping up.
What’s more, according to Morgan, the cost of a proposed road would run
into the millions, a price tag that many taxpayers would find unpalatable.
“To me, if the county was prepared to make that type of investment, which
wouldn’t be easy, I think that a smarter thing to do would be to upgrade
Springfield Road for the long term,” he said.
Shepperd agrees that a better approach would be to invest that money in
Springfield Road, perhaps enhancing the infrastructure, and providing sewer and
water to residents, who now use septic systems.
Holroyd said that not only is Springfield Road inadequate to handle
construction traffic for five years, but also that county officials should have
solicited more input from Springfield Road residents prior to the vote. He said
that two were directly notified of the coming changes.
This episode shows the need for better planning, Holroyd said.
“They stopped at Springfield Road because it had all they needed,” he said.
County officials say that they recognize it’s a lousy situation for the
people who live along Springfield Road, but that legally other options aren’t
realistic and that the inconvenience is temporary.
(picture: Springfield Road residents say heavy trucks have caused considerable damage, leaving ruts
and making cracks worse). Kim O’Brien Root/staff
Morgan said that the developer is taking strides to be a good partner.
“They are making efforts to minimize the problem. What they’re not going to do
is give up their lawful right to develop the property,” he said.
But for Mullins, the traffic that passes in front of his house has left
him dejected and inspired to spread a message of political involvement.
“The damage is already done,” Mullins said. “We just want to keep this
from happening to anyone else.”
Swenson, [email protected]
Ben Swenson | Correspondent