There was an interesting development on Monday night, August 2, for a proposed large residential development – Summerfield Village Farms – that has been put forth by farmer and developer David Couch.
Couch has now withdrawn a planning ordinance text amendment request that is necessary for the project to move forward.
Opponents of the Summerfield Village Farms proposal were pleased to see that happen Monday night, however, Summerfield Mayor BJ Barnes said the withdrawal of the text amendment request didn’t mean the project was dead – only that it was delayed for now.
The Town of Summerfield in recent years has been a battleground over land development, with many residents worried that housing density, water system and development ordinance changes could disturb the rural lifestyle. Others say that the town must change with the times and that means that business and residential growth should be welcome if handled correctly.
In June, Couch sent a letter to Summerfield Town Manager Scott Whitaker that read: “We hereby request the following attached amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). This amendment introduces a zoning district that is critical to the implementation of the adopted Town of Summerfield Comprehensive Plan.”
It also stated, “This district is needed to address changes in the housing and development markets that cannot be adequately addressed with the recently adopted UDO ordinance.”
Couch stated that there was a need in Summerfield for a variety of housing types to fit various ages, income levels and lifestyle preferences.
The developer went on in the letter to add that the district is consistent with the purpose and intent of other districts in the UDO and that it, “provides a vehicle to improve compatibility among uses and ensures efficient development within the town by allowing a design focused master planned community taking in all aspects from tree lined street design, preservation of natural areas, sustainability of rural vistas and open spaces, creation of development with a focus on design, and trail enhancement for these areas.”
Couch also said the new zoning district would “allow for a logical and orderly development pattern over a large land mass creating connectivity, master planning and design and compatibility with surrounding uses and The Town’s Comprehensive Plan policies.”
Currently, in Summerfield, no zoning district allows for this type of development.
The proposed text amendment has become a controversial matter in the town since it was related to Couch’s proposed development, and at 7 p.m. on Monday, there was a special called Summerfield Planning Board meeting on Zoom to schedule another meeting to discuss the text amendment.
During a late July meeting, the Planning Board had planned for this issue to be discussed in late September. That issue became moot – for now, at least– when Couch withdrew his request for the text amendment.
Barnes said that he had spoken with Couch regarding the matter and said that there was some concern that the amendment lacked specificity. He said that Couch agreed that some issues needed to be cleared up and, the mayor said, Couch was working on firming up the numbers. Barnes said it was his understanding that the project would be back on track at a later date.
Don Wendelken, an outspoken Summerfield resident who owns a local newspaper that covers the town and its politics, said that, though some may have taken Couch’s move as a sign that the project might not get pursued, he never thought Couch had thrown in the towel.
Wendelken said that Couch has already invested a lot of money in propelling this project forward, and he added that, when he heard of the text amendment withdrawal, he assumed it was only a temporary hiatus.
Wendelken said it would not surprise him if the move were made to put the project on hold until after the upcoming Summerfield Town Council election.