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Portsmouth Residents Unhappy With Developer’s Revised Plan

June 21, 2008

By Jen McCaffery, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, Va.

Jun. 21–PORTSMOUTH — Some homeowners in the city’s largest new residential community weren’t happy to learn that the neighborhood’s developer now wants to build apartments instead of condos on the site.

“They’re making decisions and we’re oblivious to all of them,” said Denise Key, president of the New Port Civic League.

A representative for Virginia Beach developers L.M. Sandler & Sons wrote in an e-mail that the developers plan to build high-quality apartments and retail that will be a good fit for the Victory area at large.

“They’re still wanting to continue to do good quality work,” city spokeswoman Monique Bass said.

This month, property owner Portsmouth Ventures One, which is affiliated with L.M. Sandler & Sons, asked the city’s planning commission for permission to build 100,000 square feet of retail space and 300 apartments in the development.

The original plan for the final phase of the New Port community included 427 condos and no retail space, according to planning commission documents.

At this month’s planning commission meeting, commissioners raised questions about the quality of the designs for the proposed apartments and retail space. Some said the new designs were too generic.

Since the meeting, city planners have been working with developers on designs that feature more architectural detailing, brickwork, and various types of roofs, Bass said.

The apartments would be developed so they could later be converted into condos, according to planning commission documents. The apartments and retail space would be across Interstate 264 from where homes and townhouses have already been built.

New Port has been a centerpiece of Portsmouth’s efforts to create a city center in the Victory area and raise the bar on residential development.

Eighty-seven units have been sold so far, wrote Christine Pasterczyk, a representative of Portsmouth Venture One.

Some New Port homeowners said they worry that apartments could lower their property values and complained that they were not notified by their home association or developer about the potential change.

“What I’ve been finding out has been through the paper,” said homeowner Khadijah Alexander. “I just don’t do business like that.”

Pasterczyk wrote that a request for a resident meeting had not been brought to the developer’s attention.

She wrote that the developer is now revising its application to include suggested modifications and when those changes are complete, it will be a more appropriate time to meet with interested parties.

Erica Holmes, who grew up in Portsmouth but didn’t envision living there as an adult until she and her husband saw New Port, worries that the apartments could attract “riffraff” and endanger the redevelopment of the area.

This year, local city councils have allowed other developments to scale back or delay building. Chesapeake City Council in January approved delaying building the first 120 condominiums at Belharbour Station at SoNo by a year. In April, Virginia Beach City Council allowed developer BQI Group to pare down a condominium project called Bonney’s Quay.

The planning commission is scheduled to take up the New Port plan again at its next meeting on July 1.

Jen McCaffery, (757) 446-2627, jen.mccaffery@pilotonline.com

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