Chesapeake Council votes to approve rezoning for ‘The Grove’ at Western Branch

Chesapeake

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The first step in a multi-layered approach that aims revitalize the Chesapeake Square Mall and the surrounding area, was approved by city council Tuesday night. 

The Chesapeake City Council voted 8-0, with Mayor Rick West out of town on “city business,” to approve the 428-acre rezoning on land that will be the future home of “The Grove” project.

The development will sit on the southwest corner of Portsmouth Boulevard and Jolliff Road. Virginia Beach-based Kotarides Development plans to build a 1.5 million square foot warehouse, a brewery and 824 housing units in the form of single-family homes, townhomes, apartments, condominiums, and senior living facilities. 

“The vote tonight shows that it is a well-recieved project and we hope to make everyone proud,” said Pete Kotaridies, a manager with the Virginia Beach-based development company. 

It was a vote that ultimately parted ways with city policy.

Going into the meeting, a planning staff report recommended the denial of the rezoning request, citing reasons including “inadequate public school facilities.” 

The report identified that the rezoning would add an estimated 62 students to an already overcrowded Edwin W. Chittum Elementary School. While plans are in the works to construct an addition to the school, according to the planning department, it would not be complete until 2021-2022.

“The Planning and Land Use Policy requires capital projects that increase capacity to be complete within one year of the approval of the rezoning application to be considered as a mitigating factor,” wrote planning administrator Jimmy McNamara in the report.

However, ahead of the planning commission’s vote earlier in the month, the developer agreed to no home occupancy until the fall of 2022. 

“Try to be good listeners. I think that is the key to being a good developer,” Kotarides said when asked about the compromise. The group also agreed to a 100-foot buffer between the Jolliff Woods community and the proposed development to mitigate privacy concerns. 

Yet some residents still were not satisfied.

“I feel like we have received very little about the light industrial warehouse,” said Carol Ciarametaro, who lives near the project. “What if it has hazardous materials?” 

The development team wouldn’t comment on who they were courting for space, but continued to tout they could bring up to 500-2,000 jobs.

“Calling them tonight that they zoning has passed and we are ready to move forward,”  Kotarides said following the meeting. 

He went on to say construction on the warehouse could begin as soon as this fall. 

The project plays into a large vision named “Destination Western Branch,” in which Chesapeake Square Mall would also be revitalized. Kotarides purchased the Mall last year for $12.9 million and have said the future calls for more of a “town center” model with more entertainment and dining options. 

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