Members of the Three Chopt Elementary School community and surrounding residents are fighting a proposal by Henrico Doctors’ Hospital to develop 4.5 wooded acres adjacent to their respective properties.
A group of PTA members, neighbors and other concerned citizens in the West End has banded together in opposition of a hospital’s expansion plan, despite unanimous approval from Henrico County officials last month.
Members of the Three Chopt Elementary School community have created a petition to stop Henrico Doctors’ Hospital from expanding into an area next to the school designated as a wildlife sanctuary since 1971.
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HCA Virginia, the hospital’s owner, intends to construct a four-story cancer center on the 4.5 acres it purchased from the Henrico School Board earlier this year.
The Henrico County Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the project, which would allow the hospital to move forward with its plans, at its general meeting February 11th despite a large showing from neighbors in opposition to the project.
Adjacent property owners cited concerns about traffic, construction activities, and harm to property values, among others. Prior to the meeting, hospital officials held several community meetings and made modifications to the building plans, including adding additional setback from the purchased property’s borders to appease property owners.
The plans will now go forward to the Henrico Board of Supervisors for review. The board will have final say as to whether the plans are approved. That public meeting is to be held March 8th in the Western Government Center board room at 4301 East Parham Road.
Plans, as they stand now, show significant setback from the school property, with a much smaller buffer in place between existing residential development surrounding the acreage.
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View the full Board of Supervisors staff report which outlines the conditions HCA must meet in order to construct the building and parking areas, see commentary from other county agencies, and view more renderings of the development here (PDF).
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The Change.org petition (which had 282 supporters at press time) created by concerned parties reads, in part:
Three Chopt Elementary School is one of the oldest elementary schools in the county. It was built to support the growing suburbs of Henrico County and is surrounded by neighborhoods developed in the 1940s and 1950s. The land was purchased in 1970 and the school opened in 1971.
Also in 1971, in an effort to preserve and protect the property, Henrico County went to the Virginia General Assembly and asked for special enabling legislation and on March 1, 1971, the General Assembly granted the county the right to designate the area a wildlife sanctuary.
On June 11, 1975 the Board of Supervisors designated Three Chopt Elementary School, its grounds and outdoor classroom (nature trail) as the only individual bird sanctuary in the entire county and it remains so today.
The proposed sale of 4.5 acres of the Three Chopt Elementary School woods (and nature trail) is directly in conflict with the county code designating this a bird sanctuary (Chapter 5; Article VI; Section 5-250 – Bird sanctuaries). In addition, it is not supported by the county’s own long range plan which calls for the property to remain Government.
The petition goes on to note that the Henrico County Board of Supervisors voted to purchase 2.5 acres of land in Varina to protect it from future development in November of 2015.
You can view and sign the petition here.
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We’ll be closely watching the final decision by county leaders at the March 8th meeting and will bring you the latest developments as they happen.