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VB residents quit as the developer hopes to build a “signature” community

VB residents quit as the developer hopes to build a “signature” community

VB residents quit as the developer hopes to build a “signature” community

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVES) – Residents in a Virginia Beach neighborhood once had Arnold Palmer’s signature at the West Neck Golf Course. Today they have acres and acres of weeds and heavy undergrowth, so heavy that the abandoned trail once caught fire.

Previously: Vegetation fire has destroyed about 50 acres on the Virginia Beach golf course, fire officials say

It closed on September 29, 2019after the original owner fell on hard times financially and could no longer stay the course, but now a developer wants to build a mixed-use community.

There are some bad relations in the West Neck community, but well-known developer Harrison and Lear Inc. wants to mend fences and develop what is considered a giant eyesore into a community called Signature Meadows.

During the previous course with Jonathan Skinner, president of Harrison and Lear, he is most proud that, in his opinion, the project addresses stormwater needs on the property, includes land conservation elements with tree planting and other reforestation efforts, and high-quality single-family and family homes. multi-family homes.

But not everyone is happy about that, and some are really disappointed, especially when it comes to the ‘Spite Wall’.

The despite wall symbolizes the bad blood at the former Signature on the West Neck Golf Course.

According to neighbors, the “wall” was erected by new golf course owner David LaClair, who refused neighbors’ requests to cut back the thick vegetation on his property.

“I had a beautiful view, as did Tom (Luckman) and I, and now that view is gone,” Joe Kuhn said. “We complained and he basically said, ‘Okay, I’m putting up a wall. … Now you don’t have to look at it.”

The undergrowth was so thick that it caught fire in March 2023. Ten houses were threatened, but fortunately none were damaged.

When asked about this, Skinner quickly distanced himself from the owner’s actions.

“I’m clearly separate from the property owner,” Skinner said. “I don’t agree with any of the decisions they’ve made regarding maintenance or the fence. What he did was not neighborly. My intention here is to improve the situation and bring peace and quality of life to the neighbors.”

Calls to LaClair and his attorney were not returned.

Skinner’s only relationship with the property owner is that he has an option to purchase the property if he can rezone it.

Skinner promoted Signature Meadows for a year and a half. Well-produced videos can be found online.

The project videos show focus groups, public meetings and details of the project. 157 homes would be built on 202 hectares, with an emphasis on 180 hectares of open space.

A Drone 10 view over the former golf course shows what happened to what was once considered a premier local golf course, and one that was as hard as the peaks.

“There is a vocal minority in favor of just a golf course,” Skinner said, “but the majority of residents just want a solution, and many appreciate the fact that we are going to convert 180 acres into open space amenities that they will have. can enjoy.”

Tom Luckman, president of the West Neck Community Association, which opposes the project, said he didn’t feel the same way from neighbors.

“If it were true that he’s getting all these positive responses,” Luckman said, “he would submit his application and appear before the Planning Commission and City Council next week.”

Both government agencies would have to hear the rezoning request, and the city would have to approve it before it could be built.

Skinner has not yet submitted an application for the project.

Why not?

“What we’ve done is work with residents to improve the plan to make it the best plan possible,” Skinner said. “We were actually planning to build pickleball courts, but the focus groups indicated that they did not want that.”

Skinner admits his biggest challenge is gaining community support and convincing the Virginia Beach City Council to change strict density restrictions.

“That’s one perspective of the analysis, but it’s 202 acres,” Skinner said, “and we’re proposing 157 homes, which is about 0.75 units per acre, which meets the guidelines for transitional areas.”

When Luckman heard that, he immediately responded that “that’s not true.”

Luckman pointed out that the golf course was part of the original deal, which allowed the community to be built in 1999.

“We were given a variance when it was developed,” Luckman said. “They counted the golf course in that one acre. So the 175 hectares of golf course development has already been counted. You can’t count it again. You can’t build houses on a golf course that was supposed to be the reason the houses were allowed to be built.”

Skinner, asked if he thinks he will get the six votes needed on the council to approve his project?

“I feel like we’ll get there,” Skinner said.

Luckman disagreed.

“The Council is not going to change the rules and screw up the transition area,” Luckman said. “The municipality will not do that. I think the municipality is too smart to do that.”

Told he is asking the council to change direction, Skinner said he was putting forward an answer to a problem.

“I’m proposing a solution,” Skinner said, “and the city needs quality housing, too. During my meetings with city leadership and city staff, I received very positive feedback on this proposal.”

Skinner is confident no one will ever raise $8 to $10 million to rebuild the golf course.

“It’s all about greed,” Luckman said. “I mean, they can make so much more money if they put something else there besides a golf course.”

Skinner was quick to disagree, saying, “I would actually have liked to broker the sale of a golf course. It would have taken a lot less work and yielded a similar reward.”

Skinner’s attitude in so many words: If it’s not my plan, what plan?

Is this how the property will last forever?

“Skinner wants to destroy two communities,” Luckman said.

Skinner said he is trying to improve it, saying this is the best path forward because there will never be a golf course.

“Well, that’s his opinion,” Luckman said.

Skinner and Luckman discussed what their endgame was.

For Skinner?

“If this is not approved, the situation will remain as it is forever due to the costs of redeveloping the golf course,” Skinner said. “If I don’t succeed, I’ll move on to the next opportunity to build a new community in another place.”

Luckman said, “I’ll tell you the end game. The community sticks together, and this guy realizes he’s putting a lot of time and effort into something that isn’t going to happen, and he’s smart enough to walk away.

Skinner said residents want something to be done about what they consider a public nuisance.

“Residents are also disappointed that the city has not intervened to resolve the embarrassment of the golf course,” says Skinner, “which is not maintained in many parts, and they feel like their city has let them down. ”

Tiffany Russell, director of communications for Virginia Beach, said the city was unable to get total property maintenance in that area.

“We understand that residents were hoping to see mowing in areas immediately adjacent to their homes. Unfortunately, this outcome – the total maintenance of the property – was not achievable through the negotiated settlement,” said Russell. “What may not be widely known is this: Had this case been tried and the federal court found that the city code’s ‘active farming’ exception applied, none of the properties would have been subject to the mowing requirement. To avoid this significant risk, the City has entered into a settlement that requires a substantial portion of the property to be maintained at or below the 10-inch height required by City Code, including highly visible areas along public rights-of-way. The city has committed resources to ensure WC Capital abides by its end of the agreement.”

The General Assembly is also considering HB 1054, introduced by Virginia Beach Del. Barry Knight, specifically addressing the signature on the West Neck Golf Course “to authorize a place… to obligate the owner of property… to prevent the property from becoming a detriment to the health, the safety or well-being.”

It gives the municipality the ability, if necessary, to go in and cut off vegetative growth and fine the property owner.

This is a specific case for the legislation, but it has been continued until next year’s General Assembly session because the matter is in federal court.

Calls to the property’s owner, David LaClair, and his attorney were not returned.

For the latest news, weather, sports and streaming video, visit WAVY.com.

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