College aims to sell vacant land

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April 14, 2009

5:18 AM

The College of William and Mary is negotiating a potential $18.5 million deal with a developer seeking to purchase 43 acres of the College’s land in Newport News.

In order to close the deal, the city must accept a request to rezone the College’s empty and undeveloped land near the center of Newport News.

The plot and adjacent properties are currently zoned for office and research development.

The College originally acquired the land from the state in 1989, intending to construct a research park in partnership with the nearby Jefferson Lab. That project has since been abandoned, and the plot no longer figures in the College’s short or long-range plans.

The College could potentially use some of the revenue from the sale of the land to purchase property around the campus, construct student housing and develop “student-friendly” retail stores near Wawa on Richmond Rd., the Daily Press reported.

According to Newport News Senior District Planner Saul Gleiser, any rezoning petition would face serious challenges.

“What they need is to get the [Newport News] master plan amended,” Gleiser said.

The rezoning petition must be reviewed extensively before it can even be considered by the Newport News City Council. Petitions first go before the Planning Commission, which can reject requests that it does not deem to be viable.

Should they choose to review the petition, the Planning Commission would research the matter extensively, ultimately delivering a positive or negative recommendation to the city council, which has final say in whether or not any request is implemented.

According to Gleiser, if the city of Newport News receives the petition by April 17, the petition will go before the Planning Commission in late May or early June. The Planning Commission would then issue its recommendation on the matter at its July meeting.

Gleiser is doubtful about the zoning petition’s chances for success — the city’s recently updated “master plan” calls for the land to retain its current zoning designation.

“To be very frank, the plan was just adopted,” Gleiser said. “It was a five-year process that involved citizen input, and the citizens were very clear that they didn’t want anything else but research and development on that site.”

He cautioned that the Planning Commission — even if it considers the rezoning request — is unlikely to support the proposed change.

“I don’t think that there is going to be a positive recommendation,” Gleiser said. “The citizens did not see the need for more retail or apartments in that particular area.”

Gleiser said that the city of Newport News has not yet received any petition to rezone the land.

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