Tensions ran high at a Lancaster County Board of Zoning Appeals’ public hearing last week when Black Horse Run residents voiced concerns about their northern neighbor, Red Ventures.
Red Ventures, a marketing consulting company, is in a sprawling complex zoned for mixed-use that abuts the subdivision that used to be off the beaten path. That is, until a residential and retail growth bomb hit the panhandle of northern Lancaster County. With an office building and parking garage already located on its campus, Red Ventures will soon add a four-story, 260-unit apartment complex.
The company’s master plan has been approved by the county, However, project manager Bernie Rosario requested two variances from the Board of Zoning Appeals, prompting the Jan. 2 hearing.
LandDesign principal landscape architect Shawn Tooley presented Red Ventures’ variance request and plan to create a housing component on the company’s campus.
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“The intent of this site, specifically, is to provide housing which would connect the campus to RedStone,” Tooley said.
RedStone is a 310,000-square foot retail center located adjacent to the Red Ventures campus. Tooley said a connection along Opportunity Way is an important piece of the master plan.
“The Red Ventures campus has a very distinct look and architectural vocabulary that we’re trying to match or at least complement in order to pull this off,” Tooley said. “We’re trying to match the intent, the style, the colors and the form of all of those architectural components.”
Red Ventures’ first request, to increase the height limitation of the apartment building from 55 feet to 70 feet, was two-fold: It would allow for aesthetic architectural features at the building’s entry points and the creation of a basement garage on the back side of the building.
“There’s a challenge on our site where we have about 40 to 45 feet of drop from Opportunity Way back to the western property line,” Tolley said. “To help mitigate that topography, we’re trying to drop a floor on the back to create a basement for garages.”
The company also requested relief from the build-to-zone line, a setback requirement in mixed-use districts. According to the county’s ordinances, buildings must set back 10 to 20 feet from the property line. Red Ventures requested an increase to 45 feet.
Tooley said the built-to-zone line is a condition his firm works with in very urban situations, though he emphasized this situation is a bit different.
“By giving ourselves a little bit more room, it allows us to create a linear park between the buildings and the right-of-way,” he said. “Within that linear park is going to be plaza spaces, hardscape, landscape, seating areas for people to actively hang out in and use. It’s going to give a better pedestrian experience. And that connectivity and pedestrian experience is what’s driving our request for that variance.”
Several Black Horse Run residents took the opportunity to comment after Tooley’s presentation. Resident Linda Headrick said Red Ventures has ruined a part of her neighborhood and its tranquility.
“I just want to state that (Red Ventures is) a profit-driven giant. We are just middle-class homeowners and they are going to take us over,” she said. “If you put yourself in my shoes for a while you’d understand. I’m putting my house on the market and I’m going to move. But this isn’t the end, these kinds of places are going to be coming in and moving (people) out of their homes.”
Her neighbor, Peter Anderson, said Red Ventures should have left a buffer of trees between the mixed-use and the residential districts.
“I can’t imagine having in my back yard what my neighbor now looks at in hers,” Anderson said. “She looks at this four- to five-story parking garage that’s brightly lit up every night.”
Though most of the Black Horse Run residents who attended the meeting were upset with Red Ventures’ impact on their community, resident Jason Reeves said the company has been a good steward.
“I’ve been in Black Horse Run since 1997 (and) of course I knew that development was coming,” he said. “While I’m not a fan of development, I think that (Red Ventures) has been sincere with what they’ve done. They do have green areas; We’re still waiting to see some of the buffers, as far as trees, they’re going to put in.”
Black Horse Run resident Toni Carney also attended the hearing. She said she still has concerns, but thought the hearing was informative.
“When we bought our home, we had no idea that there was going to be a road built behind us and that now there’s going to be an apartment building,” she said. “I’m still skeptical about the volume of what’s going to be going in behind our house.”
The board granted both of Red Ventures’ variances in 5-1 and 4-2 votes.
Stephanie Jadrnicek: firstname.lastname@example.org