Decaying strip mall among Route 58 priorities

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 3, 2008

FRANKLIN—Isle of Wight County planners should focus their immediate attention on the Airway Shopping Center when considering the future of the Business Route 58 corridor, residents said Monday.

Improvements and targeted development at the mostly empty facility should be a top priority for Isle of Wight, according to surveys, focus groups and committees involved in the process of developing a long-term plan for development in southern Isle of Wight.

&uot;There’s been an overwhelming lot of support for working on the Airway Shopping Center piece,&uot; the county’s long-range planner, Jamie Oliver, said Thursday.

Oliver and about 10 other county staff members and consultants met Monday with about 25 interested citizens in the last of a series of public input sessions connected with the Route 58 Economic Development and Land Use Plan.

Participants in the Carrsville meeting got a look at a draft of the plan that consultants are preparing for the county’s Planning Commission. They broke into two groups, marked up maps to reflect the things they liked and those they disliked and made recommendations about how to get the plans under way.

The main component of the draft plan before the group on Monday was a set of three maps that project growth in Isle of Wight’s Route 58 corridor during the next 15, 30 and 40 years.

The maps show gradually expanding areas of residential, commercial, industrial and retail growth along the corridor between Franklin and Carrsville, especially east and west of the Franklin Municipal Airport and within the village of Carrsville.

One feature that participants in Monday’s meeting found especially appealing was a Heritage/Nature Trail that would loop from the Franklin city limits, along Route 58, then Airport Drive and then back to its starting point along the Blackwater River.

The plan shows a memorial park and a canoe put-in along the trail near the bridge to Franklin.

Participants also again expressed their desire to preserve agricultural space outside the projected development areas, Oliver said Thursday.

She said consultants from Charlottesville-based Renaissance Planning Group will use the comments they picked up at Monday’s meeting to develop the final development plan, along with suggestions about how to achieve the goals that have been identified throughout the seven-month process.

Among the other features expected to wind up in the plan’s first phase are one or two key industrial development sites, possibly located along Route 258, southeast of International Paper’s mill; a farmers’ market and Community-Supported Agriculture program in Carrsville, where farmers could market locally grown produce; and improvements to the Airway area, between Lynn Road and Airport Drive.

Once the consultants integrate the latest suggestions into their plan, they will get it ready for a review by the Planning Commission, probably in August.

With its ready railroad, airport and highway access, the southern portion of Isle of Wight is ripe for development of port-related cargo transfer stations, a consultant told participants at the January meeting.

The area’s many large properties and higher elevation than neighboring Franklin also will make it attractive to residential developers, especially as the county expands its water and sewer services, he added.