After what HumanKind President Bob Dendy called a “long and winding road,” the nonprofit is moving forward with plans to build new recreational facilities on its campus.
At its meeting Tuesday night, Lynchburg City Council voted unanimously to approve HumanKind’s request for a conditional use permit to allow the construction of recreational facilities including athletic fields, a swimming pool and parking areas in a Low-Density Residential district. The approval comes after a year and a half of negotiations with the city and neighbors.
HumanKind originally sought to rezone 47 acres of its 166 acre property from residential to institutional use in order to fit its mission of serving the community through ventures such as a day care center, a day program for children with disabilities and offering its land for sporting activities for area youths. Council in April 2018 postponed a decision on that rezoning.
After receiving feedback from council last year as well as neighbors concerning traffic, lighting and rezoning issues, the nonprofit reached a mutual agreement with its neighbors at Westminster Canterbury Lynchburg to accommodate those concerns.
City Planner Tom Martin said the nonprofit, which has served families and children at its campus off V.E.S. Road since 1903, applied for the conditional use permit instead of a rezoning because it felt it was a more appropriate way for council to have additional input on the development of the property.
He added HumanKind will be constructing a new entrance onto the campus, which is at 150 Linden Ave. but is mainly accessed off V.E.S. Road.
The road is in review by the city engineer but is not subject to any city public hearings, Martin said. It is also not directly tied to the conditional use permit passed Tuesday night, but the nonprofit hopes it will address previous concerns raised by neighbors who have cited traffic on Linden Avenue.
The athletic fields are unlikely to attract any new traffic beyond normal events held on the campus, according to Martin.
Martin said to ease neighborhood concerns, Humankind must meet 10 conditions in order to receive approval to build the athletic fields.
Conditions include that HumanKind will not construct or install light poles for sports lighting or for the illumination of the fields, buildings or structures within 100 feet of the shared property with Westminster Canterbury Lynchburg, will not add outdoor bleachers or stands, an amplified sound system or illuminated electrical scoreboard.
During public comments, Collin Byrne, a local youth lacrosse coach, said the city should embrace the application.
“HumanKind is going to great lengths to have athletic fields that quite frankly the city doesn’t have,” he said Tuesday. “I’ve been involved with youth lacrosse for five years and athletic fields have been a challenge. Here is a private organization that is providing something for the youths in Lynchburg that is not there right now.”
David Kerr, a resident of Linden Avenue, said he is still concerned about traffic on his street.
“I’ve been told by HumanKind and the city that this will not affect traffic on Linden Avenue but considering that half the people who work at HumanKind come through Linden Avenue and I have to dodge them on the way to work, I find that hard to believe,” he said.
Ward III Councilman Jeff Helgeson said he appreciated the diligence and patience from HumanKind and what they are doing for many children who play sports in the area.
Ward IV Councilman Turner Perrow said he wants the city to look into both V.E.S. Road and Williams Road eventually to address safety improvements.
Rachael Smith covers local businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at (434) 385-5482.