Addressing rumors about Willow Oaks center
Rumors have been swirling about Willow Oaks Shopping Center — that it’s losing tenants, that it appears rundown, and that it might be converted into apartments. What’s really going on?
For the record: Mayor Donnie Tuck and Economic Development Director Leonard Sledge met with the owner in April. He told them he has a new leasing agent and is actively pursuing new retail tenants.
The city received assurances that:
- There are no plans to sell the center or build apartments.
- A new leasing agent has been hired to market vacant spaces.
- Vacant spaces were boarded because of vandals.
- Maintenance problems will be addressed on a priority basis.
What can the city do? We can enforce codes related to safety and welfare, but we don’t have the legal right to tell this — or any other property owner — how to manage his property. Hampton officials agree that this retail center is an asset and we want it to succeed.
Q: Would they be allowed to tear down the center and replace it with apartments?
A: No. They would have to — at minimum — apply for a use permit. Apartments are an allowed use of land zoned commercial C-1, but only with a use permit. Any use-permit application would trigger public hearings at Planning Commission and City Council meetings and require a vote of the City Council.
Also, the land carries a proffer agreement — or terms and conditions included as part of the rezoning that allowed the development. That specifies the site plan of the existing buildings as they are now. Any applications to change the terms of that agreement would be subject to public hearings and require a vote of City Council.
Q: Would the city allow subsidized housing in this location?
A: Hampton has done a thorough study of the housing inventory in the city. The city has a large number of “workforce” homes, those priced below the regional median and accessible to working families. The city’s Community Plan provides policy guidance intended to ensure the city meets but does not exceed its “regional fair share” of subsidized housing when compared with its neighbors in the region. These policies promote higher-value housing and dispersal of subsidized housing units. While the city does not have complete control over the method of financing chosen by developers, in cases where state or federal law requires city input, the city applies the Community Plan policy when reviewing the proposal.
Q: What are Hampton’s housing goals and policies?
A: Hampton’s housing policy is to grow by successfully implementing redevelopment, neighborhood reinvestment, and infill development strategies within a fully developed city through:
- Housing that is competitive within the regional marketplace.
- Targeted public sector actions that leverage private sector investment in housing.
- Housing choices that serve a balance of income levels and household types, including special-needs populations.
- Mixed income communities.
- New housing that preserves the quality and value of the surrounding neighborhood.
Posted Aug. 23, 2017