The Danville Planning Commission on Monday recommended approval of a special use permit that would allow a developer to build a luxury RV park in the city, despite hearing opposition from some residents concerned about traffic and safety.
The project could bring $1.3 million annually in tax revenue to the city, according to a presentation by developer Joe Cubas at Monday’s meeting.
The project, which was approved by the planning commission 5-1, will go in front of the city council on June 6 for the final decision. Alongside its approval, the planning commission recommended that a traffic impact analysis be conducted to address resident concerns about traffic.
The planned Palace Resort, a 46-acre luxury RV park, would be located on Jenny Lane near Goodyear Boulevard. The park would include 333 RV sites and amenities like pools, spas, restaurants, a clubhouse and a pickleball court.
Though the property has the correct zoning classification, all campgrounds require a special use permit and must come before the planning commission, according to the city’s zoning ordinance.
Cubas, who is from Florida, said this project would strengthen and expand the economy of the region.
The annual economic impact of the RV industry in Virginia is $2 billion, according to the RV Industry Association, a trade group. In North Carolina, that number is $3 billion. Danville, situated very near the North Carolina border, is in the middle of a $5 billion industry.
Combined, the RV industry in Virginia and North Carolina affects “over 1,000 businesses, generating more than 22,000 jobs with over $1.5 billion in wages and just under $2 billion in campgrounds and travel-related expenses,” the Palace Resort project application says.
Nationally, the RV industry is a $140 billion industry, according to the RV association.
However, a number of Danville residents at Monday’s meeting were not persuaded by the potential economic impact. Eight spoke against the project, and when asked to stand if opposed, almost everyone in the room did.
No residents spoke in favor of the project, though several comments on River City TV’s Facebook page, where the meeting was livestreamed, were supportive.
The residents said they’re concerned about issues like safety, traffic and noise.
“We’re not opposed to a campground, we’re just opposed to one in our neighborhood,” Roger Barksdale, who lives on Jenny Lane with his wife, told the commission. “This needs to be relocated outside of a neighborhood.”
This was a common sentiment among residents: that there’s got to be a better place to put this project.
“I’m all about building up Pittsylvania County and Danville, but to shove it down somebody’s throat, that’s not at all what the community wants,” said Danny Halverson, who spoke during the meeting, in an interview afterwards.
But Cubas said this is an “ideal location” for the project, adding that it’s in compliance with all of the city codes.
Plus, residential homes make up less than 10% of the neighborhood. Most of the neighborhood, 76%, is commercial, and another 13% is vacant land, according to Cubas’ presentation.
Cubas met with residents April 3 to address these concerns. He is exceeding many of the requirements for a project like this, he told the commission.
This project is required to have 40-foot setbacks, or the distance from the property line to the development. Cubas said he plans to include setbacks of 100 to 130 feet to further protect residents, he said.
He plans to develop 7.2 units per acre, even though a special use permit allows 20. And Cubas added that he has been working with the city to make sure that all safety concerns are addressed.
Still, resident opposition was strong, and several residents complained that the city is more interested in the potential tax revenue than the concerns and safety of the residents.
During Cubas’ rebuttal, he asked the commission whether those concerns are more important than the rights of a property owner.
“Where do those opinions regulate what someone can do with their property in a lawful manner?” he said. “As long as that property owner follows every rule, follows every ordinance, follows every statute, where do the opinions of neighbors supersede the rights of a property owner?”
Cubas initially was interested in Pittsylvania County for the project. In November, the county board of supervisors voted against it, after initially approving Cubas’ rezoning request for a luxury RV resort by a 5-3 vote at its September meeting.
Pittsylvania County residents had many of the same concerns as Danvillians, though the proposed parcel in the county was much closer to a residential area.
Danville City Councilman Lee Vogler contacted Cubas the day after the county’s denial.
“Rather than just see it leave our region entirely, I thought, let me reach out and see if he had considered trying to find a location in the city to make it happen,” Vogler said in a March interview.
Vogler and another councilman, Madison Whittle, sold Cubas on Danville, Cubas said. He submitted a special use permit application for the RV park to the city in March.
Halverson said he doesn’t think the commission really heard the voices of the residents Monday, as only one member, Pierre Jones, voted no.
“I think money spoke, as it normally does in Danville,” he said after the meeting. “I don’t think they heard any of the citizens here. I don’t think they heard any of the concerns.”
Cubas, who said he was “obviously very pleased” with the commission’s vote, will continue to work with residents to address their concerns before the project goes before the city council, he said in an interview after the meeting. But he doesn’t expect to please everyone.
“I’ve already provided major concessions on setbacks and other issues as well,” he said. “At the end of the day, my goal is to do my very best to work with [the residents]. Sometimes you’re able to do that, other times you’re not. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying. Hopefully we can find some common ground on some of the issues.”