By Rachel Adams-Heard
Washington and Lee University’s plan to house third-year students on campus is one step closer to reality.
The Rockbridge County Planning Commission voted Oct. 8 to recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors of Washington and Lee’s plans for additional housing and an indoor swimming pool on the back campus. The supervisors are set to discuss the planning commission’s recommendation on Oct. 27.
Washington and Lee’s trustees announced in February their unanimous decision to require students to live on campus their first three years. The previous policy required students to live on campus for only the first two years. The proposed development includes housing for third-year students and a natatorium. Most of the additions would be built on university-owned land in the county on the back campus just west of Lexington off Route 60, but some would sit on property in the city.
Only one citizen raised objections during the planning commission meeting. Charles Willard, who lives in the Kerrs Creek District, voiced his concern about the potential economic impact that would come from removing more than 300 students from the local housing market.
The planning commission told those in attendance that economic concerns should be taken up with the Board of Supervisors. The planning commission, they said, is responsible only for matters involving land use.
But Commissioner Jim McCown says he does not think the Board of Supervisors will be that worried.
“I don’t really think there will be a very severe economic impact,” said McCown.
He says he is “75 percent sure at least” that the supervisors will approve Washington and Lee’s plan and that he has not heard many complaints.
McCown also says he does not think traffic on West Nelson Street will be an issue, a concern Lexington officials asked the county to take into consideration.
Even if the county supervisors approve the plan, Lexington City Council must also vote in favor of the development.
Lexington’s planning commission will hold a public hearing Oct. 23 at 5 p.m.
Amy Perkins, Washington and Lee’s director of residence and Greek life, says the school’s trustees will determine whether this year’s first-year students will live on campus their junior year.
“That is certainly our hope – that it’ll be ready in fall ’16,” said Perkins.