Stafford County supervisors on Tuesday rezoned 44 acres of woods and fields off U.S. 17 to make way for apartments, townhomes and a small amount of retail space.
With Supervisor Darrell English abstaining, supervisors voted 4–2 to rezone the former residential property behind Paradise Diner to urban mixed-use to accommodate Mainline, a complex of 84 one-bedroom, 132 two-bedroom and 38 three-bedroom apartments in 11 separate three-story buildings. The site plan also calls for 114 town houses to be built on the property, along with nearly 4,800 square feet of commercial real estate.
Charlie Payne, a Fredericksburg attorney who represents the project, said apartment costs will average about $1,800 per month across the board, but Payne told supervisors the facility would also offer a 5 percent rent discount to all Stafford County employees and a $100,000 fund to help veterans, active duty military, first responders, teachers and county employees buy a new town house.
The new residential development will be accessible initially by Glen Alice Lane, a one-lane gravel drive that dead-ends at an open pasture surrounded by mature trees. The lane would eventually be improved, but the builder also plans to connect the new development to the northern terminus of RV Parkway to allow Mainline residents an easier left turn out of the new neighborhood onto U.S. 17.
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George Washington District Supervisor Tom Coen said the project meets the goal of the county’s strategic plan to place new growth into the county’s targeted growth area, not in its rural areas.
“If you’re going to get people out of Hartwood, George Washington, [Griffis] Widewater and into where we want people to be, you’ve got to approve something,” Coen said. “If you don’t, they’re just going to go back out and keep building McMansions and causing the exact sprawl that people say they don’t like.”
Supervisor Meg Bohmke said she would like to see the section of the county improve where the apartments are now planned, but opposed the rezoning along with Supervisor Crystal Vanuch. Bohmke said during a recent meeting with the county’s School Board, a bleak picture was painted of the overcrowding problem at many of Stafford’s elementary schools.
“That’s nine out of our 18 elementary schools, that’s 50 percent of them that are overcrowded,” Bohmke said. “We are just busting at the seams.”
The builder is offering $4.1 million to help offset the expected strain on county roads, schools and public safety services.
Adam Lynch, who serves as a river steward with the Friends of the Rappahannock, told supervisors the area planned for Mainline features “15 and 25 degree-plus grades” which if disturbed, will have an adverse impact on the environment.
“This project site is not a normal site,” Lynch said. “When you develop properties at those grades it creates opportunities for instability. It also requires a lot of regrading in order to flatten out areas that are currently hills and valleys and that permeates into areas of environmental sensitivity.”
Others who spoke at the public hearing said the project will improve an isolated area of the county that desperately needs a facelift, but a traffic study provided by the developer claims Mainline will generate 143 vehicle trips during the morning peak hour and 178 trips during the evening peak hour and add about 2,300 additional vehicles on U.S. 17 each day.
“I think the extension of RV Parkway will be helpful in managing traffic,” said Alane Callander, a Falmouth resident.
Back in September, owners of the property told supervisors they believed the project would bring much-needed commercial business to a well-traveled area of Falmouth.
“[This project] would be a drawing card for commercial, that they could see that this project is an upscale project and I think that this would be the dam-breaker, you might say, for the commercials to start coming in their office buildings, upscale restaurants, things like that,” said Roger Embrey.
Stafford Economic Development Director John Holden told supervisors Mainline would also help the county maintain its federally designated HUBZone status. The program created by the U.S. Small Business Administration helps businesses that operate and employ people in historically underused business zones.
“HubZones provide advantages for companies securing government contracts,” Holden said. “As one of our major employers in this county is indeed government contracting, HubZones are an important tool for us to encourage business expansion and investment.”
James Scott Baron: 540/374-5438