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Lindley Estes is a business writer for The Free Lance-Star and This blog is on Fredericksburg-area business. Send an e-mail to Lindley Estes.

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Local leaders: Economy showing encouraging signs

The economy is slowly picking up in the Fredericksburg area, leaders from localities across the region told members of the Fredericksburg Area Association of Realtors and Fredericksburg Area Builders Association on Wednesday morning.

Government leaders from Fredericksburg and Caroline, King George, Orange, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties made the remarks during a legislative breakfast that FAAR and FABA hosted at the Fredericksburg Country Club.

Each of the six local government leaders spoke about recent activity in their localities. The general consensus was that economic activity is picking up from the past few years though still lagging the fast-growth era of a decade ago. They expressed a desire to work with the development community, though all said proffers aren’t going away.

Caroline Economic Development Director Gary Wilson said new investments in utilities, transportation and fiber lines as well as lower price points should help bring more businesses to the county. He sees particular potential in the planned Carmel Church Station development on the southern end of the county, where plans call for a new train station.

Fredericksburg Economic Development Director Karen Hedelt pointed out that some of the city’s newer developments, such as Idlewild, are now almost completely built out, and projects such as Amelia Square are showing the potential for downtown revitalization. She also discussed the city’s improved trail system, all the work going on at the University of Mary Washington and an upcoming project to widen Fall Hill Avenue and extend Mary Washington Boulevard.

King George Economic Development Director Nicole Thompson said activity at the Hopyard Farm development off State Route 3 is picking up. The county is working with Columbia Gas of Virginia to extend a natural gas line from the Ferry Farm area of Stafford into the industrial park, which would help existing businesses such as Fresh Tulips USA and potential new ones. Dominion Virginia Power is planning a 9.4-mile, $36.4 million transmission line to a new substation on the Dahlgren base to handle projected growth.

Orange Planning Director Gregg Zody said the State Route 3 and 20 corridors are prime development opportunities, and he is working to make the county’s comprehensive plan more development-friendly in targeted areas. One specific proposed project is the mixed-use Signature Station development, which calls for up to 222,300 square feet of commercial construction and up to 230 townhouse units on State Route 3 just west of the Walmart site. That rezoning is scheduled to come before the Orange Board of Supervisors on April 23.

Spotsylvania County Administrator Doug Barnes said the county is working on lowering building fees and updating its comprehensive plan. He noted that several rezoning applications are in the works, including New Post, Crossroads Station, Dominion Raceway and Spotsylvania Courthouse Village. Virginia Railway Express service is expected to start late this year in Spotsylvania, and the State Route 3 widening project should be finished by July.

Stafford County Administrator Anthony Romanello said new home construction and permits are up significantly from the past couple of years in Stafford. The county is also working to streamline the development process and rewrite its proffer policy.