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Fredericksburg City Beat

This blog includes news about City Hall, city schools and other 22401 news.

Pamela Gould reports on City Hall. You can reach her at 540-735-1972 or pgould@freelancestar.com. Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or rsidersky@freelancestar.com.

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Back to work

You know it’s the middle of July when you get back from a week out of the office, and of the 200-some e-mails waiting in your inbox, maybe five (but probably more like three) are not junk.

This is the fifth week of the month, so no council meetings, but there are some smaller goings-on. The Historic Preservation Task Force will meet tonight, and the Planning Commission meets Wednesday at 4 p.m. to vote on–among other things–the Slavery Museum’s request for an extension on the special exception that allows it to exceed the height limit for that part of the city.

In the meantime, Matt Kelly has already weighed in on a topic the council will take up Aug. 12: What to do with 1200 Prince Edward St. (If you need background, try this. Most of us can recite the story in our sleep.)

Kelly was one of three council members to vote for a plan to turn the building into four condominiums in 2006. That plan was defeated after neighbors said they didn’t want to see anything but a single-family home on that corner.

Now, as you can read in this letter from the attorney for the owner of 1200, the owner still believes the four-condo plan is the most viable solution for saving the building, although that number might need to be bumped up to six, the letter states, to make the project work under the current economic conditions.

Kelly’s position doesn’t appear to have changed from two years ago. In defending the condo proposal, he writes:

"Downtown is not suburbia. Within two blocks of 1200 Prince Edward Street there are apartments and commercial development. This is an urban setting. Today, as in the past, downtown residents reside above commercial establishments, in apartments or single-family homes. This mix provides opportunities for diverse economic groups working both inside and outside of Fredericksburg. These residents are the employees and patrons that help make our downtown a success. We need to maintain this diversity not eliminate it."

On an unrelated note, The Wall Street Journal’s Journal Report today is about redeveloping cities, and profiles seven "success stories." One that struck me was the story about Omaha, Neb.

It’s got some of the standard downtown-revitalization-story elements: build arts venues, put abandoned manufacturing properties to use in today’s economy, get people downtown on the weekends, get the private sector heavily involved. But it’s got another interesting element that isn’t possible in Virginia: Omaha paid for a lot of its revitalization with the tax revenue it added by annexing affluent suburbs. From the story:

"Under Nebraska law, any incorporated city can annex any other jurisdiction and add its tax base to its own. The only restrictions: The targeted towns must have fewer than 10,000 people and be located in the same county.

Over the past decade, Omaha has added between 600 and 3,000 people to its rolls each year, essentially by following affluent Omahans as they move west into outlying Douglas County. The biggest bump along the way: In 2006, the town of Elkhorn sued in Douglas County District Court to stop Omaha’s land grab, arguing it was too big to be annexed. Elkhorn lost."

 

 

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