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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or email@example.com.
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Council will discuss Howe’s courts concept Aug. 25
The City Council has set a date for a work session on Fred Howe III’s alternative concept for building new courts. Mark your calendars for Aug. 25 at 5:30 p.m.
The day before this work session the council will hold a regular meeting (their first after an extended summer break) where they’ll consider a Comprehensive Plan amendment that promotes the council’s current courts plan–the $40 million one that involves using eminent domain to buy land for a new fire station. Howe believes Fredericksburg can save $5 million or perhaps significantly more by building instead on land between the Executive Plaza and the Sophia Street parking garage.
Howe said today he’s hoping the council will table any vote on the Comp Plan amendment (which supports moving the fire station to a new location and building courts facilities on its current Princess Anne Street site) until after the work session on the 25th.
There is one other meeting focused on the current plan that will happen before this work session: an Aug. 10 neighborhood meeting where city staff will answer questions about how the proposed new fire station site, owned by PNC Bank, will affect nearby residents.
In the meantime, there’s been some talk of this new plan on Matt Kelly’s morning radio show. On Monday, when Howe and his associates went on to pitch their plan, former Councilman Joe Wilson called in to say he thinks Fredericksburg is too small a city to be building a $40 to $50 million courthouse, and should focus instead on trying to partner with a neighboring locality to build a regional courts system (easier said than done).
Former Councilman Billy Withers called in to object to Howe’s proposed expansion and renovation of the Executive Plaza.
“We bought that Big Ugly for a pretty good price. The intention was to use it as long as we could and then tear it down because it just doesn’t belong downtown,” Withers said. “I would suggest that adding onto it is not the right thing to do.”
Then today, HFFI president Sean Maroney was on Kelly’s show, and offered what may be the first defense of the Executive Plaza that I have ever heard from anyone in the historic preservation community.
“It’s less than 50 years old and it’s not a contributing resource to the district. That said, I would say it also kind of stands as a very effective monument to what planning and development can lead to when you consider the larger streetscape,” Maroney said.
He went on to explain that HFFI views demolition (an option that has been on the table, at least in the long-term, for the Plaza) as “a very destructive and wasteful process.”
He said HFFI supports whatever courts plan has the least impact on the overall downtown streetscape, and does the most to secure a future use for the historic Circuit Courthouse. He suggested that elements of Howe’s concept could meet both of these goals, without really taking a side on which plan the group likes better at this point.