Fredericksburg City Beat

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

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Morning Buzz – Jan. 24, 2011

A daily digest of what’s going on in Fredericksburg, and what news from elsewhere is relevant here. Send suggestions to

The character of Fredericksburg’s neighborhoods will be up for discussion tomorrow night, when City Council and Planning Commission members sit down at a 5:30 p.m. work session to continue their discussions of proposed changes to Fredericksburg’s residential zoning rules.

The changes they are looking at making could affect how much house or addition you can build on a city lot. This issue of so-called out-of-scale houses has been on the council’s agenda before. At this point, planners are looking at taking a multi-pronged approach to controlling the size of new construction. As you can read in this memo, they’re looking at new regulations for how tall a home can be, what percentage of a lot it can cover and adding regulation of a structure’s floor-to-area (of the lot) ratio to the residential zoning rules.

The combination of these regulations would have had an impact on several recent home-building projects considered “out of scale” with their neighborhoods by city planners. You can read an analysis of how those projects would have been affected (and get an idea of what the working idea of “too big” is for this group) toward the end of this document.

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  • Bronco

    The city should keep its nose out of this issue. Bigger and more valuable homes are in the city’s interest as they generate more tax revenue. Also it encourages more affluent people to stay in or move to the city, with many positive spin-offs besides mere tax revenue. For a city that never saw a cheesy apartment development it didn’t approve, this effort strikes me as incredibly stupid. It also demonstartes the arrogance of city pols who are probably motivated as much by envy as by civic concern.

  • Sarah

    Given the state of the economy I could see houses being left empty because people cannot afford to purchase them or even worst the owners having to settle for well under price because they can’t get any bites on their large homes. While I agree it may attract affluent people to the area more people prefer living North of here anyway.

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  • Randy

    the city should address all the older homes of the city being converted into apartments ” 2 stories” become 4 apts and bungaloes being made into 2 apts ect, it lowers property value, causes traffic and parking problems, increases the number of children in the school system, ect. single family homes of yesterday should stay single family homes today. It has ruined the character of alot of the old neighbor hoods I grew up in.

  • Mimi

    I have to agree with posts #1,2, & 4. This is really an irrelevant issue to the city, and the concerns of cheap rentals & multi-family conversions impact the city much more. What is the problem with a big home? It could enhance the value of the neighborhood..though for that one owner, it may never appraise as high as it should because the comps would generally be drawn from homes as close-by as possible. This hurts ONLY the owner of the big house–not the city, and certainly not the neighbors.

  • william

    This is why I will NEVER live in the TOWN of Fredericksburg…i had the chance to inherit a home there but….no thanks!!

  • Mimi

    Further, the laws of supply and demand will take care of this issue. If there are eventually too many larger homes, they will sit on the market longer, resulting in fewer of them being built. Let our free enterprise system do its work regulating these, and other sized, homes.

  • Mimi

    William–wasn’t able to follow. WHAT is why you won’t live in Fbg?

  • william

    If I build a home…I don’t want to be told how large to build….when to mow my lawn or anything else…

  • Mimi

    I don’t mind reminders to keep up the property if it’s really out of line…hurts everyone’s value. But our subdivision is WACKY on control…they even tell you that if, on your vacation, you decide to pitch a tent in your back yard and camp with your kids (we’re very wooded)…you can only have the tent up 2 days! Not even a week. I understand not wanting homeless camping out but geez! At least let a family enjoy their vacation week in their own back yard!

  • Peter Ost


    What’s “ect”?

  • TPKeller


    I don’t believe current zoning allows for any further conversion of single family homes to multi-family homes in the SFH zoned areas. There are lots of houses in the area, especially around the college, that were converted before the current zoning was imposed, but I suspect that any permits to convert now would be denied.

    If you know of someone who has recently or is planning to convert, you might ask someone at city hall about it.

    There are also laws about the number of unrelated people who may live in a house. I believe the number is 3, which would prevent a “run of the house” type arrangement for more than 3 unrelated people.

  • jj

    This is something that should be addressed on a case by case basis instead of a blanket regulation. With no oversight, a person could buy a lot and build so that a neighbor’s lot is encroached upon, affecting their property value. Part of the appeal of living within city limits is the green space offered in older established neighborhoods. If you want a McMansion, go build in the county! Why can’t people build normal sized homes anymore? American excess and living beyond our means is why the housing market took a dump in the first place.

  • Matt Kelly

    Fredericksburg developed well before there was zoning and most neighborhoods are non-conforming. Problems resulted. For example, a homeowner wants to put a porch on his house like all the other homes on the block. Most of the homes being build in the 30′s and 40′s the porches are too close to the sidewalk by current zoning regs. So said owner can’t build a porch on their house which frankly makes no sense. There were also concerns about oversized homes in neighborhoods. To address all these issue it was suggested that through the Special Use process we allow property owners to put porches on their homes if that is already prevalent in the neighborhood. It would also allow for building to go above the 35′ limit if house in that neighborhood were over the 35′ limit. There were limits on additions but the Planning Commission studied lot sizes in the city and found that these limits would still allow significant additions. The city would thus be able to maintain the character of city neighborhoods. It was a rather ease approach giving the city flexibility in dealing with issues that arose due to non-conformity. Council voted it down with some members saying it was too restrictive. Council now seem to be proposing an even more restrictive approach which is overly complicated.

  • George

    william. Really? 35′ isn’t big enough for you?

  • Rochester

    This city kills me. If a homeowner wants to improve his property by putting on a nice addition, he is hastled by the brainiacs on City Council. While any fly by night apartment operator is welcomed with open arms. What kind of a mixed up, stupid, hare-brained city council would propose such a bone-headed set of priorities? Answer: the Fredericksburg City Council thats who! Jeez what a bunch of envious little miniminds.

  • TPKeller

    What am I missing?

    In the examples in the referenced document, each of the three proposed new rules allowed for a greater result for the Winchester Street example, yet the conclusion at the end stated that the house would be reduced by 300 square feet.

    How is this possible?

  • Rufus

    Mostly in USA, the illegal aliens rent the McMansions, so 20-30 people can live in one dwelling. Also, the welfare offices in a City are easy to get to, and apply for lucrative benefits.
    The City Council should rule that no home should exceed 1500 square-feet, and levy a heavy 500% property tax on any homes that exceed this limit.
    Also, you may notice that many of the mcmansions don’t have enough parking in front for all the residents inside. It should be the law that each resident should have two parking spaces on the street in front of the home, or it can’t be built.

  • TPKeller

    Is it just a coincidence that also on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting is the first reading of a law to re-criminalize non-conformance with Zoning rules?

    Interesting, at least.

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