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Apartment plan for feds draws fire in Stafford


Stafford County residents overwhelmingly spoke against a growing campus for training federal law enforcement agents–mostly because of its related 672 units along the Celebrate Virginia Parkway.

And they’ll continue to have more chances to speak on the two proposed apartment complexes in Celebrate Virginia North, off U.S. 17. The Planning Commission kept a public hearing open for the two-in-one project that is contingent upon a zoning amendment. The next meeting is Oct. 10 at 6:30 p.m.

In a project first proposed last summer, Silver Cos. is asking for both a rezoning of 91.6 acres to recreational business, and a proffer amendment to allow a high-end multifamily complex on 37 acres. County staff did not recommend approval.

The rezoning would allow for 196 two-bedroom secured apartment units for armed federal agents undergoing training required every five years. Three additional training buildings would be constructed, adding to a 50,000-square-foot facility already in use. Training doesn’t involve gunfire, according to public documents.

Closer to the Rappahannock River, Silver Cos. would build, own and operate a 480-apartment complex with a 1-acre park.

Some of those units would be leased for contractors leading the training courses.

According to a website prepared by Silver Cos., the development could bring in $7.4 million in tax revenue over 15 years.

The estimated 900 trainees have a total of $50,400 in per diem to spend daily–that would greatly help the struggling businesses that are along U.S. 17, said Chris Hornung, vice president for planning and engineering for Silver.

Overall, there could be 1,200 people living in the development.

“That’s a great sum of money to keep in this county,” said Tim Tedrick, senior project manager for Blue Onyx Properties, which has been working with the government.

Currently, agents are encouraged to stay in hotels in Spotsylvania County because of security issues. Hotels on U.S. 17 are not up to standards, Tedrick said.

But residents in the two residential areas along the Celebrate Virginia Parkway–Celebrate by Del Webb and Battleground Estates–worried about traffic, property values and the viability of the apartments.

“Use the smell test. It’s not good for us, it’s good for Silver,” said resident David Martin, a former developer.

Federal employee Phillip Smith, who lives on Scotts Ford Lane, said the same type of training facilities are proposed elsewhere in the country.

“I know for a fact there are many other projects under consideration,” Smith said.

A 15-year lease will be signed with the government, said Tedrick.

“I’m pretty much confident that I wouldn’t put $25 million of my company’s money at risk if I didn’t have assurances they’d use this,” Tedrick said.

The secured apartments could become market value apartments if the lease were to end.

For Gary Schaal, managing partner of Cannon Ridge Golf Course, the development could be a lifesaver.

“We are crying out for business,” Schaal said. “We think this is the best thing that could happen for the golf course. This would be great for us. It’s not sustainable for us the way it is.”

The number of cars traveling on Greenbank Road would go way up, from 576 daily trips to more than 4,000, according to a traffic study presented by county staff.

Proffers call for the Celebrate Virginia Parkway to be part of the state public roads system before the first unit is open. The board’s infrastructure committee is looking at a proposed loan to assist with the estimated $300,000 worth of work to be completed to bring the 4-mile road to state standards.

The project would be contingent on an amendment allowing multifamily dwelling units in the RBC (recreational business campus) zoning district. Currently it allows retirement housing and age-restricted units.

Also Wednesday, Planning Commissioners approved a rezoning for a Walgreens proposed for the intersection of Cool Springs and White Oak roads.

Plans for the pharmacy have been discussed at many meetings. Commissioner James Schwartz had called for a meeting between neighbors and the Virginia Department of Transportation to discuss safety issues. VDOT instead met with the applicant and county representatives.

A revised proffer calls for the applicant to put money into an escrow account to install a traffic light, if VDOT deems it necessary after a study. That’s estimated at $200,000. If VODT says the light is not needed, the funds would revert to the county for traffic improvements.

Katie Thisdell: