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Silver’s apartment proposal denied

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The Silver Cos. will have to rethink its latest plans for the Celebrate Virginia North project, the Stafford County Board of Supervisors said Tuesday night. 

The board denied a two-in-one apartment project proposed for the western part of the county that would have brought 490 apartments to the Celebrate Virginia Parkway, some to specifically support a federal law enforcement training center.

Chris Hornung, vice president of planning and engineering for the Silver Cos., said the proposal would have helped the stalled development get back on track. The recreational business campus designation called for primarily office buildings and some commercial uses, but the economy halted development of those since the rezoning in 1999.

He said after the vote on Tuesday that the company does not yet know what it will do with that site.

“We’ve got land, we’ve got to move it, we’ve got debts,” Hornung said, adding that right now, industrial uses and single-family residences seem to be the allowable uses.

Supervisor Gary Snellings, of the Hartwood District where the project was planned, said he wasn’t against building apartments, but was worried about the growth already coming to the area, and also that the residences weren’t identified in the county’s Comprehensive Plan, a guide for long-term growth.

“The reality is, you’ve got probably at least 2,000 more rooftops coming in on U.S. 17,” Snellings said.

Of the nearly 500 apartments proposed, 192 would have been short-term rentals, gated for the federal law enforcement site already on the parkway. The government has plans to possibly expand with a 15-year lease already in place.

The remaining 298 apartment units would have been higher-end apartments located closer to the Rappahannock River. That number was reduced from the original 480.

“We believe this will be the nicest apartment community in the county and will set the standard for projects going forward,” Hornung told supervisors.

In early May, residents had spoken out against the project at the public hearing, worried about traffic and the need for the expensive units in a rural area.

The supervisors decided to wait 45 days before taking a vote, and many visited the site with Silver Cos. representatives.

Since then, the developer said it would increase its proffers from $1,000 to $5,000 per unit to help offset impacts to county services.

A reduced number of three-bedroom apartments would also mean there’d be fewer children going to public schools from the complex, Hornung said, though the company’s numbers conflicted with the county’s.

Supervisors voted 5–2 to deny the apartments and associated zoning text amendment, with Susan Stimpson and Ty Schieber against the denial.

Before voting, Aquia Supervisor Paul Milde said he didn’t think apartments would be welcome anywhere, but that at least Celebrate Virginia North had the appropriate infrastructure already.

“I don’t think this is such a horrible project,” Milde said, but he voted against it.

Garrisonville Supervisor Schieber said he thought the project would spur economic development in the area, which Hornung said has 150,000 square feet of commercial space, much of which is struggling.

Chairwoman Stimpson said the proposed apartments could be a more appropriate option than the industrial uses also allowed in the zoning district, and that the $39 million already spent on infrastructure was a positive.

George Washington Supervisor Bob Thomas said that if the two sections—market rate vs. gated apartments—had been proposed separately, the project could have fared better in front of the board.

But Hornung said, “To us the two are linked and vital to continue developing the project.”

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975