Developers proposing a roundabout solution on Lafayette Boulevard in Fredericksburg
The developers of the Telegraph Hill residential subdivision in Fredericksburg have proposed a roundabout on Lafayette Boulevard that would provide access into the site across from the Lee Drive entrance into the battlefield park.
The proposal was suggested as a way to satisfy the National Park Service, the developers and the city while providing a long-term solution for an access point into Telegraph Hill.
Current plans for the development include only a 79-home subdivision, but the developers envision eventually adding a mixed-use, town-center-style community that could include multifamily residential, offices and retail.
The proposal could also end a costly legal battle currently playing out between the developer and the city of Fredericksburg.
Fredericksburg City Council this past September rejected final plans for the 79-home development off the west side of Lafayette Boulevard. The proposed entrance was across from the southern Lee Drive entrance into the battlefield park. The vote was 4–3, with Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw and council members George Solley and Kerry Devine dissenting.
The developers, a large group of local investors led by managing member David Horstick, filed a lawsuit soon after the vote, calling the council’s Sept. 18 decision “arbitrary and capricious” and asking a Circuit Court judge to reverse it. The lawsuit states that the council went against the recommendations of the city’s Planning Commission and planning staff in denying a plan that conforms with all aspects of city ordinances.
Horstick, who came up with the idea for the roundabout, said this week that he is confident that he and his business partners would win the case at a trial scheduled for October. But they want to end the suit amicably and quickly, and come up with a solution that everyone can live with.
“We’re trying to come to some meeting point and hit the reset button,” Horstick said.
Though the final design is still being worked out, the basic idea is that the roundabout would allow Lafayette traffic to continue along the corridor, access the Park Service land or go into Telegraph Hill. It would allow traffic from Lee Drive and Telegraph Hill to go either north or south on Lafayette and would end the need for a future traffic light at the entrance. The median circle would be landscaped and perhaps include sign-age.
Horstick and project engineer Larry Welford know that not everyone will like the plan. But they said it provides a solution that, based on early discussions, both the National Park Service and the city prefer to the original plan. A meeting is scheduled this coming week between the city, developer and the NPS to further refine the plan.
Among the merits of a roundabout, Horstick said, is the fact that it will make traffic slow down on a busy and hilly stretch of Lafayette that has seen some bad wrecks over the years. He also thinks it will keep traffic flowing better than a signal would do, and it provides for the future widening of Lafayette to two lanes in each direction. A buffer could be added on the park service side of the road to protect that site.
The commercial developments on the east side of Lafayette and just down the hill from the NPS land—the Pohanka Collision Center and the building where Penn–Mar Floors is located—would not be part of the roundabout but could still turn either way on Lafayette under the current plan.
The roundabout won’t come cheap; the estimated price tag is $750,000. It would stretch across all of the existing width of Lafayette and go well into the Telegraph Hill land. The developer would dedicate that land to the city for the roundabout, which Welford said would probably take six to eight months to build. Lafayette would remain open throughout construction, with initial work likely occurring on the portion of the roundabout within Telegraph Hill.
The developer has agreed to cover the costs of the roundabout if the city will rezone the portions of Telegraph Hill not including the 79 homes to a mixed-use classification. The remainder of the property comprises about 20 acres and stretches along Alum Spring Road down to the Blue and Gray Parkway. There are future plans to realign and improve Alum Spring Road, but the roundabout would remain the primary entrance.
The subdivision plan could come back before City Council in the coming months. If it is approved, the developer would drop the lawsuit and proceed on the site work for the 79 homes. With Idlewild and The Preserve at Smith Run nearing buildout, and few other new-home lots currently available in the city, the subdivision could prove attractive to a builder.
The roundabout plan and city-initiated rezoning would likely come back before City Council following the vote on the subdivision plan. If it is approved, work could begin on the roundabout. If it isn’t, the originally proposed entrance off Lafayette, whose long-term plan would call for a traffic light, would be built. The developer and city are expected to split the modest costs of a traffic modeling study.
The roundabout plan has the support of at least one City Council member who voted against the proposal in September: Matt Kelly. He has been working with the NPS, city staff and developer to hammer out the compromise plan.
Kelly said the change would provide a nice gateway into downtown Fredericksburg, preserve the park service land and support long-term traffic needs along Lafayette without adding another light.
“It’s a good proposal,” Kelly said. “All parties seem to feel this is a good direction to go in.”
Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405