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New Post development gets planners’ approval

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A proposed 425-home, mixed-use development at New Post in Spotsylvania County is on a fast track toward approval—nearly eight years after the developer’s plan for a much larger project was rejected.

The Planning Commission on Wednesday voted 5–1 to recommend approval of the 188-acre Tricord development near the intersection of Routes 2 and 17 and the U.S. 17 Bypass. Commission Chairman Robert Stuber was absent.

Three of the four speakers at a public hearing voiced their support for the project. Among the supporters was a representative of the Fredericksburg Area Soccer Association, which runs a new soccer complex at the site.

Commission member Cristine Lynch, however, said she voted against the development because Tricord isn’t paying to offset the cost of roads, schools and other services needed for the project. Other large developments have also been approved recently with no cash proffers, she noted.

“Anyone who thinks that this growth without paying for the resulting public facilities needs is good is simply engaging in magical thinking,” she said. “It begs the question, who are the decision-makers looking out for: businesses or the people?”

Other Planning Commission members praised the project, which they say will create jobs and add to the county’s tax rolls.

It’s unclear exactly how the property would be developed, though one scenario envisions 110 7,000-square-foot homes that have been described as “upscale,” 220 smaller homes, 95 townhouses and 160,000 square feet of commercial and office space.

The Board of Supervisors, which has the final say, is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposal next Tuesday. At the developer’s request, board members last month voted to waive a policy that requires at least 25 days between Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors public hearings.

Tricord Cos. is asking that the land be rezoned to mixed use. That zoning category, which supervisors approved last year, has proved popular with developers.

In recent months, supervisors have approved two other mixed-use developments with a total of 2,110 housing units. The developers of those projects promised to phase in commercial construction by the time a certain number of homes had been built.

But Tricord initially made no such guarantee, which is partly why county planning staff recommended denial of the project. Retail space typically generates more tax revenue than homes.

The developer has since said it is willing to promise the construction of 20,000 square feet of commercial space by the time 351 homes have been built. It’s unclear whether county planning staff will change their recommendation as a result of the new guarantee.

The staff said New Post would require about $13.3 million in public facilities.

That assessment didn’t sit well with Planning Commission member John Gustafson, who said he thinks the developer could prove county staff wrong if given the time.

“I have a serious disclosure problem with saying we’re costing the citizens money that we don’t even spend in the first place,” he said.

Supervisors denied Tricord’s original proposal in 2005 for 1,500 homes on 418 acres at New Post. That plan generated a lot of public input, including opposition from officials at nearby Fort A.P. Hill in Caroline County.

Lt. Col. Peter Dargle, commander of Fort A.P. Hill, in April wrote that he couldn’t take a position on this year’s proposal until he had more details. He did write that he hopes the developer would limit light pollution so as not to impact nighttime training operations at the Army post.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402