Council seems set to approve Lafayette roundabout
Fredericksburg City Council appears poised for a deal that would put a roundabout on Lafayette Boulevard and end a lawsuit with developers of the planned Telegraph Hill subdivision.
The council on Tuesday announced the framework for a plan to resolve issues that arose a year ago when the project was poised for final approval. The plan would move the project forward in two phases, beginning with a 79-house subdivision and following with a mixed-use development that would include the roundabout.
The developers sued the city after the council rejected the plan in a 4–3 vote last September. Council members said then that Telegraph Hill wasn’t consistent with plans for development on Lafayette Boulevard that aligned with a corridor study conducted by the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The developers proposed adding a street—Rampart Drive—that would intersect with Lafayette Boulevard near Lee Drive, which accesses the Fredericksburg National Battlefield Park.
The developers, a group of local investors led by managing member David Horstick, sued the city and offered the installation of a roundabout at the intersection as a solution.
The plan announced this week calls for council members to take up three issues at their Sept. 24 meeting, City Attorney Kathleen Dooley and Telegraph Hill project engineer Larry Welford said on Wednesday.
The council will be asked to approve the entire project that covers roughly 44 acres and would go forward in two phases.
Council members will be asked to approve a resolution to initiate rezoning of the land in phase two for mixed-use space where the developer plans a town-center style area with retail, residential and office space. The city would join with the developer in seeking the rezoning because the city’s Comprehensive Plan shows that area as space for mixed-use development. It is currently zoned as a mix of residential, industrial and light industrial.
The council will also be asked to approve the settlement resolving the lawsuit.
Presuming the council approves all three action items, the developer could immediately begin moving ahead with the residential development.
The next step for the rezoning would be consideration by the Planning Commission and a public hearing, probably on Oct. 30. The Planning Commission could act then or in November, with the issue probably coming before the council for a public hearing on Dec. 10. A vote is possible in January.
If the rezoning goes forward, the developer would pay for the design and construction of the roundabout, estimated to cost $750,000.
If the rezoning fails to be approved, Rampart Drive would become a straight intersection with Lee Drive, Dooley said.
The transportation impact has always been a key issue for the National Park Service and council members. They were concerned that an entrance across from the park would eventually need a traffic light, a prospect historians hated to ponder.
The new agreement not only removes that possibility but also assures that the mixed-use development will be screened to avoid a harsh contrast between history and commerce, said Councilman Matt Kelly, who was one of the people who voted against approval last year.
Under the revised proposal, the roundabout would be built on Lafayette just up the hill from the busy Blue and Gray Parkway intersection. It would allow access to Telegraph Hill and the park.
The southern access, up the hill from the other one, would be an entry point only.
The proposal also calls for realigning Alum Springs Road. That road would be moved up the hill from the current spot where it connects to Lafayette.
The roundabout would have two lanes, which would help accommodate the long-range plans to expand Lafayette to four lanes.
FAMPO is handling a traffic study to see if the roundabout would handle the commercial traffic better than the originally proposed Telegraph Hill entrance.
Kelly thinks the roundabout is clearly the better choice, even though he said, “It’s not the greatest situation.”
John Hennessy, the battlefield park’s chief historian, said the roundabout seems to be the best option for “a really hard problem.”
Hennessy and Kelly said they believe a roundabout will allow for better traffic flow than a signal would. Hennessy added that the roundabout probably is the safer choice, too.
Lafayette is routinely congested and some sort of change was needed eventually, making the new proposal “a bit of a compromise on everybody’s part,” Kelly said. He said he thinks the roundabout will “greatly improve the traffic situation” along Lafayette, but said public comment will be important.
“It’s kind of a big change for Lafayette Boulevard,” he said. “I do, personally, believe it is a change for the good.”
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972