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City Planning Commissioners back baseball lot

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The Fredericksburg Planning Commission voted Wednesday to support a proposed parking lot that would serve a multipurpose stadium in Celebrate Virginia South.

The Planning Commission acted after a public hearing on the proposal to amend both the Comprehensive Plan and Capital Improvements Plan to accommodate the lot.

The city plans to buy land and then build an 1,800-space parking lot adjacent to the stadium. The cost of the lot and land is estimated at $7 million to $8 million.

The city projects the annual debt service for the lot at $500,000 to $800,000. Assistant City Manager Mark Whitley estimated the lot would produce $150,000 in revenue for the city annually.

Commissioner Edward Whelan III asked if the city had a breakdown of the costs of the lot but Whitley said that’s not yet available. He said it won’t be known until the city knows which parcel it will buy.

Until Wednesday, the goal had been to build the 4,750-seat stadium on 38 acres where the U.S. National Slavery Museum was to have been built. However, after a judge ruled that land should be sold at auction because of the museum’s outstanding debt, the stadium partners are now looking at an adjacent site where a water park was once to have been built.

The museum owes the city roughly $450,000 in unpaid taxes, fees and interest.

The Hagerstown Suns have partnered with Diamond Nation to build a $29 million, privately financed stadium they would like to see ready by spring 2015.

The stadium site also would include five artificial turf fields for baseball and softball camps and tournaments.

Mike Craig of Lee Avenue was the one speaker at Wednesday’s public hearing.

He said he supported the stadium and the negotiations that have been under way but asked whether the stadium would be made available for tournaments for local baseball players.

Specifically, he wondered whether the stadium could be used for parks and recreation senior league playoffs, tournaments involving the city’s American Legion team, and for Virginia High School League district, regional and state championships involving the James Monroe High School team.

Commissioners did not respond.

Commissioners voted 5-0, with two members absent, to recommend approval of the amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and Capital Improvements Plan needed to buy and build the lot.

The matter next goes to the City Council for a public hearing and vote. That hearing is expected on Oct. 22 at the earliest.

The stadium partners and city have engaged in lengthy negotiations that give the partners a host of tax incentives to build the stadium.

As part of that, the city is providing the parking lot and will share its revenues 50-50 with the stadium partners.

City Manager Bev Cameron has said he expects the city to reap about $2 million annually in tax revenues as a result of the stadium, primarily from increased lodging, meals and retail sales off that site.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972