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Stafford County project includes college campus

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A commercial and residential complex featuring a community college campus could be the first project to move forward under Stafford County’s relatively new urban development zoning category.

The proposed Abberly at South Campus development would be south of the Stafford Hospital on the eastern side of U.S. 1, with a pedestrian-friendly setup among its stores, offices and 288 apartments and townhouses.

“All these things coming together creates a wonderful opportunity to create a designation you’ve talked about in the [urban development area] planning,” said Sherman Patrick, representing Abberly applicant HHHunt and Old Potomac Church LLC, during a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors last week.

The board delayed a decision about Abberly until Oct. 15.

Meanwhile, the county is still sorting out what it wants its urban development areas to look like. Stafford created the zoning category when the state required counties to designate targeted areas of high growth, something that’s since become optional.

Many people spoke in support of the Abberly project, primarily because of the proposed gift of 25 acres to Germanna Community College for a future campus.

“I’m truly excited about the opportunity before us tonight to add an institution of higher learning to this community,” said Realtor Jo Knight. “I think this contribution would be a real blessing.”

Cathy Yablonski, administrator for Stafford Hospital, said that Mary Washington Healthcare supports the project and believes it will complement the hospital’s campus.

“As a resident of Stafford, I’m excited to see the continued growth of our county,” she added.

Germanna President David Sam said the college would offer amenities to all residents, such as a library.

REZONING NEEDED

To move forward, Abberly’s developer needs the land rezoned from commercial and office use to urban development, which allows for a mix of commercial and residential. The applicant is also asking for some flexibility in how it puts elements of the project together.

The Planning Commission gave a favorable recommendation with a 5–0 vote.

Today, the 23-acre tract is wooded with rolling hills. A Civil War-era burn pit and cemetery are identified on the land.

Glenn Trimmer, executive director of the Friends of Stafford Civil War Sites, hopes that the board will earmark $50,000 of the developer’s proffer money to the recently opened Civil War Park off Brooke Road, fairly close to the proposed development.

“We’re on the edge of having a great Civil War park,” said Trimmer, who would like to add guns to one of the batteries and build more trails.

Supervisors seemed amenable to the request.

Also as part of Abberly at South Campus, a community development authority would need to be set up by the county to fund infrastructure, Patrick said. Residents and tenants would likely be taxed as part of the CDA.

The Courthouse urban development area calls for up to 1,386 residences, and 656 of those could be apartments. Pedestrian accessibility is emphasized.

PROFFERS AT ISSUE

Impacts on county services from the development would exceed the revenue that Abberly at South Campus produces, county staff noted in a background report.

Cash proffers—voluntary contributions from the developer to offset demand on schools, parks, roads and other county services—are set at $8,434 per unit, totaling $2.4 million for Abberly. An $850,000 chunk of that is slated to support parks and recreation.

However, county guidelines call for $23,823 per multifamily residence, or a total of $6.8 million.

Other infrastructure improvements—for instance, if the developer built a main road—could count as credits, but that value is unknown.

“I heard a lot of talk about cash,” Patrick told the board after it discussed proffers. “That’s not what land-use planning and zoning is about. I’m concerned about the cash overwhelming the specifics.”

He said the project would add lots of value to the community.

Stafford schools are in the midst of looking at how growth will impact enrollment, particularly in high schools.

Abberly would host two types of multifamily buildings—larger, four-story buildings with interior hallways and elevators, and six smaller buildings.

Six of the 288 units would have three bedrooms, while the rest would be split evenly between one- and two-bedroom units.

Patrick said this mix would reduce the number of children living in the development.

The assessed value of the 25-acre site to the south that’ll be given to Germanna Community College is $186,000. The developer’s appraisal said it’ll be worth $1.1 million after infrastructure improvements.

Staff wrote that impacts to county schools wouldn’t be mitigated unless the campus was counted as a suitable alternative.

The Stafford Economic Development Authority has pledged $1 million to help build the campus after fundraising for an equal match.

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975

kthisdell@freelancestar.com

 

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