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Planner talks about changes to developments

The director of Fredericksburg’s Department of Planning and Community Development on Monday discussed several recent changes affecting proposed developments in the city.

Chuck Johnston briefed the city’s Economic Development Authority on the changes at the EDA’s monthly meeting. Among the topics was the Unified Development Ordinance that City Council adopted Oct. 8.

The UDO is designed to be more straightforward than the city’s previous development rules and offer more flexibility for future projects.

Developers have said that perhaps the UDO’s biggest impact is lessening parking requirements, which could lead to more mixed-use projects being proposed, such as the one local contractor Tom Wack is working on at the current site of the William Street Executive Building between Amelia and William streets near The Free Lance–Star Publishing Co.’s headquarters.

The FLS is under contract to sell the 1.46-acre property to a group that includes Wack. The sale is expected to occur sometime next year. The office building will be torn down, and a mixed-use project is proposed that would include underground parking, residential condominiums and offices, retail and restaurants.

The UDO hasn’t been completely finalized. The Planning Commission is studying aspects of the ordinance involving mixed-use projects and downtown density and is expected to have recommendations back to City Council early next year. The language is also being reworked so it fits into the rest of the city’s code.

The Planning Commission, and eventually the council, are also studying whether and when to allow developers to seek special exceptions for projects that don’t fall within the rules of the UDO.

Johnston also briefed the EDA on recent changes that have brought the city’s various planning, building and development functions under one department that he heads. He said that collaboration should create a more streamlined process for proposed developments.

He also noted that a Jan. 24 work session is planned between City Council, the Planning Commission and the EDA regarding potential updates to the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405