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Heritage redirects proffer to roads

From the outset, the developer of the proposed 1,060-home Heritage Woods subdivision off U.S. 1 near Cosner’s Corner has offered Spotsylvania County millions of dollars in exchange for the project’s approval.

Arizona-based Walton International Group initially promised $13.6 million in cash proffers to help offset the impact of more homes on roads, schools, fire stations, parks, libraries and other infrastructure.

Then the developer upped the offer by about $2 million and earmarked the total proffer amount for roads and schools only.

Now Walton has agreed to dedicate all of the cash proffers to road upgrades, Spotsylvania Supervisor Paul Trampe said Friday. The 378-acre development would be just south of the Lee’s Parke subdivision, not far from the traffic-choked Massaponax Interstate 95 exit.

“The near-term need in that area is clearly transportation as opposed to anything else. I think it addresses the main concern that’s been raised by the public,” Trampe said of the revised proffers.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on Heritage Woods at its meeting Tuesday, about five months after the Planning Commission recommended approval of the project. Walton is asking that the land be rezoned from rural and commercial to planned development housing for 725 homes, 147 townhouses and 188 apartments.

All of the cash proffers would go toward improving the I–95 interchange at Massaponax, Trampe said.

The developer hadn’t submitted those revised proffers to the county as of Friday afternoon. Stafford County attorney Clark Leming, who represents Walton, would only say that no formal changes had been made to the proffers at this point.

Trampe said Walton officials have been discussing the revisions with board members, but, “I guess it’s not official until it happens at the meeting.”

The developer’s last cash proffer submission in November promised $18,600 per detached home; $13,500 per townhouse; and $6,500 per apartment, for a total of about $15.7 million. Seventy percent of the money would go toward transportation and the rest of it to schools, according to those proffers.

It’s unclear whether the dollar amount will increase or stay the same at Tuesday’s meeting. Last year’s proffer submission also promised the county $2.6 million for transportation before any homes are built.

Though the new plan may not include money for schools, Walton announced last year that it was donating $15,000 to nearby Parkside Elementary School for a playground. County planning staffers noted in a report that Parkside does not have enough space for all of the additional students that are expected to come from Heritage Woods.

Of course, it would likely be many years before the development is fully built. And proponents of Heritage Woods, including Supervisor Gary Skinner, have noted that the school division’s Capital Improvement Plan has more schools in the pipeline.

But Trampe said that “a lot of stuff gets put into the CIP that doesn’t happen or gets delayed, so there’s no guarantee of the schools.”

Skinner, who represents the Lee Hill District where the development would be located, could not be reached for comment. He has said in the past that, with the proffer money, the county could take advantage of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s revenue-sharing program that supplies matching grants to localities.

Still, county staff has recommended denial of the development, noting that its cash proffers are about $12.4 million short of what local guidelines call for.

Meanwhile, the developer says Spotsylvania’s cash proffer policy overstates the project’s impact and argues that Heritage Woods would help the local economy.

Supervisors held a public hearing on the project in September, but tabled a vote. They were scheduled to revisit the proposal in November, but the developer requested that the matter be delayed until this week’s meeting.

Trampe said he doesn’t know how he’ll vote. “It’s bigger than anything I’ve voted to approve so far, and I’m still not sure,” he said.

The Board of Supervisors last year approved three large mixed-use developments without any cash proffers. Unlike Heritage Woods, those projects had commercial components.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402

jbranscome@freelancestar.com

 

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