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Spotsylvania expects vote on subdivision plan

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After months of consideration, the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors is finally expected to vote on a proposed 1,060-home subdivision off U.S. 1 near Cosner’s Corner.

Supervisors are scheduled to decide the fate of Heritage Woods at a meeting Tuesday, more than four months after they held a public hearing on the 378-acre project just south of Lee’s Parke. The development is envisioned to have 725 detached homes, 147 townhouses and 188 apartments.

A vote had been scheduled for Jan. 14, but Supervisor Greg Cebula—who took office this month—requested more time. Cebula said he’ll be ready to make a decision on Tuesday with a “full explanation of my vote.”

“If I’m going to make a decision, I want all of the information available to me,” said Cebula, who said last week that he wasn’t yet sure how he would vote.

He said he wanted to learn more about “where we stand overall” on developments that have already been approved. Last year alone, the county rezoned land for projects with almost 3,000 detached homes, townhouses and apartments.

Arizona-based Walton International Group is asking the county to rezone the proposed Heritage Woods property from commercial and residential to planned development housing. Currently, just 53 homes can be built at the site.

In exchange for the project’s approval, the developer is offering Spotsylvania $17.5 million toward a proposed ramp that would travel from the southbound Interstate 95 exit at Massaponax to the U.S. 17 Bypass. The Virginia Department of Transportation unveiled the project, which it dubbed the “super ramp,” at a supervisors meeting earlier this month.

“Heritage Woods represents a departure from past efforts to be responsive [to] the county’s infrastructure needs by focusing on the No. 1 need, transportation, while bringing high-quality housing to Spotsylvania,” attorney Clark Leming, who represents the developer, wrote in an email. “The development pays its own way and then some.”

The $45 million to $58 million super ramp would allow motorists to avoid a busy stretch of U.S. 1 between Southpoint I and II and Cosner’s Corner.

Several other road projects that could cost another $26.5 million would need to be completed first, including replacing the two-lane U.S. 17 Bypass bridge over the interstate and adding an additional I–95 lane at the Massaponax exit.

None of the projects have state or federal funding.

But Supervisor Gary Skinner, whose Lee Hill District includes the Heritage Woods site, has said the county could double the developer’s contribution through VDOT’s revenue-sharing program. Skinner, who was re-elected in November, supports the development.

The developer initially offered $13.6 million toward roads, schools, fire stations and other infrastructure. In November, it upped the amount to $15.7 million, designating the total to schools and roads only.

The latest $17.5 million offer earmarks all of the money to the super ramp. But if that project is not started in five years, the county could invest the dollars in other road needs or in schools, according to proffers dated Jan. 14. Heritage Woods is expected to have more than 500 school-age children when it is fully built. Nearby Parkside Elementary does not have enough room to support the additional students, according to a county staff report.

Meanwhile, county staff is recommending denial of the development, writing that it would “not preserve and enhance the quality of infrastructure and services.” To meet Spotsylvania’s cash proffer guidelines, the developer would need to fork over about $28.1 million—or $10.6 million more than it has offered.

Supervisors last year approved several large mixed-use developments without cash proffers. Unlike Heritage Woods, those projects include plans for shops and offices, in addition to homes.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402