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Spotsylvania planners OK 830 apartments

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A proposed mixed-use development at Southpoint II in Massaponax could be the next large residential project to win approval in Spotsylvania County.

The Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously voted in favor of Southpoint Landing, which is envisioned to have 830 apartments and at least 50,000 square feet of commercial space at the shopping center between Courthouse Road and U.S. 1. The Board of Supervisors will have the final say on the project.

One person spoke in favor of the development at a public hearing during Wednesday’s meeting.

The area surrounding the busy Interstate 95 exit in Massaponax has been a prime target for growth despite traffic issues. In the last year, supervisors have approved almost 2,000 housing units—more than half of them apartments—near the Cosner’s Corner shopping center, which is less than a mile south of Southpoint II.

Spotsylvania-based W.J. Vakos and Co. is proposing the 76-acre Southpoint Landing development, which would have two sections off Southpoint Parkway. The company is asking that the land be rezoned from commercial to residential and mixed use.

“The world is changing,” Vakos official Dave Anderson told the Planning Commission. “The way people live, the way people shop, the way they want to do things, the way they want to have their time and keep their time is changing and so the trends are asking us to change the way we develop.”

One section would have a 280-unit apartment complex next to the Ballantraye subdivision. The second section, on the other side of Southpoint Parkway, would include an estimated 550 apartments and up to 450,000 square feet of commercial space south of CarMax.

Vakos has promised to build no more than 200 apartments in the mixed-use section until it has started the construction of at least 50,000 square feet of commercial space. But that limit on apartments excludes units that are in the same buildings as retail or office space.

Planning Commission Chairman Robert Stuber said the additional apartments would give the shops and restaurants at Southpoint II a needed boost.

“My visits to Walmart and to the Lowe’s there in the recent past have shown that both of those places as well as many of the food-service establishments in that area certainly have additional capacity,” Stuber said. “And I think that adding new residences there would certainly grow economic activity and it seems like it will do it without increasing traffic because people will walk.”

County planning staffers, however, recommended denial of the project.

In a written report, they expressed concern over a lack of detail about how Southpoint Landing will be developed. Vakos, for instance, has not put a cap on the number of apartments in the mixed-use section.

Anderson of Vakos noted that the mixed-use zoning category was approved with the intent of giving developers more flexibility.

County staffers also expressed concern that the developer hadn’t offered to pay cash proffers, which are fees intended to offset the impact of more homes on schools, roads and other infrastructure. The county’s current cash proffer policy recommends $11,539 per apartment, which would amount to almost $9.6 million if the project has 830 apartments as is currently envisioned.

Supervisors last year approved three mixed-use developments, including Vakos’ 1,550-home Courthouse Village, without cash proffers. Bill Vakos III, president of W.J. Vakos and Co., has noted that his firm constructed Southpoint Parkway, which runs through Southpoint II, at a cost of $12 million.

Southpoint II—home to Walmart, Lowe’s, American Family Fitness and various restaurants—was approved in 2002, when supervisors rezoned 141 acres at the site from residential to commercial.

But the market for retail space has gone downhill in recent years, as evidenced by vacant storefronts and a decline in taxable values of commercial property.

In December, supervisors rezoned a 20-acre parcel at Cosner East from commercial to residential for a 274-unit apartment complex near Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402