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Spotsy planners eye development plans

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Spotsylvania County residents will have a chance this week to weigh in on two proposed developments near National Park Service land.

The Planning Commission on Wednesday will hold public hearings on plans for a 101-home subdivision off Benchmark Road and a 218-home development on part of the Chancellorsville Battlefield off State Route 3. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

The Planning Commission will make recommendations on the projects to the Board of Supervisors, which has the final say.

The smaller, 25-acre development would have 98 townhouses, three existing detached homes and up to 23,400 square feet of office space. Local developer Lee Garrison is asking the county to rezone the property, which is on the west side of Benchmark Road near its intersection with State Route 2 and U.S. 17, from residential to office and planned development housing.

Currently, just 21 detached homes can be built on the land.

The site, which is next to Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, is about 1,100 feet from the Meade Pyramid at the end of Lee Drive. The development would have a 100-foot buffer between the homes and offices and the Park Service land.

John Hennessy, acting superintendent of the National Military Park, wrote in a letter to the county that the proposed development lies on key Fredericksburg Battlefield land. Rezoning the property, he wrote, would “permit an intensity of development that is likely unmatched anywhere along the park boundary.”

“Long experience has demonstrated that high-density housing adjacent to NPS lands is usually a cause for concern,” Hennessy wrote.

County staffers are recommending approval of the project, which they say would provide affordable housing. But the staffers note that annual tax revenue from the development would not cover the cost of providing county services to the additional homes.

“The recommendation is tempered by one overarching negative aspect of the project,” the staff wrote. “Due to the nature of the project, it is not anticipated to have positive fiscal benefits to help pay for itself.”

Garrison is offering to pay Spotsylvania $3,673 per townhouse—for a total of about $360,000 in cash proffers—to help offset the impact of the townhouses on schools, roads and other infrastructure. Current county guidelines say he should pay about $1.27 million more than that.

Planning Commission Chairman Robert Stuber recently appointed an 11-member committee that will recommend changes to the county’s cash proffer policy, which some believe overstates the impact of development.

Garrison is one of five developers in the group, which also includes a Fredericksburg Area Builders Association representative and two attorneys who routinely represent developers. He is currently developing Lafayette Crossing, which can have up to 88 townhouses off Lafayette Boulevard in Spotsylvania.

The other development up for consideration is the 1,097-acre Legends of Chancellorsville subdivision, which is near land owned by the Civil War Trust and the National Park Service. All of the subdivision’s 218 detached homes would be at least 2,700 square feet and have 2-acre lots.

The acreage—known as the Binns Tract—is on the north side of State Route 3, about 1 miles west of the intersection of Route 3 and Elys Ford Road.

The Silver Cos. is asking the county to rezone the property from rural to planned rural residential. The current zoning allows just 10 homes to be built on the land.

In exchange for the project’s approval, the Silver Cos. has agreed to give the Civil War Trust at least 420 acres of adjoining property. Confederate Lt. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s surprise flank attack on May 2, 1863, took place on that land.

And the developer plans to sell another 44 acres along State Route 3 to the Civil War Trust, which would convey the property to the National Park Service. That acreage lies within the congressionally designated boundary of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Hennessy of the Park Service wrote in a recent letter to the county that the Legends of Chancellorsville project includes “serious and important measures intended to mitigate or eliminate impact on nationally significant lands.”

He noted that the letter was not intended to be an endorsement of the project.

Meanwhile, nearby residents have expressed concerns about traffic and other issues.

Legends of Chancellorsville would have two sections. The largest, with 180 homes, would be accessed from State Route 3. The other 38-home section would be off Elys Ford Road.

The Silver Cos. said that within nine months of the project’s approval, it would study options for relocating the intersection of Route 3 and Elys Ford Road. That intersection does not have any turn lanes onto Elys Ford from Route 3 westbound.

The Silver Cos. has also offered to pay the county cash proffers of $12,000 per home, with the exception of the 10 homes that are currently allowed to be built on the land. Those proffers, in addition to in-kind contributions, are about $4 million short of the project’s estimated impact on infrastructure, county staff wrote.

But the staffers, who are recommending approval of the project, say tax revenue from the development would pay off that deficit in 11 years. Supervisors recently directed staff to take into account whether a development will pay for itself over 30 years.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402