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Planners to take new look at Austin Ridge retail rezoning request

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The Stafford County Planning Commission wants to take another look at a rezoning request for part of the Austin Ridge development that would make way for two retail shops.

The commission will take up a proposal again on Sept. 10 after some commissioners voiced concern over the residents’ knowledge of the proposal and the hours of operation of the potential businesses.

The applicant, Rocky Ridge LLC, has applied to rezone 3 acres of a 40-acre parcel that is part of the Austin Ridge development. The company wants the 3-acre portion to be rezoned from planned development to urban commercial, which is the zoning of the rest of the 40-acre parcel that is anticipated as retail commercial development.

The company envisions the spaces becoming a restaurant and a bank, but they haven’t found users for the spaces yet.

The two shops, one within a 10,000-square-foot building and another within a 5,000-square-foot building, could become part of a larger proposed shopping center that the developer has laid out in their development plan.

The existing proffers on the 3-acre parcel restrict the use to residential, so the company has applied to rezone the parcel from planned development to urban commercial.

Austin Ridge homes lie to the north of the property, while property to the west is an undeveloped portion of the Embrey Mill development planned for commercial and multifamily uses.

“We believe this will be quality retail,” Debrarae Karnes, an attorney with Leming & Healy who represents the applicants, told Planning Commissioners on Aug. 13.

Because the users of the shops aren’t set in stone yet, commissioners asked the developer to scratch out those businesses that they know aren’t going to be there. They also asked that core hours of the businesses be carved out to ensure that 24-hour businesses wouldn’t be operating near the Austin Ridge homes.

Some commissioners also wanted the developer to reach out more to the Austin Ridge residents, agreeing with the two speakers during the public hearing. Neither of the speakers were Austin Ridge residents.

So far, representatives of the applicants have held a meeting with the homeowners association.

“It would be nice to know that the residents immediately adjacent to this have had their say,” Planning Commissioner Thomas Coen said.

Commissioner Robert Gibbons said that the people he knows who live in the subdivision were already shocked at the clearing of vegetation that has occurred behind their homes.

“It looks like a war zone,” Gibbons said.

Commissioners also asked about options for the buffer proposed by the company.

The applicant is proposing two rows of evergreen trees to the north of the commercial buildings as a screen between the shops and the homes. The trees will be in addition to a 27 1/2-foot-wide perimeter buffer along the northern property line, which was planned as part of the overall commercial development.

Vanessa Remmers: 540/735-1975