Spotsylvania News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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HCOD-Design Standards Meeting

Wow, I am beat. Not only did I wake up with a very stiff neck, I also ended up working more hours than I expected. Why? Because Mr. Hugh Cosner likes to talk, and I enjoyed it too much.

Mr. Cosner was just one of about 50 to 75 people who showed up this evening at Courtland High School for the Highway Corridor Overlay District/Design Standards meeting that was packed with small developers, big developers, small-business owners, big-business owners and big-time property owners.  They all had opinions about these HCOD-Design Standards and none of it was positive. None of it. 

Not until Committee of 500 members Christine Lynch and Brenda King spoke did some positive comments surface. 

The meeting was called by the Planning Department. Planners gave a basic background of why these overlay districts are being proposed for expansion and what the design standards are supposed to do. I recorded video of almost every speaker, and I will try next week to post them all on my blog.

But to summarize the concerns would take several blogs because they were that numerous. The videos will help quite a bit. 

But I summarize for a living so here I go: the design standards are too onerous and ambiguous. If the design standards are approved, it would bankrupt small-time developers and small-business owners who may want to expand more than 20 percent. Meeting the standards adds too much additional cost for development. Right now, developers proffer design standards with their projects, and it helps even out the costs they incur, they said. It’s a chip they bargain with so to speak. 

By making the design standards in the 17 overlay districts mandatory (developers would have to meet 75 percent of the guidelines, down from 85 percent after they had heart attacks) they lose that bargaining chip. The end result is they are still being asked to make proffers, and they have to come up with something else, which costs money, that will entice the decision makers enough to vote for their project.  Developers cannot get the square-foot price for their buildings to make up the difference in meeting these standards, they said.

Keep in mind there are only two overlay districts now: State Route 3 and Courthouse Road to the court house area. The proposed new districts are too vast, they said.

Planners pointed out that design standards exist in burgeoning Prince William County, a possible example that development didn’t suffer after the standards were implemented. 

Also keep in mind these HCODS and design standards have nothing to do with homes; they deal with most businesses and offices.  

I guarantee you I only hit half of the concerns.  There are concerns about the 100-feet setbacks in the rural overlay districts and the 50-feet setbacks in the primary overlay districts. There are concerns about the 400-foot overlay distance and the 500-foot overlay distance for the I-95 Highway Corridor District. 

But, the proposals aren’t dead. We’ve got some public hearings coming up.  

Stay tuned…right now, I need some sleep!

But before I go, let me ask you a question that several people asked me and I wouldn’t answer because it wouldn’t be right: Is the design of Cosner’s Corner good enough for you? Does it look nice?

If yes, do you think it would meet 75 percent of the design standards being proposed? Check the design matrix here

If you don’t think it looks nice, then you may be in support of these HCODs and new standards.  





  • gramps

    turned out in serious numbers to express their distaste for HCOD. Could this be sour grapes since the planners are pursuing things that will upset the “applecart” for them?

    You asked about the Cosner Corner area design. It sure beats the original design of Central Park, but I think there is still room for improvement.

  • lgross

    bad/wrong same old same old process

    The county planners do not learn (and they are not alone).

    There needed to be developer/business involvement from the get go.

    No.. not that they were asked… but that the steps were taken to INSURE that they were involved…

    VDOT has the same problem.. they think if the public is given the “opportunity” to comment AFTER VDOT has decided what to do that this constitutes legitimate public involvement.

    I’ve heard this excuse over and over from a variety of government entities that the public “had the opportunity” instead of actually ensuring involvement – as mandatory.. to develop a consensus of the stakeholders affected.

    This “slam dunk” approach to new rules and regs is just flat wrong… no matter who does it.

    involvement is mandatory – “trying” is not.