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Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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Urban Development Areas and byright

On Aug. 10, a state-funded consultant from Code Studio told both the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission that the Urban Development Areas that are ultimately chosen will be a new type of development with a new character unseen in the area.

UDAs are super-dense communities that are self-sufficient. They are walkable, bicycle friendly, safer, preserve more open space, keep people off the main highways and have shopping, entertainment and other amenities within the development.

The consultant also said that these UDAs should be zoned for mixed uses so someone can develop a UDA byright, which would mean the Board of Supervisors would not have regulatory authority over the development and it could not get proffers from the developer to offset the costs the development would have on public services.

The comments are cemented in the heads of several supervisors.

But was the consultant correct? The answer is he may have misspoken?

The legislation clearly states that selecting a UDA does not change the zoning of the land marked as a UDA. The legislation has no language about proffers being excluded.

Proffers could still be collected from a developer proposing a project in a UDA zone and the developer may, or may not, have to go through the rezoning process. In most instances, it seems as if the developer WOULD have to go through the rezoning process.

The consultant has since backed away from those comments and said that there is no direction from the state on how these developments would be processed. Would it be through a normal rezoning or will the Board of Supervisors have to rezone the land in an Urban Development Area so that the developer can streamline through the process.

Stafford County reporter Jonas Beals and I are working on a story about how Stafford and Spotsylvania counties are tackling this state mandate. They are going in completely different directions.

But my story will focus on how supervisors are a bit confused with what they heard on Aug. 10. In fact, the entire process has been a bit confusing and constantly changing.

The General Assembly has a special subcommittee reviewing UDA legislation and working to better define the legislation.

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  • LarryG

    from dog poop to UDAs – Dan’s blog is a lot like Forest Gumps box of chocolates, eh?

    I think one of the mos important things to keep in mind about UDAs and any similar mixed-used dense development that you will hear sometimes described as a place where people can live, work, play and shop and because of that (and the availability of transit/walk/bike paths/etc) that they won’t need as much road infrastructure.

    That might be true in areas that are urbanized and to be re-developed but in an area like ours which is basically an exurban bedroom community with a high percentage of commuters – UDAs as conventionally conceived will not deliver the promised benefits of less need for road infrastructure – not in Stafford and not in Spotsylvania.

    SOME folks might work locally but even those not within the confines of the UDA itself and will use autos.

    More important, those that commute to NoVa are going to use roads – local surface streets, primary roads and I-95.

    and unless you want to be a rube – don’t buy the explanation that everyone will use VRE.

    Some folks will use it – up until it’s available capacity is exhausted but no where near the numbers currently envisioned by some in Staford – 5000 new units will be able to use VRE and I would seriously doubt the motives of any public official who is pedaling the idea that we can just build UDAs and not worry about roads.

    Every single UDA that is planned and designated needs to have a transportation plan that would explain how those folks are going to get to work and our UDAs may well require things like adjacent/nearby commuter lots – that need to be provided/proffered as part of the development.

    Hold our elected officials feet to the fire on this. We should not have a single UDA without an accompanying transportation plan – and one that is not just a drawing on a piece of paper – but one that has a funding plan – and it will be built and brought online at the time the UDA has people moving in to it.

    If someone says that they are going to build a new interchange – demand to see how it will be paid for.

    The whole UDA idea is also based on so many years of growth projected in the future.

    The problem with that is that they are using historic growth data to come up with that projection.

    Suffice to say – our growth rates in the last couple of years are no where near what they used to be.

    So should the BOS use the last couple of years for the projections?

    Who decides that?

    The “consultant” seems to be pushing the envelope on their creative interpretation of the Va Code on UDAs also.

    One more question.

    What happens if Spotsy does not designate a UDA?

    What sanctions are in the code for non-compliance?

    There is no reason to go fast here IMHO and I hope the majority of the BOS takes a slow and deliberate approach so that we don’t screw up our transportation situation even worse than it is now.

  • dtelvock

    Larry, I think I saw sanctions in the code that wouldn’t allow a locality to get state road funds if it did not have the UDAs complete. This may have just been a proposal and not put into the code. I will re check

  • SteveThomas

    Would the new Spotsy Courthouse Village count as a UDA when built out? It would seem to have all the components.

    Other than that I don’t know where you’d want to put one. Those UDAs also fail to take into consideration people who like living among the woods and fields (like me).

  • dtelvock

    Good question, Steve. If it meets the density requirements I do not see why it couldn’t be deemed a UDA. It lacks a mix of housing.

  • LarryG

    well.. is THIS a UDA:

    ” A company called Spotsylvania Courthouse LLC, which usually is a well-known developer using a different name, has proposed a development called Keswick on 158 wooded acres at the intersection of Old Robert E. Lee Drive and Lake Anna Parkway on tax map parcels 47(A)55A and 47(A)55B and 55C. The development is behind Spotslee and the Post Office.

    Spotsylvania Courthouse LLC is JAMES E JARRELL III.

    The property was already approved for section 1 of Estates of Keswick, for 30 single-family homes to be served by private wells and septic.

    According to a mailer the company sent out, the land is in an area called “Village Transition Area” in the county’s growth guide.

    The development would have 150 single-family homes, 90 age-restricted villas, 90 townhouses, 240 apartments and 100 age-restricted apartments. ”

    and I guess folks caught this part:

    ” Keswick anticipates the county will be extending water and sewer to the property, as part of the Water and Sewer Master Plan, which has prompted them to expand their original project into a much larger one.”

    See – the justification for extending water and sewer was to serve the UDA/Town Center but look at what else is going to be built.

    Would you expand the boundaries of the Courthouse UDA to INCLUDE Kewick?

    That way, you can count it as meeting the UDA growth guidelines?

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    Steve: in your capacity as a County public official, and Director of the County’s Economic Development, why would you NOT KNOW that the Spotsylvania Courthouse Village has been assigned URBAN DEVELOPMENT AREA-E?

    What part of the August 10, 2010 Joint Planning Commission and Board Work Session on UDAs did you miss? The packet presentation to the BOS by Rhodesside & Harwell is over 50 pages long.

    Refer to the BOS agenda of August 10, 2010. You can start with their Executive Summary, calling for ACTION along with the Power Pt. Presentation on UDAs.

    the SUMMARY states “STAFF has been working with Rhodes & Harwell and their team to complete the first phase of the UDA VDOT grant work plan. Rhodes and Harwell and THEIR TEAM have conducted phone interviews with the MAJORITY of the PLANNING COMMISSION and BOARD MEMBERS and met with the EDA (you must have missed that meeting) at their July meeting (meeting minutes NOT PROVIDED). The economic planners, Partners for Economic Solutions (who ever they are), have talked with SEVERAL residential and commercial DEVELOPERS to gain LOCAL insight and perspective on development and market potential (without public knowledge or input). A COMMUNITY MEETING was held July 22, 2010 ATTENDED BY ABOUT 19 PERSONS (identity UNKNOWN or stake in outcome of meeting held in developing UDAs in Spotsylvania Co.) including SUPVISOR SKINNER and PLANNING COMMISSIONER VAUGH.

    We’ve described in past blog comments that there is a FOCUS GROUP, without minutes, barring PUBLIC ATTENDANCE and conducting County business from behind closed doors, that you have described to us, in the past, a just RUMOR. Why don’t WE know who the 19 people are that attended and participated in the “Community Meeting” and the development of UDAs in Spotsylvania County or did Ms. Parrish, Planning Director, not take a roll call?

    It annoys me, when you say (your #3) “Other than that I DON”T KNOW WHERE YOU’D want to put one. Those UDAs ALSO FAIL TO TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION people who like living among the woods and fields (like me).”

    WHY? Because you’re wearing three different hats but claim NOT TO KNOW, either as a citizen, or Director of Spotsylvania County’s Economic Development or Chair of the local Republican Party, anything about UDAs that are working their way to the County’s front door step, and the public doesn’t have a clue who’s conducting County business and without their participation, or even an invitation to attend these special interest meetings.

    So Steve, lets start with who you are at the moment, what your stake is in NOT KNOWING…WHEN YOU SHOULD and who you’re going to be, as the subject of UDAs starts pounding on the County’s front door and the PUBLICS not home to get the message on what a UDA will and will not do in the PUBLICS best interest.

    Any of the just “about 19 people, plus Supv Skinner Planning Commissioner Vaugh, who attend the July 22, 2010 “COMMUNITY MEETING” are welcomed to join in the discussion but not under title of anonymous.

    After we finish here, some of us are going to have to wonder what Dan Telvock and/or the FLS really know about this subject, but can’t bring themselves to say. Is Dan the person who knows, doesn’t know or is just another messenger, working from a script? It’s a question I’ve already passed on, but you may want to mull it over for just a few seconds more.

    My script on this subject started HERE over a year and a half ago. Maybe this time around we can get a little closer to the truth than we have so far.

    Larry can be your guide. He has already applied the brakes on this subject and that should be warning enough…at least for the moment. Keep your eye on your rearview mirror. This subject is going to come fast from behind and you’re only going to get one look before it passes and leaves you in the dust.

  • LarryG

    I support the concept of the UDAs but I fear there are major potholes as well as opportunity for abuse from those who would approve more growth without responsibly planning and providing the needed infrastructure.

    I note that VDOT is supposed to be directly involved in Comp Plan updates and UDAs and Stafford is apparently proceeding as if the VDOT review is merely a perfunctory “courtesy” that has no real import to the plans.

    Stafford apparently believes that if the UDAs are sited near VRE that transportation infrastructure is not that important because, in theory, all 5000 of the projected units – will use VRE to get back and forth to work when VRE is close to being maxed and likely has less than 1000 additional rider capacity – and this does not even take into account what Spotsylvania might be envisioning in terms of additional ridership.

    The reality is that we an an exurban bedroom community with a high percentage of commuters – who WILL use I-95 to get to work and I-95 is already at capacity at rush hour with the primary plan to be to encourage more carpooling, van and buses via HOT Lanes.

    Our UDAs need to be specifically designed with that in mind. Each one needs a transportation area plan that VDOT will review for adequacy and consistency with regard to our current road network – and what upgrades need to be part of any proposal.

    I’m a little perplexed as to the consultant that is “helping” the county in that I believe they are funded and/or affiliated with VDOT and that would leave me to believe that transportation facilities should be an integral part of any proposal for a given UDA and possibly might be useful in comparing potential UDAs to see how they compare in terms of existing available transportation infrastructure verses additional that needs to be provided.

    The fact that the UDA process is not a a public process is troublesome and I predict trouble ahead if county stays on this approach.

  • bhaas

    At age 72 I sometimes have days where I am “off my game” and seem to lack imagination. I want to know what it is that the Stafford BOS is “using” to spur theirs?

  • mustang2

    There is simply not enough information about this concept to even comment. I thought we were going to hear more about the enabling legislation and the ordinance and whether or not the zoning would change if it was designated a UDA. Is it the same as an overlay where the zoning does not change and would still require all is required of a zoning change or special use permit? Dan’s comment says the legislation does not change the zoning. If true, there is nothing to be concerned about as oversight does not change. Please give us the information. This is not a question for a member of IDA unless they have been briefed but either our BOS and PC have not been briefed or they are being silent. Thanks.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    BILL: Just stay close behind Larryg. You’re not off your game. You’re just having a bad day and there will be more bad days to be sure. Once the dots are connected you’ll be back in the game in a New York heartbeat. Can’t wait until you light up this blog site when the answer to your question turns out to be the same question you’ll be asking of your Spotsylvania County elected officials.

    Remember, Spotsylvania County and Stafford County get together every month, just to plan and form strategies on how to best adapt UDAs to their special interest uses without the public being any the wiser. However, the public is invited to attend regularly scheduled FAMPO meetings where your elected officials hang out and share their visions of what the REGION is going to look like in the next 5-10 years and build more from there to include the next 20 years.

    Pretty soon you won’t even have to order carry-out.Just open the front door and your order will already have been prepared and delivered without raising a hand. When we start talking about UDAs and HIGH DENSITY populations, with 6-24 families per acre, all you’ll have to worry about is whether your bike ride just came up with a flat tire. Just think, no more need to crowd I-95 with automobiles, because your neighbor just took the last parking space I-95 could hold, for at least another 3 hours.

    Sorry about the sarcasm, but you already know what a cheap date I can be. Hang in there. We’re not going anywhere without you at our side, or where ever you want to stand.

  • LarryG

    There is information about the UDA concept but little is being communicated from the BOS and Planners to citizens beyond a very small group that the Planning Dept is characterizing as their “public-outreach”.

    UDAs came from HB3202 and if you put the two in a GOGGLE search, you can develop quite a bit of knowledge on the subject – hundreds of “hits”.

    Here’s one – a slideshow by a member of the development community:

    Interesting to me is that the legislation ONLY applies to the Comp Plan which is a guidance document not an ordinance and the law says that the UDA needs to be “SUFFICIENT” in size to provide for 10 year growth. It does not require the growth and it does not address other growth outside of the UDA boundaries either.

    there are so many aspects that the law did not really specifically address that it’s essentially full of loopholes if the locality wants to utilize them.

    However, the law gives developers and BOS intend on more growth – the means to justify it – as we are seeing in Stafford right now.

    And I have a request for Dan on how he is maintaining this blog – in my next post

  • LarryG

    Dan – I understand what drove you to hold each comment for moderation – which requires you to review each one before it gets released but it is causing problems because you are not around sometimes to release them and good dialog that could be useful becomes a bit stilted and jerky.

    Would you consider going back to not moderating but retaining the ability to do so when things do get out of hand on certain subjects ?

    I note that other blogs in the FLS are pretty much not moderated but they do intervene when it becomes necessary on a per subject or even a per person basis.

    Your blog is becoming more and more a good Spotsylvania-specific discussion forum and most folks behave most of the time so why not consider letting the conversations go forward as they occur and retain the right to intervene when necessary?

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    Couldn’t agree more with Larry. The flow of dialogue, when it’s on a roll, gets lost in the “modification” phase of your policing the sight. Dan, I’m sure you have your share of blogger comments crossing the line, but you do have a stack of bloggers at this site who can contribute a great deal from both or all sides of an issue. Anyone who needs to cross the line for no other purpose than to offend is someone WE usually ignore. Look at my track record. Look how many people I’ve offended just by showing up, but look at the balance this blog has maintained…tit for tat..that has opened more doors than even you ever expected. We don’t need to moderate “closed doors”. We need to open doors.

    I can still remember when Larry lobbied you and your editor to return to 512 characters just so he didn’t have to endure my diatribes. Look who joined the diatribe group and whether we agree or disagree on any subject WE (that’s everyone, whether anonymous or not) have brought a lot of information, bad, good and indifferent, to the table.

    It’s your show. If you can cut US some slack, we would appreciate anything you can do. AND, if not, we will understand your current reasoning on what makes for the good, the bad and the ugly in network journalism.

    AND, no, I refuse to be your friend, or Larry’s or Bill’s. Like you better as the enemy where I can keep you closer than the few friends I have in this world. Makes for every day being a little or a lot different than the day before.

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