Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
Make Your Own UDAs
Last night, they got to show their feelings.
Consultants with Rhodeside & Harwell handed out maps of the proposed small area plan in the UDA; paper rectangles representing parking garages, single family homes, apartment buildings, commercial buildings and industrial buildings; glue sticks and Crayola markers.
“You all are the designers tonight. We’re asking you to plan what you envision this place to look like,” consultant Deana Rhodeside told the 20 or so people who showed up to the meeting held at the Planning Department offices.
The small area plan focused around the planned VRE station off of U.S. 17 between New Post and Cosner’s Corner. The UDA includes a larger area near New Post and Massaponax but last night’s meeting focused on Transit Oriented Design.
Most participants had a similar strategy: Gluing the commercial and industrial rectangles near the train tracks.
“This is a very busy rail line, and I wouldn’t want to subject anyone to living next to it,” said county resident Ernest Swauger.
His house is near the train tracks, and Swauger complained about the noise, saying he couldn’t open his windows in warmer temperatures.
One participant finished his map really quickly. The man, who didn’t want to be named, owns 40 acres in the proposed UDA. He took a marker, colored his property green and wrote, “We won’t sell!”
Others took more time.
Bonita Tompkins lives off of Jim Morris Road, not too far from the proposed development. She carefully glued rectangles and made notes about bike and pedestrian paths. Her family moved from Woodbridge, where Tompkins said she learned how unplanned growth could wreak havoc on a community.
“I recognize the need for controlled growth, and at least if you’re planning for it, you have a chance to impact it,” she said.
Others weren’t convinced. One woman looked at the rectangles labeled “6-story building” and said, “I see no sense of any six story building in Spotsylvania. We need the VRE, we need to do that. But I don’t think we need a six-story building there.”
For Fitz Johnson, the meeting was more than an exercise. The local real estate investor owns much of the land up for discussion. So he’ll get some say in how the area plays out.
The county will also have a say through zoning ordinances and requirements attached to the UDA land.
Many participants did worry about the lack of infrastructure in the area. Swauger made sure to draw a square in his plan, labeled “fire & police. ”
Overall, Deana Rhodeside thought the evening turned out well. She told the group, “This is just what we needed at this point, to get some feedback on what you want and where.”