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Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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Make Your Own UDAs

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At previous community meetings on the urban development areas,  Spotsylvania residents got the chance to tell planners how they felt about the proposals.

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.”


  • LarryG

    Did the consultants explain that the law does not REQUIRE the designation of NEW (greenfield) UDAs that lack road and other infrastructure?

    Did they say that at least 8 other counties in Va said that their Comp Plans ALREADY meet the intent of the UdA Law in that (just like Spotsylvania) they have existing designated growth areas where they will entertain proposals for 4-8 du from developers?

    We DO need a plan for the VRE Area but it’s not about what kind of designs to have – it’s about what kind of infrastructure will be needed to serve that growth – not the least of which is to tell everyone how much more capacity VRE has before it is maxed out – verses how many more people will live in and around that area and still need to get to work once VRE is at capacity?

    I’m not opposed to the development of that area but I am opposed to folks who call themselves planners – not planning for the inevitable in terms of infrastructure and facilities needed to serve that growth.

    To draw lines on a map without talking about what it will take to serve that growth – is not planning in my view.

    It’s, instead, inappropriate advocacy from those who are claiming to be professional planners.

    Let’s see the infrastructure analysis for water/sewer, roads and schools along with the “designs”.

    VDOT is supposed to do what is known as a 527 analysis of areas like the VRE area. Where is that analysis?

    Where is the water/sewer utilities dept analysis?

  • bhaas

    I second Larry’s comments.

  • Mark O.

    Mr. Johnson has already told the FLS what he plans to do with his property: “We have always envisioned an innovative and “green” transit-oriented development at Crossroads, and my partners and I believe the county’s VRE station should be planned for the future to serve Amtrak, and eventually, high-speed rail as well,” he said via e-mail. “We are very excited about moving ahead and we are hoping to work in a creative partnership with the county to build a truly smart-growth development that includes a first-class rail station with amenities far exceeding those found in Woodbridge or at existing VRE stations now.”

  • LarryG

    Let me ask this. What is it that Mr. Johnson wants to do that he can’t do with current county policies? Can he and any other developer make any proposal they want to the BOS and if they like his plan because it imposes no costs on the county – they’d likely look on it favorably?

    I’m trying to figure out what advantages the UDAs give to the county that they don’t already have.

    The first question that needs to be asked and answered is how much likely available capacity does VRE have right now compared to the proposed build-out numbers for the developable area around the station?

    Stafford is proposing thousands more housing units than there is available capacity on VRE for their proposed VRE station.

    Is Spotsylvania doing the same?

    How about we compare the likely available capacity on VRE with the numbers of housing units that will be likely proposed and recognize the differences and ask what will happen to the excess housing units in terms of where those folks will likely work – and how they would get to their jobs?

    I’ll repeat. I’m not opposed to the growth – but I’m opposed to a “plan” that does not deal with the infrastructure impacts of growth.

    We’ve gone own this road before and the philosophy of the previous BOS when they made such decisions was that the road traffic was not their responsibility – that it was VDOT’s an that the roads were on VDOT’s “list”.

    VDOT no longer has a “list” and now growth in Spotsylvania is the County’s responsibility – always was but now we can’t claim that it’s VDOT’s problem.

    The “workshop” aspect of “what do you want growth to look like” did not honestly address the infrastructure issues in my view.

    It talked about what kind o buildings and such – not what kind of infrastructure would be needed to serve the growth.

    Let’s address the issues please.

  • Mark O.

    These UDAs have little advantage other than forcing local governments to grow a little smarter. Sadly, the system is stil flawed and it likely always will be.