Spotsylvania News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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Q&A on UDAs

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The public hearing on urban development areas is Tuesday night. Since last summer, the planning department has held community meetings, board work sessions and field trips on UDAs. But for some Spotsylvania residents, questions remain. You can click here for the planning department’s presentation at last month’s board meeting. And here’s a Q&A with Planning Director Wanda Parrish:

  • How would a UDA affect assessments and taxes of property inside the area?

There will be no direct impact from the UDA designation on property owners within that area.  UDAs and Future Land Uses are designated in the Comprehensive Plan. Comprehensive Plans do not in themselves affect assessments. Future assessments are based on sales of property that take place in the area. While assessments would not change simply because property is located within the UDA, the assessments could be impacted over time if demand for this land increases and surrounding comparable properties are selling for higher amounts. It is important to note that this could occur anyways since the UDAs are proposed within the growth boundary of the county and future demand may increase regardless of UDA designation.

  • How would the UDAs affect property rights? Would landowners lose any rights?

The UDAs would result in no changes to the property rights that the landowners hold presently.  They would not be obligated to develop their property and could continue to utilize it in the same way that they presently do.  They can sell their land and they can divide it or develop it in under their current zoning.

  • Would the UDAs make it easier or harder to sell land inside the areas?

If the intended use is the same as the existing use, the UDA designation should have no impact on a landowner’s ability to sell the land (i.e. selling a single family home to a new owner).  The UDA designation would make the land more attractive to potential purchasers who want to develop in the traditional neighborhood development pattern that the County is encouraging within these areas.

  • What sort of response have you received from county residents?

Generally there has been a positive response from the residents that have attended the County’s input and informational meetings.  Over the course of the seven meetings that were held, about 100 individuals participated, some in multiple meetings. Many residents expressed appreciation that they were able to be involved in the planning process and that the County was being proactive in its planning.  Others who may have opposed aspects of the proposal were happy with measures that were taken to reduce adverse impacts on neighboring properties.  At the last public information meeting in particular, there were residents who expressed concerns about the potential impacts of the UDAs on property rights.

  • Would developers be interested in these traditional neighborhood designs?

We are seeing developments of this nature already being proposed and constructed within the County.  The Courthouse Village being developed and built by the W. J. Vakos Company has many of the important elements that would be expected of development proposals within the UDAs.  Similarly, the Ni Village rezoning project proposed by the Luck Development Company also embraces a traditional neighborhood design and a mix of residential, commercial and office uses.  In the past, Tricord has also proposed developments with these central tenets.

  • Is this an effort to make Spotsylvania look just like northern Virginia?

It is important to realize that a large part of the motivation of this legislation is to ensure that Spotsylvania does not become like Northern Virginia as the UDAs are intended to channel growth into them so that the rural character of Spotsylvania County that lies outside of the Primary Development Boundary (water & sewer service area) can be preserved and not carved up into subdivisions through sprawl development.  The UDAs themselves may well look like neighborhoods from Northern Virginia, which would represent the desired neighborhood for those residents as it is important to remember that the UDAs will be market driven.  The County will not be constructing the UDAs, but rather will allow developers react to the market and propose developments that they can sell.

  • Will UDAs add students to the schools?

No, the UDAs will not add any students to the school system over what we would expect to have without the UDAs.  The UDAs deal with projected growth for the County rather than any ‘additional’ growth.  The UDAs simply look to concentrate this growth within a smaller area of the County.

  • Are there any benefits to the county for having UDAs?

The first benefit is the County’s conformity with the State Code that requires the adoption of UDAs for localities meeting certain criteria, including Spotsylvania.  In the long run, UDAs can be expected to help reduce the cost of the provision of basic infrastructure and services.  The greater population density means that fewer lane miles of road should be needed, emergency response times can be shorter, school bus rides and fuel costs can be reduced, among other benefits.  These benefits will take time to realize, however, in the long run they can result in significant savings for the County as well as improved Levels of Service.


  • LarryG

    There are some issues that have not really been fully dealt with.

    The first is that while we are projected to have growth in population – it is not addressed where the new growth will work and this is a key premise of UDAs – live, WORK, and play.

    So how does that concept work in commuter-centric, exurban commuters.

    The second is the difference between a designated UDA in already developed areas ripe for re-development verses \Greenfield\ UDAs even if within areas designated for water and sewer.

    Just because a UDA is within an area designated for water and sewer does not mean there is money to put it in right now. Developers buy water/sewer hook-ups but the county has to front the money via loans that affect it’s ability to borrow for other projects. The loans also have to be paid back and if the market does not generate enough cash flow to repay the loans the taxpayers have to pick it up until the market improves.

    Just because an area is designated for water/sewer does not mean how man taps were planned. For instance, if the water/sewer for the Rt 17 UDA was originally premised on commercial and/or 1/4 residential – that may well be a lower demand than higher-density mixed-use. This in turn affects other places that have been designated to be served by water/sewer because the total number of new taps is limited by the size of the existing plant and it’s available capacity. With the advent of new rules by the state, adding water/sewer capacity is going to be very expensive so our existing capacity is being allocated in a different way than originally premised in terms of density and if you make one area denser than originally premised it means the other areas may not be actually able to be served once the existing capacity is allocated to UDAs. This aspect was never addressed.

    Finally – UDAs in already-developed – and ALREADY infrastructured areas means you take advantage of EXISTING mobility infrastructure AND existing Transit service.

    Lafayette boulevard would be an example where the basic infrastructure already exists and would have to be upgraded but not built from scratch.

    Lafayette boulevard would also much more likely serve local working people rather than attract more NoVa commuters as the Route 17 area will.

    The other issue with the Route 17 area is that is does not have the existing mobility infrastructure to serve the number of people the UDA is designed to have, nor, more importantly, the KIND of commuter which may not be local workers but more NoVa commuter workers.

    That level of road infrastructure does not exist. So basically, the county, by designating a greenfield UDA is INVITING mixed-use proposals from developers with no viable funded or planned funded road infrastructure plan beyond lines drawn on a map.

    Yes they have VRE but VRE, right now, is maxed on carrying capacity. We’re talking about tens of thousands of new people that may well be NoVa commuters who ostensibly – \live, work, and play\ in the UDA but in reality will be trying to get on an already-maxed VRE or on an-already maxed (at rush hour), U.S. Route 1 and Massaponax interchange.

    I would submit that these key issues, that THESE Q&As have not been addressed adequately despite the claimed fact that many meetings have been held and many people attending them.

    Some of those meetings were basically asking people where they wanted the growth and what kind, i.e. TND, etc but the issues of how to accommodate the growth – not addressed fully.

    And this has been the problem with Spotsylvania and growth from the beginning.

    The schools, they are forced by law to deal with. But in the past they depended on VDOT to build the roads needed and that did not happen because the county permitted far more growth than there were available dollars for new roads.

    I’m not arguing against growth nor the UDAs but a process where we really don’t address the infrastructure consequences when we make these decisions.

    It would have been perfectly legal to designate the area on both sides of Lafayette as UDA as several other places actually did.

    That area is ripe for redevelopment, has existing roads and transit and water/sewer and although developers prefer greenfield development and NoVa commuters want sprawl-type subdivisions – what does Spotsylvania want and what are the financial consequences in dollars of the Route 17 area?

    In dollars and cents how much will it cost to put in the additional infrastructure and what affect will it have on our available water/sewer capacity with the 8du density compared to the original density premises for water/sewer in that area?

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    The Q&As by the FLS to Wanda Parrish, looks to have more holes in the translation than should be made available to the public for better comprehension and understanding of how the citizen population of Spotsylvania County will be impacted by UDA development in years down the road.

    Small example: \The County will not be constructing the UDAs, but rather will allow DEVELOPERS react to the market and propose developments that they can sell.\

    Simply said, the COUNTY designated where the UDAs would be located, but development partners like Cosner, Silver, Tricord and other major landowners in the county would be free to build high density housing and population growth that comes with it and without any public input on how close a citizen would be to his/her next door neighbor.

    While Rt 17 may be the way to Spotsylvania County’s train station, and the 1000 spaces parking lot to be constructed, try putting a thousand vehicles, at any one time of the day, and see for youself how Rt 17 handles the commuter traffic flow. And we’re still not talking about the I-95 interchange that is being proposed just past the Massaponax (southbound) exit and running through the Lee’s Hill District, where commercial trucking will be increased to accommodate east coast locations like Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Newport News.

    Spotsylvania County serves as the facilitator to their real stakeholders and this scripted message is meant only to distract folks from knowing what the future really holds and aside from the fact that property sales aren’t bringing back the same kind of equity it used to.

    Who’s got the answers? Your elected officials do, but they’re not telling, much along the same lines Larry has been speaking to. It’s a shame the public doesn’t have an attorney of their own, so as to better translate what’s being said here and how much of the truth is being made availble to the citizens of Spotsylvania County.

  • LarryG

    UDAs in exurban commuter-centric communities won’t work the same way as UDAs in areas where there are local jobs, existing water/sewer/transit infrastructure but not enough housing.

    Spotsy has always had the problem of how to accommodate growth that is primarily intensive, consumptive use of transportation AND water/sewerinfrastructure.

    If the past, VDOT obligingly put the requested new roads on the \list\ but the \list\ was way bigger than could be funded – but that did not matter because the BOS would simply blame the lack of roads for new growth on VDOT.

    Now we know that VDOT is not likely to build much of the transportation infrastructure needed to serve the Route 17 UDA – as they indicated in their correspondence..

    It is my view that when the planners knew that the roads were not going to be built to serve the UDA that they had a choice as to whether they should designate a greenfield UDA that did not have the required transportation infrastructure NOR was there any viable plan to provide it -

    at that point, they COULD have designated a non-greenfield UDA that already had existing infrastructure – that would meet the requirements of the State and at the same time INVITE developers – like Lee Garrison – to propose re-development UDAs that would be much less consumptive of the county finances.

    Why in the world, they picked the industrial area of 4-mile fork rather than the residential area along Lafayette is beyond comprehension.

    They did have an extensive public process but I feel it was \managed\ to the point that things like redevelopment of existing residential verses greenfield designation – and the pros and cons of those two approaches – were never really discussed in any substantive way and they certainly did not address how such intensive greenfield development would have a master transportation plan – similar to the water/sewer master plan.

    Even the water/sewer master plan will have to be updated because it was premised on 4u density in that area and now it will be 8du. That means a lot more water/sewer infrastructure that will have to be built than was probably originally planned – but we don’t even know that because all we got was the water/sewer guy getting up and essentially saying \we’ve got it covered\ as opposed to an analyses that disclosed the impacts – and I feel – respected the citizens by giving them the information that was relevant in making that decision.

    This is the kind of thing that got Spotsylvania in trouble before … not enough planning for roads nor water/sewer and both experienced the need for costly retrofitting.

    I’m disappointed that the primary goal seemed to be to fast track the planners recommendations – which, as I’ve said, seemed to be biased toward greenfield UDAs rather than redevelopment UDAs – which are less consumptive of tax dollars and less of a liability to build the infrastructure.

    The Rt 17 UDA does have the consequence of making \available\ water/sewer/transportation (and other) infrastructure for developer proposals.

    If proposals