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August 18, 2016

Neighbors question Walker Drive development details

Photos/Lawrence Emerson
Traffic consultant Joe Caroggero and planning consultant Jessica Pfeiffer answer questions.
Hidden Creek Lane resident Dan Gregg (center) talks with landowners Mike Forsten and Bill Springer (right).
Walker Drive Project
• What: Eastside Investment Group LLC’s proposed, mixed-use development with bowling alley, cinema, restaurants, offices, shops, apartments and condos.

• Where: 31.9 acres along Walker Drive and Eastern Bypass in Warrenton. Property bounded by Academy Hill Road to north and East Lee Street to south.

• Property owners: Kim and Mike Forsten, Bill and Bob Springer and Walt Hitchcock. The others have a contract to buy Hitchcock property.

• Buildings: 14 total, including two existing and one soon-to-start structures.

• Under roof: Approximately 300,000 square feet.

• Parking: 1,745 spaces.

• Traffic: Development would generate an estimated 11,751 vehicle trips per day.

• Traffic signals: Applicant’s consultant says three new stoplights along Walker Drive and East Lee Street would manage vehicle flow well.

• Application: Zoning text amendment and rezoning from industrial use to planned unit development. Warrenton Town Council will decide.

• Schedule: Application probably will go to town planning commission for a work session in September and public hearing in October.

• Partner: The landowners say they have negotiated with “a major Northern Virginia developer” that would market the property if rezoned.

• Facebook page: Click here.
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Wednesday’s meeting foreshadowed this fall’s lively debate that will precede a Warrenton Town Council decision on the proposed mixed-used development along Walker Drive.

About 70 people showed up to hear from the landowners and their consultants about the proposal for a movie theater, bowling alley, restaurants, shops, offices and apartments on 32 acres at the town’s eastern edge. Zoned for industrial use, the property lies just “inside” the Eastern Bypass.

Dozens of citizens, mostly residents of subdivisions along Walker Drive, posed rapid-fire questions for more than 90 minutes in the John Barton Payne Building downtown.

“What’s it gonna do to our property; what’s it gonna do to our traffic?” asked Kevin Dolan, a Driftwood Court homeowner. “I don’t say its good or bad; there’s not enough information yet.”

The project, which would require rezoning, would generate an additional 11,750 “vehicle trips” per day, according to the landowner’s traffic consultant. At peak times — weekday afternoons and Saturdays — about 1,000 vehicles an hour would come and go from the development, The Traffic Group Vice President Joe Caloggero told the audience.

Most of that traffic would travel along the bypass, East Lee Street and the southern portion of Walker Drive, Mr. Caloggero said.

His analysis indicates three new traffic lights would handle volume and actually improve existing vehicle flow in the area. The new signals would go:

• At East Lee St. and Walker Drive.

• At the development’s main entrance, 450 north of East Lee.

• On Meetze Road at the top of the northbound bypass exit.

Larry Kovalik, a former member of the Fauquier County Planning Commission, questioned the proposed stoplights and noted that town officials envision Walker Drive as part of alternative route for north-south traffic between Alexandria Pike and Shirley Avenue, where Walmart stands.

“Why not roundabouts?” Mr. Kovalik said. “Stop strangling all the intersections. They (stoplights) aren’t improving intersections. They’re pinching them.”

Citizens also questioned and expressed concerns about:

• Lighting and noise in the new development.

• Trucks making deliveries to businesses there.

• The caliber of jobs the project would generate versus those of businesses already established along Walker Drive.

• Pedestrian safety.

“We don’t want just an average, cookie-cutter development,” a woman said as the meeting started.

“We agree,” said Jessica Pfeiffer, the landowners’ planning consultant. “The applicant sees the property as complementary to downtown . . . a gateway.”

Ms. Pfeiffer said the proposal also would be more compatible with homes and businesses along Walker Drive than potential “by-right” industrial development that would require no public hearing or negotiation with town officials.

The project must include a movie theater, according to the landowners’ “proffers.” The proposed development agreement also would, for example, limit the number of dwellings there. Eastside Investment Group LLC proposes:

• A 21,000-square-foot bowling alley.

• A 35,000-square-foot multiplex movie theatre.

• 37,356 square feet of office space.

• 55,967 square feet of retail space.

• 33,550 square feet of restaurant space.

• 116 apartments or condos.

Most of those at Wednesday’s meeting expressed concerns about or opposition to the rezoning.

But, several said they support it.

“I welcome this development, and I live right across the street” on Hidden Creek Lane, said Dan Gregg. “My biggest concern is traffic.”

The Warrenton Planning Commission probably will conduct a “work session” to discuss the project with the applicants in late September. A public hearing before the commission would take place in October, with its vote on a recommendation to the town council in November.

The council might conduct its public hearing in November, with a potential decision in December or January.

The project represents one of the largest and most complex in Warrenton history. Decades ago, the town council approved mixed-used proposals that resulted in the Highlands and North Rock developments on both sides of Alexandria Pike.
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TooTrue · August 22, 2016 at 8:42 am
This horrible design belongs in Prince William not in Fauquier County or any of the County's Towns people seem to care about. This OTAC guy is among those that never has enough whatever and whenever.
BJ · August 21, 2016 at 6:14 pm
@ Cathy Johnson - "One nice shopping district is not going to kill the county." Did you forgot about the shopping district near Sears, or the shopping district near Pebbles, or the shopping district near Giant. Have you seen the empty storefronts, dead trees, and lack of cars? What makes you or anyone think that building more buildings is going to bring in chain stores, when there are already empty spaces for them to go, they just don't want to pay the exorbitant rents by the greedy owners. Have you noticed how many new places have come and gone? One nice shopping district will lead to two (don't forget about the Weissburg property behind Country Chevrolet). Clean up some of the run down places, put nicer hotels along Broadview, get rid of all those ugly 1970's buildings that the town planners at the time didn't think about, or were friends with the builders. Once the trees are gone and the town is covered in pavement and dead trees, you will wonder what happened to this place.
Observer · August 19, 2016 at 8:57 am
It will be just like the big, red, ugly storage building. Developer will make money and city will loose.
ceverett · August 18, 2016 at 1:46 pm
I am not thrilled with the proposal. We have people coming from cities for our more rural atmosphere, now they want what the moved away from. We are a small town. I am not against having things but not a whole "town center"
BJ · August 18, 2016 at 12:33 pm
And so begins our transformation to Gainesville, Centreville, and Haymarket. It was only a matter of time. Why not put the bypass in through Old Gold Cup & Silver Cup to connect to 211, you all know that's only a matter of time too? BJ Allen
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