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February 17, 2017

Planners reject changes to Mintbrook development

Photo/Ryan Homes
Mintbrook has approval for 575 dwellings — a combination of single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.
There’s nothing that we heard this evening in the public hearing that’s changed the opinion I’ve had on this project for quite some time.
— Adrienne Garreau, planning commission chairwoman
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Staff Journalist
Fauquier’s planning commission Thursday night recommended denial of a proposal for more homes and less commercial space at Mintbrook, a mixed-use community at Bealeton.

Other proposed changes relate to the project’s approved layout and the timed phasing for the construction of homes and commercial space.

The planning commission rejected the rezoning and special exception permit application because:

• It fails to conform to Fauquier’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance.

• The developer’s proffers do not adequately offset the proposal’s effects on public services.

• The project’s “existing zoning is reasonable.”

“This application has not changed substantially from the last time that we saw it,” Chairwoman Adrienne Garreau (Scott District) said moments before the commission vote. “And, I think most of us probably have formed an opinion on it at this point.

“Certainly, from my perspective, there’s nothing that we heard this evening in the public hearing that’s changed the opinion I’ve had on this project for quite some time.”

The commission in November held a public hearing on the proposal, after which developer Russell Marks agreed to a three-month delay to further discuss it with the county planning staff.

To varying degree, six people, including residents of Mintbrook and nearby neighborhoods, spoke against the proposal during Thursday’s public hearing.

Their concerns included the request for 102 affordable, “workforce” apartments and the potential effect on property values, traffic and the public school system’s ability to handle children would live in those dwellings.

Except for the workforce housing component, one Mintbrook resident had no strong objections to the proposed changes.

The board of supervisors five years ago granted Mintbrook rezoning and special exception permit approval for up to 475 homes and 345,000 square feet of commercial space.

Because of market forces, his company came back two years later for more homes and a reduction in the commercial space requirement at the 332-acre site, according to developer Mr. Marks. The board granted Mintbrook a total of 575 homes and cut the commercial component to 305,378 square feet.

Mintbrook this time seeks approval for up to 665 dwellings, including 102 affordable, “workforce” apartments, because Fauquier needs that kind of housing for teachers, law enforcement workers and other government workers, according to the developer.

Citing lack of demand, Mr. Marks also wants to shrink commercial space to 280,000 square feet.

Under construction, the project at the northwest quadrant of Routes 28 and 17 also calls for shops, a supermarket, offices, two school sites, ballfields and a fire and rescue station site.

To provide safer access to Mintbrook, Mr. Marks believes a traffic signal soon should be installed at the subdivision’s entrance on Route 17.

He has agreed to pay for the light and improvements to Independence Avenue, which serves Liberty High School, just across Route 17 from Mintbrook.

But, the Virginia Department of Transportation has said a traffic signal at the subdivision’s entrance will not be warranted and thus won’t be approved until he builds at least 65,000 square feet of commercial space at Mintbrook, Mr. Marks said.

With the support of the school system, Mintbrook residents and the county, Mr. Marks hopes to persuade VDOT that the light quickly should be installed.

A traffic light also will make the project more accessible and therefore more attractive to commercial users, Mr. Marks and some residents said.

Does he regard the planning commission’s recommendation as set back?

“No,” Mr. Marks said. “It’s just the planning commission doing a good job of evaluating an application. We’ll be looking at what we can change in going to the board of supervisors.”

The supervisors on April 13 will hold a work session and public hearing, before taking final action on the application.

Because his electrical company has done work at Mintbrook, planning commission Vice Chairman John Meadows (Lee) did not vote on or participate in the application’s review.

The planning commission on Thursday also:

• Unanimously recommended denial of a request to rezone 10.1 acres at Village Center Drive and Aspen Way in Bealeton for 24 apartments in the Aspen Club community. The apartments would be in a three-story building, according to the landowners. Aspen Club already has 108 apartments in five buildings. 

Explaining its action, the commission stated the proposal does not conform to Fauquier’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance and that the “existing zoning of the property is reasonable.”

• Unanimously recommended special exception permit approval to allow the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport near Midland to develop according to its approved master plan and to build an above-ground water storage tank for fire suppression. The proposed tank along Route 610 near Midland would be a maximum 55 feet tall and contain a maximum 50,000 gallons.

Fauquier’s board of supervisors on March 9 will hold work sessions and public hearings, before taking final action on the apartment and airport applications.
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