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May 5, 2017

Town council favors Walker Drive mixed-use project

Photo/Cassandra Brown
The Warrenton Town Council and staff members discuss the Walker Drive rezoning application during Thursday night’s work session.
As proposed right now, I would vote for it. Most of the things I have asked about have been taken care of to my satisfaction.
— Councilman Jerry Wood (Ward 1)
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
A Warrenton Town Council majority favors the mixed-use development proposed on Walker Drive, along the town’s eastern edge.

The largest in town history, the rezoning application calls for a multi-screen theater, bowling alley, restaurants, shops, offices, 40 condominiums and 76 apartments.

The council Thursday night conducted a two-hour work session on the 31.9-acre project.

> Town staff report on application at bottom of story

The proposal still needs work, council members said in interviews Friday.

But, barring significant changes or surprises, Linda “Sunny” Reynolds (At-large) and Jerry Wood (Ward 1) said they plan to support the proposal.

“I’m inclined to vote for this project,” Ms. Reynolds said.

“As proposed right now, I would vote for it,” Mr. Wood said. “Most of the things I have asked about have been taken care of to my satisfaction.”

“I have no major objections” to the proposal, Bob Kravetz (Ward 4) said. “As it stands right now, I’m in favor of it.”

Even so, Councilman Kravetz declined to say how he ultimately might vote on the proposal.

“I want to support this project,” Councilman Alec P. Burnett (Ward 2) said. “I’ve been an advocate this concept, this idea, from the start.”

However, “support and a vote are different things,” Mr. Burnett added.

Among other things, he wants to learn more about design features and transportation “impacts.”

Mr. Burnett also wants the landowners — Mike Forsten, Bob and Bill Springer and Walt Hitchcock — to provide a clearer definition of “entertainment.”

The landowners have agreed to reserve land for seven years for the construction of a movie theater, for example. But, if after that period, the landowners cannot persuade a developer to build a cinema, the site can be used for another commercial purpose — assuming the council rezones the property.

That concerns him, because of considerable public interest in a theater and other potential entertainment opportunities at the site, Mr. Burnett suggested during the work session Thursday.

While the project “has changed so many times” in the past year, “I feel we’re getting closer to something that can be supported by the town,” Councilman Brett Hamby (Ward 3) said.

But, “I’m not there yet,” Mr. Hamby stressed. “The one thing that has been missing is the public. I want to see what the public says. I want to see how many come out” for the council’s public hearing on the project.

The councilman wants more information related to a potential traffic circle at Walker Drive and East Lee Street and the timing of transportation improvements generally. He also expressed concerns about the buffering of commercial buildings.

The council and the landowners agree that a roundabout should be built to serve the project’s entrance along Walker Drive.

But, the council and town staff want to learn more about potential options and costs for a roundabout at Walker and East Lee.

To that end, town officials the landowners and Virginia Department of Transportation officials soon will conduct a work session on the matter.

Depending on when that work session takes place, the town council, which will take final action, could conduct a public hearing on the Walker Drive project June 13 or July 11.

By a 6-1 vote, Warrenton’s Planning Commission on Feb. 21 recommended denial of the project.

Councilmen Sean Polster (At-large) and Kevin P. Carter (Ward 5) failed to return phone messages seeking comment for this story.

Cover Sheet by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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TooTrue · May 8, 2017 at 9:55 am
The Citizen Observer's statements are accurate. Sunny Reynolds was bought and paid for with development money and Jerry Wood is still tied to Mike Forsten from the days of buying the Old Town Athletic Club. The good ole boy network is alive and well while the citizens continue to get the short end of the stick.
BJ · May 8, 2017 at 9:01 am
This AND a new interchange on Rt 29! Traffic nightmare ahead! We are becoming Fairfax like it or not, unless someone puts a halt on the construction. Some of it is definitely needed, such as a safer intersection at Rt29. But a new shopping center???? There are so many empty shops that could be filled. What's the problem? Location? Price? Landlord issues?
citizen observer · May 5, 2017 at 2:23 pm
Denied by the planning commission but on its way to approval by the bought and paid for Council. Who could have guessed. So much for a good master plan put in place 20+ years ago, being thrown out because it doesn't pad developers pockets enough.

And there still is no guarantee of a movie theater or bowling alley; but plenty of new stores to compete with the many vacant ones we have, and corporate restaurants to compete with the mom and pops struggling in old town. And I won't even get into lots more unplanned residences and traffic. How about the loss of potentially good paying jobs if industrial office buildings like on the rest of Walker Drive that were built under the current master plan are easily dismissed.

Sure hope our elected and Town officials soon learn to listen to the citizens as well as they do developers.
Wellitsthetruth · May 5, 2017 at 2:14 pm
Before anyone gets going on this I'm gonna get the big hypocritical part of some people in this county.

*whines* "Noooo, if you want this stuff you can just drive to the nearby places that have this.. Keep our county small"

*project doesn't happen*

*taxes need to be raised*

*whines* "Nooo, why? Can't we just make some obvious cuts to the budget, blah blah"

Repeat for a long time, some of the same people complain about both(not that they post here but we all know someone)

No wonder nothing gets done in this county, because a chunk of the citizens don't even know what they want.
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