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August 13, 2017

Warrenton homeowners file suit to nullify big rezoning

The 31-acre development would offices, shops, restaurants, 76 apartments, 40 condominiums and, possibly, a multiscreen movie theater and/or a bowling alley.
They feel like they weren’t heard by the council. They want more of a say, a voice of how this develops. And they don’t think they had it.
— Bill Semple of his fellow plaintiffs
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
A group of Warrenton homeowners Thursday filed a lawsuit claiming the town council violated municipal and state regulations in approving a large, mixed-use project along Walker Drive last month.

Filed in Fauquier County Circuit Court, the lawsuit seeks to void the rezoning.

The 31.4-acre development along Warrenton’s eastern edge would include offices, shops, restaurants, 76 apartments, 40 condominiums and, possibly, a multiscreen movie theater and/or a bowling alley.

Voting 6-1, the council backed the project after a contentious July 11 public hearing.

“I think it’s a worthwhile project,” Councilman Bob Kravetz (Ward 4) said moments before voting. “I’m confident the applicants will do a top-notch job on whatever they do. And, I’m very supportive of the application.”

But, the lawsuit’s seven plaintiffs contend the council failed to comply with various zoning ordinances, the comprehensive plan and public hearing notification requirements.

Their chief concerns deal with traffic, safety, noise and light pollution, said plaintiff Bill Semple, who lives nearby at 319 Falmouth St.

“They live right in the area,” said Mr. Semple, speaking on behalf of the plaintiffs. “This is something they’re going to have to live with for as long as they have their homes.”

While the plaintiffs’ ultimate goal remains unclear, one possibility would be a jury finding that the town must reconsider the application, which would involve another round of public hearings before the planning commission and the town council, he said.

> Lawsuit at bottom of story

Represented by Woodstock lawyer Bradley G. Pollack, the plaintiffs realize “another cycle” of hearings and votes could produce the same results, Mr. Semple acknowledged. “There will be some kind of project there.”

But, “they feel like they weren’t heard by the council,” said Mr. Semple, referring to the other plaintiffs, all of whom live near the development site. “They want more of a say, a voice of how this develops. And they don’t think they had it.”

The Warrenton Planning Commission on Feb. 21 voted, 6-1, to recommend denial of the rezoning from industrial to mixed-use. The commission serves as an advisory panel to the council, which has final authority on land-use applications.

Subsequent to the planning commission vote, landowners Mike Forsten, Bill and Bob Springer and Walt Hitchcock amended the application.

Because of the changes — especially those related to the landowners’ proffers — the plaintiffs believe state law requires re-advertisement of the application for a date subsequent to the July 11 town council public hearing.

For those and other reasons, the plaintiffs also contend the council should have sent the application back to the planning commission for further review.

Proffers in rezonings help offset new a development’s demands on public services such as roads, water and sewer capacity and recreation. The town council-approved proffers include:

• $300,000 toward the installation of a traffic signal or roundabout at Walker Drive and East Lee Street.

• Construction of a roundabout at the development’s main entrance on Walker Drive.

• $100,000 toward the installation of a traffic signal on Meetze Road at the top of the northbound bypass exit.

• $40,000 toward construction of a trail system near the project site.

• $40,000 for town police and fire and rescue services.

Town Attorney Whit Robinson on Friday morning received a “courtesy” copy of the suit from Mr. Semple.

“I know that the suit has been filed, but we haven’t been served yet,” Mr. Robinson said. “We’ll be reviewing it next week.”

Asked about the lawsuit, Councilman Kravetz said: “Haven’t seen it, have no comment.”

Mr. Semple played a key role in initiating the 28-page lawsuit.

“I basically organized this whole thing.”

Initially, he also will cover all legal expenses, Mr. Semple said.

“We haven’t identified other contributors. I’m primarily the guy who will be supporting this effort.”

Walker Drive Lawsuit by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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Jesse N. · November 1, 2017 at 11:50 am
Having something to do in Warrenton is greatly needed. Over the past few years, the citizens of Warrenton and Fauquier County have been filling the coffers of Prince William. Providing an entertainment district for all ages will do so much to improve the quality of life for the citizens of this community. Love it or hate it, progress happens. While I feel for those who live in the sub-division around Walker Drive, it's a small price to pay for something the town sorely needs.
TooTrue · August 22, 2017 at 3:05 pm
This is overdue given the nature of most of the leadership these days. Developers have been having their way as a result of losing people that cared for the Town in general rather than specific interest. Hopefully the citizens will win the case and run some decent candidates for Mayor and Council. The Town is heading in the wrong direction.
BJ · August 19, 2017 at 1:07 pm
Rover 530 - Why don't businesses want to open on Main Street? I know that we don't shop on Main Street because of the parking, or lack of.
citizen observer · August 15, 2017 at 10:17 am
Warrenton is too busy paying for the WARF and building parks to focus on spending money to entice good businesses to come to this Town.

Part of the problem is rent is way too high in this Town. When average incomes are calculated, the super wealthy in the northern parts makes the average rise. Store owners from Northern Virginia see that and think this Town can easily afford high rents, which they actually can't.

The Council can't do anything about that but they can start becoming business friendly and promote the Town to fill vacancies. Unfortunately only lying developers have their way in this town.
Rover 530 · August 14, 2017 at 9:07 pm
Why don't businesses want to open on Main Street? That's the big question. there must be an underlying reason why new businesses do not consider doing commerce in Old Town Warrenton to be advantageous. Who owns each property on Main Street? Are they charging rents out of kilter to other small towns in our area? The Town Council can't influence high rents. They can influence parking and local business taxation. People need to have a good reason to patronize local businesses. If all that is offered is junk and more of the same, who will buy? Why would anyone from out of the county want to visit, shop and dine in Warrenton?

The bowling alley and movie theater will not be built in this location. Even if we need them. No real incentive to build them.
citizen observer · August 14, 2017 at 9:03 am
Good move! Unfortunately as long as the Town Council is owned by developers don't expect any changes. They played this Council like a herd of sheep with their false promises and threats.
BJ · August 14, 2017 at 6:54 am
Good on these folks! Any member of this community should not have to have things thrust upon them because a few have the power of many, and money talks. There are way too many empty storefronts in Town as it is. Refurbish the existing buildings and areas, not create new ones.
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