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April 11, 2014

New plan for Opal focuses on economic development

This illustration depicts what Route 15/29 might look like under goals of the new plan.
The committee of property owners wanted to expand the Opal Service District west by 100 acres (left, brown parcel) for future light industrial use. But, the supervisors deleted that expansion from the approved plan.
Congestion and safe access to business along the highway present challenges the plan seeks to address with parallel service roads and bridges over Route 15/29.
I’m hoping this plan moves and that we are successful in developing an Opal that everybody wants to see.
— Supervisor Chester Stribling
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
After a year of deliberations — at times a war of words — Fauquier County has a new plan for Opal.

The busy crossroads of Routes 15/29 and 17, seven miles south of Warrenton, provides great challenges and opportunities, according to county officials.

More than 40,000 vehicles a day pass through Opal.

Some wildly successful businesses, such as Clark Brothers Gun Shop and the Sheetz convenience store, attract constant streams of customers.

But, Opal also has dangerous traffic congestion, no public water system and properties ripe for redevelopment.

The board of supervisors Thursday night voted, 5-0, to adopt a 33-page plan designed to transform Opal into an attractive, safe economic engine. (See plan at bottom of story.)

“I’m hoping this plan moves and that we are successful in developing an Opal that everybody wants to see,” Supervisor Chester Stribling (Lee District) said just before the vote.

But, the Opal Service District Plan traveled a controversial road to approval.

Because he represents most of the 892-acre district, Supervisor Lee Sherbeyn (Cedar Run) in January 2013 got to appoint a committee to draft the plan.

Mr. Sherbeyn limited membership to those who own property in the district — rankling nearby homeowners, civic activists and at least one fellow supervisor. Typically, Fauquier opens service district study committees to all interested citizens.

Working with planners and consultants, the Opal committee drafted a plan that focused on transportation improvements, highway-related business development, fast-track approvals for new buildings, provision of central water and the addition of 100 acres, slated for “light industrial” use, west of the crossroads on Opal Road.

The potential service district expansion particularly concerned homeowners in subdivisions west of Opal, in Marshall District.

The county planning commission and its staff last fall recommended significant changes to the committee’s plan, including removal of that 100-acre property, elimination of reference to drive-thru restaurants and the additions of architectural guidelines, trails and landscaping.

Members of the committee objected to the changes and Mr. Sherbeyn also criticized them.

“I feel like we need to respect the (commercial) property owners,” the Cedar Run supervisor said Thursday morning in a final push to resurrect the commercial property owners’ plan. “I’d like to make it very clear that I don’t believe this plan is detrimental to Fauquier County . . . .

“These are responsible individuals, who want to be good neighbors. I don’t think we should bring everyone in and tell them whether their houses should be one or two stories with attached garages or garages that are not attached.”

Supervisor Peter Schwartz (Marshall) expressed an opposing view.

“I completely disagree that this was a fair or open process,” Mr. Schwartz said. “It is absolutely clear to me that the property owners (outside service district) were made to be or feel to be second-class citizens.

“The decisions we make here will affect the value of all their properties.”

Mr. Schwartz noted that all other district planning committees welcomed anyone who wanted to participate.

“Shame on us for not insisting it took place this way,” he said.

That testy exchange took place during the board’s “work session” Thursday morning.

By the night meeting, however, the supervisors had reached consensus.

They unanimously approved the plan, which retains most of the committee’s recommendations but removes the 100-acre expansion.

“I think we hammered out a very good compromise,” Chris Granger (Center) said. “It sets the stage for something good . . . .

“This board fandangled our budget to get six-point-five million dollars in there for water (in Opal). . . . This board wants to see economic development.”

The plan includes bridges across Routes 15/29 to connect the east and west sides of Opal, along with a focus on hotels, restaurants and other businesses that would appeal to motorists, thousands of them traveling between Interstate 81 to the west and I-95 to the east.

For the first time, Opal would get sidewalks and service roads, parallel to the highway, to allow better movement within the district.

With the Panama Canal’s pending expansion, state and local officials expect increased shipping volume through the Port of Hampton Roads and thus truck traffic through Opal.

Fauquier officials hope the plan will help the county “capture” more revenue related to all that traffic.

Opal Plan as Amended at BOS Worksession 04102013 by Fauquier Now


Member comments
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meckert · April 16, 2014 at 11:14 am
They were caught...per discussion with Sheriff Deputy. Technically...you can say there was no proof they were involved with my loss...but they were stealing the same stuff from others over 2-3 days and in the same area.

Criminals want easy/quick access. Putting more roads in the woods/fields behind my home and the other neighbors bordering the Opal Service District will allow for quickly access for criminals. NOT residents as you mentioned. There is not any residential development in the Service District.

...and there lies part of the problem. Opal is divided up into 3 Magisterial Districts. I live in Marshall district (Mr. Schwartz). Opal has been in 2 or 3 districts over the past 20+ years. I did write letters to all the Supervisors on the Opal Service District plan. I am mostly satisfied with the results. NO more fees!!
Anton Afterwit · April 16, 2014 at 9:03 am
meckert - From your explanation it does not sound like they caught the individuals who broke into your shed. If they did not have any evidence the people caught in the other crimes were the ones who broke into your shed to link them to your particular case, how do you know they are the ones that did it? If they never found your belongings, how can they tie the crime to anyone in particular? Did they close your case without a conviction?

I still don't understand why you equate development to crime. If they came onto your property before the area has been developed, how will building on the property increase the chances your shed will be broken into again? Easier access? Using that thinking we should destroy all the Interstates because they make access to other areas easier and therefore there can be more crime.

You stated, "You seem to assume too much about some people." In this case I think the statement reflects your own insecurities about people. You are advocating that if more people come to the area that crime will go up, so you must be assuming that some of them may be criminals. I think that you are assuming the worst in people rather than thinking the best and brightest will come.

If you have concerns about transportation or security impacts, waiting until after the development has occurred is not the time to deal with it. Contact your Supervisor (Mr. Sherbeyn) and see if there are ways to address your concerns while the planning is underway. Maybe by planning a bypass your concern of rapid travel to other areas can be accommodated. Maybe by putting a required impact fee into the plan, they can specifically allocate funds for increased law enforcement in the area.

I am sure if you approach it with the courtesy shown here along with fact based arguments rather than emotion, I am sure Mr. Sherbeyn will be willing to listen. He just might be able to help.
meckert · April 16, 2014 at 6:01 am
Anton...

Yes...Locks...security lighting...dogs...etc... If a criminal wants in, he/she will get in. There was a crime spree that weekend with the same MO for several others in the county...i.e. sheds broken into small equipment & gas stolen. They were caught due to stolen items (not mine) found in their home. Mine were probably pawned quickly for drug money. They came in from the current "Opal Service District"...per trail of destroyed crops in the field...with more development...there will be easier access to properties along the district.

I really have no concerns about the changes inside the current Opal Service district. I just did not like the addition of land to expand for crime reasons and lack of definition of "light industrial". That was my big concern.

...and no...I am not against everything. You seem to assume too much about some people.

If the plan for Opal comes to fruition and I can't get through the area easily, I will deal with it by making the best decision for myself.

Mike

Anton Afterwit · April 15, 2014 at 5:49 pm
meckert - That is terrible that two people broke into your shed and stole several hundred $$ of equipment and gasoline. But your story is not unique. It happens all across the county. I have many friends who have cabins in the woods in the middle of nowhere and they have problems with people breaking in and stealing. So distance from neighbors does not correlate to security.

I am a little confused though. If the Sheriff caught them, how were they convicted without evidence such as your stolen items? And if they were convicted, why did the court not require restitution? I think those are bigger issues to deal with rather than how close your neighbors are.

Let us ask the important question. Knowing that there are dishonest people in the world, what steps have you taken to ensure the security of your property? Have you put a good lock on the shed? Is the area lighted? Is the area close to your house? Do you have real or fake security cameras? Do you have a dog? Thieves are lazy and if they have to skirt lights, locks, alarm systems, deadbolts, security cameras or worry about dogs, they will often pass you up and move on to a neighbor. But criminals are usually stupid so even the most obvious display of cameras will not stop them from walking into a grocery store without pants on and stealing a box of wine.

I am not sure I can agree with you that others outside the boundaries of the area should have a voice or vote other than in the public forums. Let the owners within the boundaries decide what they want, and then (as it happened), they can make their plans public for comment. Just because they open it for comment though does not mean they must change their desires to suit the plans of others. That would be like folks from Fairfax coming to Fauquier to tell us how things should be done.

I will agree though that if your property is non-agricultural and immediately abuts to the proposed area for zoning exemption that you should be able to weigh in on it. Since that proposal was removed, I guess there is nothing more to discuss on that matter though.

Understand that all planning, zoning, and use actions have always been political. The Virginia legislature tried to address the issue by allowing by-right uses. This limits the political patronage from deciding who can and cannot do what. It forces the politicians to allow the use within the approved zoning regulations. Of course when it comes to exceptions, that is where the politicians will weigh in to support their friends, just as it always has been.

You complain about the residents on the western side of Opal being disenfranchised because they did not have a vote in what the people within the boundaries of Opal Proper (or the Opal Gateway district) want to do. You bemoan the fact that the speed of travel to another city will be disrupted because the people in Opal want to have city streets. Then maybe the solution might be to work with the individuals who are doing the planning to propose a bypass that would allow high speed travel around the area. Remember, high speed travel and even travel on the roads is not a right, it is a privilege.

As someone told Representative Cummings and Senator Harry Reid, “me thinks thou protest too much, so your motives are starting to come into question.” If you have ideas that will allow the owners in the area to achieve their desires while allowing you to meet your desires, then maybe suggest specific recommendations. If you don't speak up now on how to meet your travel needs better for the future, then I guess you will have to traverse city streets. And if you don't request that a portion of money generated from the changes specifically be designated for increased Sheriff Deputy patrols for your area, then I guess you will not have increased security.

As the Democrats like to tell the Republicans, stop being Anti-Everything. Just saying NO to all development and growth is not the answer. You can continue to tilt against the windmills, but I think Mr. Quixote would agree that this is not a wise or profitable endeavor.
meckert · April 15, 2014 at 12:48 pm
Anton...

Last Fall at least 2 people broke into my shed and stole several hundred $$ of equipment and gasoline. More development will allow quicker access to the properties behind the development...there is your crime. BTW...Sheriff caught them, but never recovered my equipment.

Our biggest issue was the addition of the ~100 acres of land that is residential/farm, the designation of "light industrial" and not allowing residents in the area a voice. The supervisors agree the process of not including residents around the service district was a mistake. I have asked many about the "light industrial", but nobody can tell us what that means. It will affect our property values, so YES I should of been advised of what was happening. We were promised signs advertising the planning commission and board of supervisors meeting...NOTHING!

The Plains is 20 miles from Opal...I am on the line. BIG difference!!

There is so much open space, why would you need to add ~100 acres. This land has an interesting history going back into the mid 90s when Liberty HS was built...do your research. I am convinced there were political favors involved in the process.

Another issue is the eventual disenfranchising of the residents on the western side of Opal. It will be nearly impossible to get to Bealeton without driving through a maze of "city" streets. It'll be quicker to go to Warrenton via Rt. 687 and Springs Road.

Mike

Anton Afterwit · April 14, 2014 at 1:30 pm
Amy Walsh - Then you are free to leave (what a great country we live in).

Amy Walsh, meckert, graybeard - I see you are trying to scare everyone into being against the project using the imaginary crime that will come from development. There is no correlation between development and crime. If you have some legitimate sources, please share them. However, there is a direct link between poverty and crime (http://mtbi.asu.edu/downloads/Document8.pdf). I would think you would be more concerned about ensuring there is an opportunity for the people in the area to earn more money than to become locked into an area where there are no job opportunities.

You bemoan the fact that the property owners of this area have defined for themselves how they want to develope the area. Fredrick Engles well documented how the widening of class differences and increased exploitation of the working class became more brutalized, exploited and demoralized as they lost any real control over their lives, therefore their resentment grew and resulted in an increased crime rate. Your attempts to remove the ability of the local residents and property owerns could have disastrous effects.

You are upset that membership in the planning committee was limited to only those who owned property in the district. What is wrong with that? Do you suppose it is fair for the people in The Plains to tell the people in Opal what they can and cannot do with their property? Aren't you the same group that keeps saying if you don't own property in Warrenton that you have no voice in the development of property within the Warrenton town limits? Seems a little hypocritical to me.

Seems only right that we allow the property owners of Opal determine what they want their future to look like. If they feel like they need more commercial space for their area, then they should be able to address the zoning needs of their area. Why should they have to drive to another part of the County to get their car serviced, purchase groceries, purchase dry goods, or even purchase a new car.
Amy Walsh - Then you are free to leave (what a great country we live in).

Amy Walsh, meckert, graybeard - I see you are trying to scare everyone into being against the project using the imaginary crime that will come from development. There is no correlation between development and crime. If you have some legitimate sources, please share them. However, there is a direct link between poverty and crime (http://mtbi.asu.edu/downloads/Document8.pdf). I would think you would be more concerned about ensuring there is an opportunity for the people in the area to earn more money than to become locked into an area where there are no job opportunities.

You bemoan the fact that the property owners of this area have defined for themselves how they want to develop the area. Fredrick Engles well documented how the widening of class differences and increased exploitation of the working class became more brutalized, exploited and demoralized as they lost any real control over their lives; therefore their resentment grew and resulted in an increased crime rate. Your attempts to remove the ability of the local residents and property owners could have disastrous effects.

You are upset that membership in the planning committee was limited to only those who owned property in the district. What is wrong with that? Do you suppose it is fair for the people in The Plains to tell the people in Opal what they can and cannot do with their property? Aren't you the same group that keeps saying if you don't own property in Warrenton that you have no voice in the development of property within the Warrenton town limits? Seems a little hypocritical to me.

Seems only right that we allow the property owners of Opal determine what they want their future to look like. If they feel like they need more commercial space for their area, then they should be able to address the zoning needs of their area. Why should they have to drive to another part of the County to get their car serviced, purchase groceries, purchase dry goods, or even purchase a new car?

So please keep the anti-growth scare tactics of increased crime out of the discussion. Let the people who own property there decide for themselves what they want and need.
graybeard · April 13, 2014 at 3:11 pm
These "property owners" of the land slated for Opal Service District business plan (The Committee)...do these owners actually live on the land they own? will their everyday lives be impacted by the construction, traffic, taxes, and overall lower quality of life (crime, noise, artificial light pollution, etc..)? Or is the Committee made up of those who are only to profit from the development, and not share in the pain OF the development?
Mara_Seaforest · April 13, 2014 at 9:57 am
Most Fauquier citizens who will be most impacted by this plan were excluded from the process. I am angry about that.
meckert · April 12, 2014 at 6:41 am
It was good to see the 100 acre parcel removed...too much uncertainty in the definition of "light industrial". Expect an increase in crime. The final results will completely disenfranchise the citizens on the western side of Rt. 29/17 from a quick access to Bealeton. There is no way I am going to drive through a maze of 25mph "Opal" city streets to shop in Bealeton. It'll be faster to head west on Rt 687 then take Springs Road to Warrenton for shopping...and that's if we fill all the vacant store fronts in Warrenton?
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