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September 22, 2017

Planners nix Vint Hill “village center” proposal

Fauquier’s planning commission opposes conversion of commercial/industrial property at Vint Hill to residential use.
I think the number of houses is extreme. The number of acres that you’re taking away from the industrial, I also believe is too high.
— Planning Commissioner Matthew Smith
Public Hearing
• Topic: Comprehensive plan amendment for 102 acres at Vint Hill

• When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21

• Agency: Fauquier County Planning Commission

• Where: Warren Green Building, 10 Hotel St., Warrenton

• Speakers: Eight — six against, two in support, including applicant’s representative.

• Length: About 33 minutes.

• Issues: Traffic, school crowding, residential development 

• Applicant: Vint Hill Village LLC

• Landowners: Vint Hill Village LLC; Dreamweaver Holding Co. LLC; Vint Hill Entertainment LLC; Building 2500 LLC; Impact Area #8 LLC; Farm Station LLC; Fauquier County; Triumph Baptist Church; Building 2400 LLC. 

• Proposal: The applicant seeks comprehensive plan approval to relocate the 40.2-acre “village center;” rezone 61.9 acres from Planned Commercial Industrial Development to Planned Residential Development, which would allow up to six dwellings per acre; remove from the Vint Hill plan a 40-acre middle school site. A land swap years ago led to the construction of Auburn Middle School on nearby Riley Road. 

• Background: After a May 18 public hearing, the planning commission postponed action to give the applicant more time to provide additional information and further discuss the proposal with staff. Ten people spoke during that hearing — eight in favor and two against the proposal.

• Next: The board of supervisors, which has final authority, will hold a work session and public hearing on the proposal.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
One Fauquier planning commissioner called the proposal “premature.”

Another described an aspect of Vint Hill Village LLC’s comprehensive plan amendment request as “extreme.”

After a 33-minute public hearing Thursday night, the five-member commission unanimously recommended denial of Vint Hill Village’s proposal to potentially add up to 372 homes and relocate a planned “village center” at the former Army base near New Baltimore.

Vint Hill Village’s “concept” for the project also includes 33,800 square feet of commercial space.

Eight people spoke at the public hearing — the second in five months on the project. Six opposed and two, including Vint Hill Village’s lawyer, backed the proposal.

Neighbors expressed concern about the effects new homes would have on schools and roads.

They also rejected Vint Hill Village’s argument that a “modest” market exists for commercial and industrial uses and that such zoning therefore should be substituted largely with homes, which would boost the area’s market for retail.

About two decades ago, the Vint Hill Economic Development Authority bought the former base for $925,000, with a mission to expand Fauquier’s tax base and to create an employment center to replace the 3,000 military and contractor jobs lost when the Army left.

“That’s the entire purpose for the existence of Vint Hill,” said Troy Marshall, president of the Vint Hill Homeowners Association, whose board unanimously voted against the application. “The Vint Hill proposal does not support that mission in any way.”

No “compelling reason” exists to approve the Vint Hill Village request, Piedmont Environmental Council representative Julie Bolthouse said.

Contrasting the proposal with the county comprehensive plan’s intent for New Baltimore, Ms. Bolthouse said: “It completely alters the purpose and vision for the Vint Hill area.”

While retailers may be struggling to survive at Vint Hill, the market there for industrial uses appears “to be thriving,” she added.

Kirk Vetter, an owner of">Gaithersburg Architectural Millwork at Vint Hill, believes the proposal will produce affordable housing for some his employees.

“It’s going to be beneficial, because it will allow people that are working for us to be able to live in Fauquier,” Mr. Vetter told the commission.

Millwork employees commute from Northern Virginia and counties as far south as Orange, he said.

“But nobody lives in Fauquier, because they can’t afford” real estate here, Mr. Vetter explained.

Vint Hill Village LLC’s comprehensive plan amendment seeks to:

• Re-designate a portion of 61.9 acres at Aiken Drive and Kennedy Road from Planned Industrial Commercial Development to Planned Residential Development. That would allow a maximum 372 new dwellings.

Vint Hill Village’s “concept” for the project shows 338 homes.

• Relocate a planned, 40.2-acre “Village Center” area adjacent to the 61.9-acre parcel. Vint Hill Village has submitted a separate zoning ordinance amendment that would allow up to 125 second- and third-floor apartments over commercial space and free-standing condominiums.

A public hearing on that application will not take place until the comprehensive plan amendment request gets resolved.

Vint Hill already has 324 homes. The property also has zoning for another 250 assisted living and independent units for senior citizens that can be built at the former 701-acre Army base.

If the county board of supervisors approves the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance text amendment requests as proposed, Vint Hill could have up to 1,071 homes.

Addressing a housekeeping matter, the proposed comprehensive plan amendment also seeks to remove from the Vint Hill plan a 40-acre middle school site. A land swap years ago led to the construction of Auburn Middle School on nearby Riley Road. 

Northern Virginia lawyer John Foote represents Vint Hill Village.

“There’s never been a proposal to develop this area as industrial or commercial,” said Mr. Foote, attempting to make a case for re-designating a portion of the 61.9-acre site for residential use.

He also described the property’s commercial and industrial zoning as incompatible with nearby subdivisions.

Additionally, because the parcel has wetlands “through the middle of it,” the property would be more suited to residential development rather than “large, pad commercial sites,” Mr. Foote said.

He suggested more homes would be a “potential solution” to Vint Hill’s struggle to establish a vibrant retail base.

“You don’t have a sufficient residential base at or near Vint Hill,” Mr. Foote said. “You just don’t. Commerce cannot survive in a population vacuum. . . .

“The solution is people. . . . It needs to be addressed with people, and people living in places people need to live.”

Fauquier’s Economic Development Department believes the 61.9-acre site should be developed for commercial and industrial uses.

Mark Knisely, who lives near Vint Hill, disagrees.

“You can go into any urban center — the most densely populated urban centers, the most affluent places — and you will see vacant retail spaces everywhere,” Mr. Knisely said. “It’s indicative of a broader trend in retail.”

One speaker speculated that online competition, the property’s location and the inability of some Vint Hill shops to find a market for their products may account for the area’s sluggish retail performance.

Moments before voting, planning commission Chairwoman Adrienne Garreau (Scott District) said it would be “premature” to change the 61.9-acre parcel’s designation for Planned Industrial Commercial Development to Planned Residential Development.

“It’s an economic development area,” said Mrs. Garreau, who represents the Vint Hill area. “It’s an area we want to see developed to provide a larger tax base.”

“I think the number of houses is extreme,” Planning Commissioner Matthew Smith (Cedar Run) said of the requested comprehensive plan amendment, which would allow a potential 372 new homes if approved as proposed. “The number of acres that you’re taking away from the industrial, I also believe is too high.”

Mr. Foote and Vint Hill Village President Ed Moore declined to comment after the commission’s vote.

The Fauquier Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development/Legislative Committee will meet at 4 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 28, to decide whether it will endorse Vint Hill Village’s proposal.

Vint Hill Comp Plan Agenda Item by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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francis81 · September 27, 2017 at 2:32 pm
School capacity is not an issue, according the county's own calculations: SY2017-18 Enrollment thru 2026-27.pdf

...this shows that 3 of the 4 schools in the area will decline in enrollment in the next decade, and the one that will grow, Ritchie, will be at 88%

The issue is 300 more homes on the edge of Brookside vs keeping the land, which sits on Brookside's doorstep, industrial. It won't stay undeveloped.

The county says in its own planning documents that growth should be focused in service districts, and Vint Hill is the best property in the largest district for this. The US census says Fauquier's population will be 28% more in 2030 than it was in 2010--people want to live here, and while you can control how much sprawl there is, you can't just shut them out at the Prince William line. Putting homes here, vs out in a field outside a service district, seems to make sense. Plus they have their own water and sewer at Vint Hill.

With the care center and OVH coming, there will be demand for housing--for employees--besides single-family homes. Why not put some of it right in the community, and eliminate an industrial lot at the same time?

This seems like a solid plan to focus a bit of development in an area ripe for it, and have it concentrated with other development (Brookside).
A_Local_Man · September 26, 2017 at 12:45 pm
Please no more industrial in Vint Hill. There are more than enough trucks and wreckers already which should transfer to nearby Bristow/Manassas where it already exists with much better road access. Families that live in the Vint Hill area, visitors to the nursing home, and the employees of the existing and incoming businesses would be perfect supporters of local businesses & restaurants. If you add even more residents with housing that costs less it's a win for all. You don't give up on local because shopping has changed due to online, but as Fauquier is still very rural, i don't see it changing all that much for a long time until the broadband issue is solved anyhow.
BJ · September 23, 2017 at 10:41 pm
Yet the Board of Supervisors thinks that mess along Walker Drive is a GOOD idea?? Even without a iron clad contract on a movie theatre and bowling alley they are pushing this through (or will if the lawsuit of the neighbors is denied) and not building affordable housing AGAIN.
citizen observer · September 23, 2017 at 8:40 pm
The developers should have learned from the Warrenton Village developers. You have to throw something in that you never intend to build, like a movie theater and bowling alley, to get everyone behind it.
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