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December 11, 2017 · OPINION

The case for approving Vint Hill’s plan amendment

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Fauquier’s board of supervisors will conduct a public hearing Thursday night on a comprehensive plan amendment that would allow Vint Hill Village LLC to seek rezoning for an additional 338 dwellings on the former Army base near New Baltimore.
By Lauren Stubbs
Warrenton

In consideration of the proposed amendment to the Vint Hill comprehensive plan and the ensuing concerns about it, I feel it necessary to address these concerns, which are points of confusion and to share what are the most obvious reasons for wholeheartedly supporting this amendment in interest as a resident of the Vint Hill area and a part of this community.

First of all, the amendment to the plan is in an effort to preserve the integrity of Vint Hill. The amendment proposes three things, a residential component within a half a mile radius of the core of the village center which is currently eligible for industrial/commercial development, the Village Center relocation from the OVH data center, back to the “main street” (Aiken Drive), where a number of businesses already exist and the removal of the “blue dot” designating a school site from the old comprehensive plan where it now exists.

The first invalid concern against those amendments is changing the industrial/commercial site to that of residential. The biggest issue I see with the argument against a residential site (of no more than 338 homes) is that this area will not remain trees and fields. That has never been in the county’s plan since the army base shut down and is not going to be the future of that area whether Vint Hill develops it or not.

The reality is that buildings are going to go there; it’s up to us to decide whether we want them to be a mixture of housing (which would be decided with the community after a formal rezoning) or an industrial/commercial site (such as a parking garage, self-storage, heavy equipment, etc.). The reality is that this space can be pocket parks, winding walking paths and housing, or something that is an eyesore for everyone and does nothing to bring the community together.

The fact is that very few of the existing homes meet the criterion in the existing comprehensive plan for a successful Village Center, that they be within 10 minutes/one half mile from that Village Center. The only way to make the Village Center successful, therefore, is to add the proposed amount of housing (again, exceeding no more than 388 total). In addition, a main concern is that this amendment is a rezoning, when in fact it is just an amendment to the comprehensive plan and gives no right for immediate building.

Also, although the proposal calls for 60 acres to be rezoned, but 30 will be preserved and set aside for open space, allowing for as many trees to be preserved as possible and green space to be available to all. Two market analysis’ studies have been commissioned at the request of Vint Hill Village that show a need for homes in the $350,000 range, which is what is meant when using the terms “affordable housing” in the proposed amendment. A good number of the other viable housing developments meant for this service district have been since bought and preserved, already developed, or currently being developed (with less houses than they were designated for). Also, in regards to property value, having industrial space in your backyard will decrease your property value, while residential that is respectfully constructed will increase it.

The concerns voiced about the Village Center being moved are unfounded for several reasons. First of all, the current location of the Village Center is technically on top of the OVH data center. In other words, a space that is neither useable nor practical as a Village Center.

There is no one who doubts that the Village Center makes sense along Aiken Drive, which could and should make for a perfect walkable main street. The existing plan calls for a theatre (already there), restaurants (Covert Cafe is one and there are spaces for several more), a post office, a barber shop and an inn, among others.

These businesses already exist, but there is potential for so much more, and the county has agreed that it wants it to be. The main problem these businesses currently face is that they do not have community-based, daily patronage; which is in contrast with the misconception that they would want to draw from Gainesville, Warrenton or Bristow.

Without this community, these businesses have and will continue to fail. With the amended plan, one would be able to easily take an evening stroll through the village, starting at the dog park (which would be enlarged with the proposed plan), moving down the street visiting shops along the way, or stopping by the improved community park and ending up at Old Bust Head for a beer.

Speaking of Old Bust Head and other businesses on that end, they have all proven to be flourishing at present and will only extend beyond their point of sustainability given additional foot traffic. It is wrong to say that this proposal will create competition that will cripple these businesses, because what they need is this increased foot traffic, as well as the introduction of complementary businesses that will increase the overall commercial vibrancy by diversifying points of attraction.

In addition, it is Vint Hill’s vision that this diversification be one in sync with the community-based, locally owned, operated, and supported business model, not corporate chains invading the area.

Another point of confusion about the proposed amendment is the relocation of a “school site.” The school site was long ago swapped with the county for land that was used to build Auburn Middle School in 2005. In 2002, the county passed a zoning ordinance formalizing the agreement and stating the site is no longer necessary. Today there is an industrial building on the site. All Vint Hill is seeking to do is remove the outdated school site from the comprehensive plan map. Beyond that, schools in the area are factually under-enrolled and are projected to decline significantly in enrollment in the next 10 years.

Similarly, schools, like many other public service entities (police and fire departments, etc., who by the way don’t meet the income profile for affordable housing and therefore typically live out of the county), will suffer as a result of not gaining the local residential and commercial tax base they depend on that goes along with the amendment moving forward, so that the entire Vint Hill area is better funded via commercial, property, and personal income tax that would be created with the thoughtful, intentional growth of this community.

Where infrastructure is concerned, there is another misconception. For example, roads, power, water/sewage, etc., for the most part would not affect cost to the county.

Vint Hill Village has thus far paid for infrastructure development (which can be seen in the road improvement on Kennedy Road and Aiken Drive). In addition, the water/sewer is privately owned and maintained by Vint Hill Village.

In summation, the proposed amendment best serves the residents of Vint Hill and greater Fauquier County, is in keeping with the original stated purposes of the comprehensive plan and is extremely preferable to the alternative of uncoordinated industrial growth. I want to see a place where my children can ride their bikes down the street and get an ice cream cone, where my husband and I can grab appetizers and see a movie on a Thursday evening, where a real sense of community is felt by all. This is an historic space that should be thoughtfully preserved for future generations to enjoy, not cut apart for big industry to move in.

If you feel the same, please make your voice heard by joining me at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, for the board of supervisors meeting so we can ensure the vote on this amendment goes through. In addition, please, feel free to share these points with your friends and neighbors so that we can get the real facts out in the open.

Here’s a link to a petition supporting approval.

The writer worked as the director of community development for Brookside Communities LLC from September 2009 to October 2011. That company and Vint Hill Village LLC have some of the same owners.
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martinkus · December 12, 2017 at 2:27 pm
If the author of this article is tied to Ed Moore by blood, she should be transparent about it! If true, this would be another example of how developers can be dishonest about communicating to the general public. Sad. isn't it?
martinkus · December 11, 2017 at 7:52 pm
Well said, Ms. Marshall! Ed Moore and his cronies are still trying to screw us in Fauquier County!
Rebekah Marshall · December 11, 2017 at 2:17 pm
How nice of Mr Moore to send his daughter to “educate” us all on what the proposed amendment change in Vint Hill means. Unfortunately, much of what they are trying to sell us is being refuted by independent sources. For example, they assert a population decline in our schools. However, the current school projections actually show an increase in students over the next 10 years with Greenville and C.Hunter Ritchie, the two schools that would be impacted most by this amendment change, showing major gains in student population. These numbers don’t even account for the houses being proposed by Vint Hill with this amendment and subsequent rezoning. If this is approved, get ready for overcrowded classrooms and a redistricting merry-go-round.
https://www.fcps1.org/cms/lib/VA01918647/Centricity/Domain/45/FINAL -- SY2018-19 Enrollment thru 2027-28.pdf
They also assert that having industrial land in your backyard will affect your property value. I take exception with this as well. Many good businesses are relocating here, including OVH, Old Bust Head, a couple of schools. They are zoned PCID. In fact there is PCID zoning in my backyard, and do you know what is going there? The Puller Veterans Center. I am proud of that. Are they contending that this usage of land is a detriment to our community? Additionally, 5+ acres of land affected by a potential PCID change, land that backs to Brookside, is currently owned by a church. A church in your backyard, does that negatively affect your property value?
You know what will effect your property value? 497 more homes than are currently approved in the Vint Hill area. That is the number of new homes Fauquier County staff believes are possible if this amendment is approved as indicated in their staff report located on the meeting agenda site (not 338 Vint Hill Villages asserts). http://agenda.fauquiercounty.gov/Bluesheet.aspx?ItemID=5756&MeetingID=145
This is in addition to the approximately 1,000 buildable residential lots County Staff believe available in the New Baltimore Service District. One must keep this in mind when thinking of property tax rates. In fact, according to the Chairman for the Fauquier County Taxpayers Association, the addition of homes and the removal of commercial land is a tax negative to the county. You know what that means? Higher property taxes to provide services to residents. http://www.fauquier.com/opinion/guest-opinion-proposed-vint-hill-village-center-bringing-gainesville-to/article_53db2788-db48-11e7-9bc0-376e11f8111b.html
So excuse me while I don’t believe the spin machine from Vint Hill Villages and their families as to what is best for me and my family. Independent sources, sources that don’t stand to profit in the millions from this amendment, on the back of current Fauquier residents, are refuting their claims with their facts. If you are concerned about the major growth implications from this amendment and the removal of shovel ready commercial land, I urge you to stand with Vint Hill residents and sign our petition http://chn.ge/2Bo1MWU and to email your Supervisor voicing your opposition at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
4Virginia · December 11, 2017 at 1:27 pm
Francis81 —EXACTLY!! By-right will come in elsewhere & we can’t stop it . Don’t approve any new & additional housing that we can prevent !!
VintHillDad · December 11, 2017 at 1:25 pm
I understand from a Facebook post that the author might also the daughter of the President of Vint Hill Village LLC. If that is true, it should be disclosed. if in fact it is true, it seems to be purposefully hidden so we not to damage the credibility of the author. That would be truly sad.
fauquiermeow · December 11, 2017 at 1:05 pm
How about we first focus of getting VDOT to come up with valid fixes for the multiple problem spots along 29 that would only intensify with adding anything in Vint Hill.
francis81 · December 11, 2017 at 12:39 pm
No more houses = not realistic for a county with a population that has grown, and is growing, in double-digit percentages. (You can look it up.) The question re houses isn't IF, but HOW, HOW MANY, and WHERE. There will be demand, and houses will be built (by-right if nothing else)...Maybe Vint Hill's plan is smart, maybe it's not. But the idea that it's not right because it proposes housing shows no recognition of reality. Perhaps the right question to ask is, if the Supervisors are going to approve 300 houses, should they be there, or spread out elsewhere in the county?
4Virginia · December 11, 2017 at 12:17 pm
What part of “NO MORE HOUSES” is difficult to understand ??!! The county can’t afford it. Homes are revenue-negative for the county. Roads, police, fire, rescue, & schools are over their limit already & too costly. Do you really want your taxes to increase? Tell your supervisors “NO”!
Observer · December 11, 2017 at 10:37 am
You could have just said: I want to make more money and screw the county and people who live there. At least that would be honest.
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