September 12, 2020
Vint Hill apartments project wins county board approval
File Photos/Lawrence Emerson
Echelon Resources Inc. plans to invest about $25 million to covert the Cold War-era Army barracks into 183 one- and two-bedroom apartments.
The apartments will rent for about $1,000 to $1,500 per month, according to the developer.
To simply tear this down and put up more flex-office space would be really erasing not just history, but a unique opportunity to preserve something that’s very special to the community.
— Scott District Supervisor Holder Trumbo
• Topic: Rezoning application to amend the concept development plan to allow rehabilitation of two vacant Army barracks on 10.9 acres at Vint Hill for up to 200 one- and two-bedroom apartments.
• When: 7:24 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10.
• Where: Warren Green Building, 10 Hotel St., Warrenton.
• Agency: Fauquier County Board of Supervisors.
• Action: Five-member board unanimously approved the application.
• Length: About 25 minutes.
• Speakers: Eleven, with 10 supporting and one opposed to more housing at Vint Hill.
• Issues: Housing diversity, rehabilitation of vacant Army barracks, additional residential units.
• Applicants: VHL East LLC and VHL West LLC.
• Landowners: Parkside Village LLC and Vint Hill Village LLC.
• Next: The project also requires special exception permit approval. That permit review process involves public hearings before the planning commission and the board, which has final authority.
Fauquier’s board of supervisors Thursday unanimously approved a plan to turn the former Army barracks at Vint Hill into as many as 200 apartments.
After about a 25-minute public hearing Sept. 10, the board backed VHL East LLC and VHL West LLC’s request to rezone 10.9 acres at Sigler Road and Bludau Drive for the proposed use.
The site lies at the southwest corner of the approximately 700-acre former Army base near New Baltimore.
In the end, the Vint Hill Lofts project probably will feature 183 one- and two-bedroom units, according to developer Edwin Gaskin, president of Echelon Resources Inc. based in South Boston, near Danville and the North Carolina border.
Apartments in the Cold War-era brick structures would rent from about $1,000 to $1,500 per month. Some would be “discounted for teachers and emergency responders,” according to the application.
Ten people, including Mr. Gaskin, spoke in support of the project at the Thursday hearing. Objecting, one Vint Hill resident expressed concern that it could lead to the residential redevelopment of other old buildings there.
Mr. Gaskin kept his remarks brief because he believes “the details of the project are pretty well known.”
But, “we’ve had a tremendous outpouring of support from citizens, HOAs, the Piedmont Environmental Association (and) Citizens For Fauquier County,” he told the supervisors.
The Fauquier Chamber also endorsed the project.
Tim Hoffman serves as president of the approximately 215-home Vint Hill Homeowners Association.
Four of association’s five board members, including him, “adamantly” support the apartment project, Mr. Hoffman told the supervisors.
“It’s an eyesore,” he said of the vacant and neglected barracks. “It needs to be replaced. It will provide a valuable resource for the young people in this community who need housing.”
Mary Page, who lives near the project site, represents Citizens For Fauquier County, a nonprofit group that focuses on conservation and land-use issues.
“We’re all very excited to see this come forward,” because the project will allow the rehabilitation of a historic structure that will “provide the type of housing we sorely need. . . . It’s great stuff. Glad to see it come.”
Lynne Richman Bell serves as co-chairperson of the Fauquier Chamber’s Economic and Legislative Committee.
The Vint Hill Lofts will help diversify the county’s housing stock, Ms. Bell said.
It also will “fill in some gaps, I believe, in our economy,” she said. “The types of folks that will likely live in the facility will be those that are more likely to have a disposable income, which we also hope they will spend in the community.”
Ike Broaddus and his family own the Old Bust Head Brewing Co. and 20 acres of mixed-use property at Vint Hill.
“I believe firmly that housing is the highest and best use” of the former barracks, Mr. Broaddus said.
The cost of removing them would be prohibitive, he said.
“You’d have to pay someone to take the land to tear down” the barracks, Mr. Broaddus said. “And because of that,” they would remain in a state of disrepair until someone repurposed them for housing.
Jim Mills has lived at Vint Hill for 12 years.
Opposed to the apartment project, he and others believed no additional housing would be allowed at Vint Hill, Mr. Mills said.
He worries The Vint Lofts’ approval might make it easier for others to convert “any historic building” on the former Army base into housing.
“That’s the fear,” Mr. Mills said. “We’re going to have a lot more houses than we bargained for.”
Supervisor Holder Trumbo, whose Scott District includes the project site, spoke of his aversion for residential rezonings.
But, the barracks project means the preservation of Vint Hill’s “unique history,” Mr. Trumbo said moments before the vote.
“To simply tear this down and put up more flex-office space would be really erasing not just history, but a unique opportunity to preserve something that’s very special to the community,” he said.
Mr. Trumbo added: “The feedback I’ve received from the folks who have chosen to speak up has been running strongly in favor of this.”
The Scott District supervisor stressed that the project will get further scrutiny because it requires special exception permit approval. That permit review process involves public hearings before the Fauquier County Planning Commission and the supervisors, who will make the final decision.
The planning commission last month unanimously recommended approval The Vint Hill Lofts’ rezoning application
Mr. Gaskin put The Vint Hill Lofts’ development cost at more than $25 million. Federal and Virginia historic rehabilitation tax credits will be used to finance the project.
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BestKeptSecrets · September 13, 2020 at 1:33 pm
This is long overdue. Sorely needed. Fauquier County has too long of a waiting list for subsidized housing. Seniors do not have access to assisted living in this area if they are poor. Typical cost of assisted living in the county is over $5000. Fauquier County poor seniors have to opt to live in Crozet, Va or Manassas, Birmingham Green. Seniors do not have resources in the county. Professionals who work here often have to resign and depart the area if their elderly parents need assistance or affordable senior apartments. This is very sad for the elderly. If you are living on a fixed income, you got to move to survive.
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