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July 22, 2020

Warrenton master plan praised, panned at hearing

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
During Tuesday’s public hearing, Lynette Lewis tells the planning commission that the draft Warrenton 2040 document no longer provides protection for Oliver City, an historically Black neighborhood inside the Eastern Bypass.
I really was prepared to be here until midnight. I really wanted everyone to come out in droves and tell us what they thought.
— Planning commission Chairwoman Susan Rae Helander
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Warrenton’s ambitious draft master plan for the next two decades got mixed reviews Tuesday night.

During a 35-minute public hearing, the town planning commission heard testimony praising the 351-page document’s emphasis on mixed-use development, a range of housing types and economic growth. The commission also heard criticism of the potential for too much development and unclear financial implications.

The six-member commission will conduct another “work session” on the Warrenton 2040 plan at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, and could vote on a recommendation to the town council Aug. 18.

“I really was prepared to be here until midnight,” Chairwoman Susan Rae Helander said just before the commission adjourned at 8:41 p.m. “I really wanted everyone to come out in droves and tell us what they thought.”

Eight people spoke during the hearing, with dozens more submitting comments (at bottom of story) in writing before the meeting. Three speakers praised the draft plan, and five opposed or questioned the document.

Meeting under social distancing guidelines because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commission’s staff brought one speaker at a time into Town Hall and provided live online video of the meeting.

Two years in the making and focusing on economic growth, the plan charts an aggressive path, with Warrenton’s population of about 10,000 increasing to as many as 15,000 residents over the next 20 years. The document contemplates up to 2,102 new residential units, 310,000 square feet of commercial buildings and 480 more hotel rooms.

> Document at bottom of story

It calls for mixed-use redevelopment of four areas: Old Town, Lee Highway, East Shirley Avenue and Broadview/Frost avenues.

The document contemplates a western bypass (Timber Fence and Southern parkways) and expansion of the town’s water and sewer systems. It also focuses on “walkability” and development of more recreational and arts/culture resources.

Fauquier Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Darryl Neher called the draft plan “compelling” and “quite powerful” in its emphasis on job creation and diverse housing throughout the community.

Lynn Bell, executive director of the local Boys & Girls Club and a Fauquier Chamber committee leader, praised the focus on creating more jobs and economic opportunity, “so we are not so dependent on areas outside our community . . . .

“I believe this plan is the beginning of creating that sense of community that also creates that everyday magic.”

Dawn Aruda, a Realtor and town resident, praised the plan for varied housing styles that would allow more retirees to stay in Warrenton.

“I also feel you guys have made it kind of fluid, which is great,” Ms. Aruda said.

But, Piedmont Environmental Council representative Julie Bolthouse suggested the plan lacks important detail in places and called it “dangerous to recruit new residents to support businesses. (The cost of serving those residents) may outpace any sort of revenue gain.”

David Norden, who served 16 years on the town council, criticized the plan for “by-right” zoning in the areas targeted for redevelopment, removing local government’s “leverage” to influence how growth occurs.

“Maybe it should be called the Nina Weissberg or David Dobson Plan,” Mr. Norden said, referencing the owners of two large tracts proposed for major development in recent decades.

A Citizens for Fauquier County board member, he also criticized the plan’s allowances for “five- or six-story buildings” in the Lee Highway redevelopment area, along with a proposed street that would cut through the shopping centers there.

Andrea Jaffrey, Marie Smith and Lynnette Lewis noted the plan — unlike its predecessors — lacks specific protections for Oliver City, an historically Black neighborhood just inside the Eastern Bypass.

Commissioner Ali Zarabi said he and his colleagues need lots of answers to questions citizens have raised before voting on the 20-year plan.

Planning Director Denise Harris said the town “staff is working on getting you those answers.”

Contact “Lou” Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-270-1845.

Warrenton Draft Comprehensi... by Fauquier Now on Scribd

Warrenton Draft Comp Plan Written Comments 7 21 2020 by Fauquier Now on Scribd

Member comments
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BikerFriendlyGal · July 26, 2020 at 9:57 am
We're moving from the "Your Town, Your Neighborhood, Your Plan" into the "Our Town, Your Neighborhood, Our Plan" phase of the draft.
Jill · July 23, 2020 at 4:58 pm
Did the Town even want to hear from people with opposing views? They unknowingly had an open mic during the technical delay and it was clear what they were doing. Maybe Fauquier Now will write a follow-up when the Town releases the dozens of comments from citizens who filed their statements with the Commission, expecting them to be read during the meeting as advertised on the submission form.
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