Warrenton has worked hard over the years to maintain its character, charm, vitality and livability as a small town with an attractive array of amenities and a diverse and vibrant business community. Indeed, many people have labored to make sure that we never lost sight of the central principles that guided our journey – measured growth, sound investment in infrastructure, excellent public services, reasonable taxes and a good quality of life for residents
The draft Warrenton 2040 plan would shatter that vision. The plan sets the foundation to rapidly grow the town’s population by more than 50 percent, an increase of 5,000 residents (and probably more) over the 20-year planning horizon. This extraordinary population increase is totally beyond anything ever envisioned before. And, it could come faster than anticipated if the floodgates to residential development are opened.
Even today, under the current zoning in Warrenton, there are hundreds of housing units, including apartments, that could and probably will be built in town. Estimates suggest this development alone could increase our population by 2,000 to 3,000 residents. As you know, there are new residential projects with hundreds of houses underway or that will be soon. We have enough growth coming already without jump-starting a massive new tidal wave of residential development.
To accommodate population growth, the plan would open much of our commercial and industrial zoning to by-right, mixed-use development. In other words, we are going to allow developers to promise us commercial and industrial development while building residential. We know from our experience what happens – rooftops get built while the planned commercial development gets delayed … again and again, and sometimes never comes. This could also compromise our future economic growth by converting commercial and light industrial land to residential use. In the process, jobs and tax revenues brought by new business and industry in Warrenton would never materialize.
Also, included in the proposed plan are provisions that would encourage five- to six-story high-rise apartments in many parts of town, including on land currently zoned for commercial and light industrial development, and even in our shopping center parking lots.
The unbridled growth suggested by the Comprehensive Plan will only lead to challenges: crowded urban-like conditions, unmanageable traffic congestion, demands for new roads, pressure to increase water and sewer capacity at great expense to town taxpayers, pressure to build new school capacity at great expense to county taxpayers, and a diminished quality of life for the residents of Warrenton.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Warrenton. This is not Leesburg or Gainesville or Haymarket. We don’t aspire to be a community characterized by crowded, wall-to-wall sprawl and all its inherent problems. We are unique and we treasure our small-town heritage, character and quality of life.
We ask that the council send the draft Comprehensive Plan back to the town staff to adjust it to a more measured rate of growth, to protect our industrial and commercially zoned areas and to provide answers to the many important questions and concerns that have been raised by the community. Send the proposed plan back to the drawing board to design a more restrained vision for the future of Warrenton — one that reflects the needs and interests of the citizens of Warrenton.