The Warrenton Planning Commission voted 5-1 to recommend the Town Council approve construction of a mixed-use development, including 47 townhomes, six apartments, one retail building and a small park on the corner of Lee Highway and Broadview Avenue.
The 4.81-acre development, dubbed Waterloo Junction, was originally the site of the former Cheswick Motel at 394 Broadview Ave. Currently located on the property is O'Brien's Irish Pub, which has plans to be renovated by the owner Broadview LLC and Fog Holdings, LLC if the project is approved.
According to the proposal, the site would consist of 47 1,800-square-foot townhomes, 3,600 square feet of new retail space, six apartments, parking and a small park with a community play area and benches. One townhome and five apartments – 10% of the proposed units – would be designated as affordable housing for individuals or families whose gross annual income does not exceed 80% of the current Fauquier County area median family income.
John Foote, a land-use attorney who represents Culpeper developer Farrish Properties & Acquisitions LLC and owner, told commissioners the townhomes would not exceed the town's zoning ordinance of 45 feet and be priced somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000.
For the project to move forward, the commission had to approve a zoning map amendment, special-use permit and comprehensive plan amendment.
Although he said he was glad for all the work the owner had put into the application, Planning Commissioner Ali Zarabi cast the dissenting vote for each motion because of concerns about traffic.
"I do have an issue with the intensity of the application as I think capacity ought to be a concern in all areas: stormwater management water traffic mitigation, safety and welfare of the community," he said. "And I appreciate the owners who seem very willing to work with the staff and certainly with the commission. But I do not find that I can find myself supporting this project simply because of the intensity of the project."
In 2017, the town reviewed a proposal for a Lidl Grocery Store, which hired the firm Gorove Slade Associates to prepare a traffic analysis. According to a staff report, the results of that analysis demonstrated the grocer would have generated 3,428 trips every weekday and 4,226 trips on Saturdays.
Gorove Slade also provided a trip generation analysis for the Waterloo Junction development. Its study showed that the development would generate approximately 348 trips daily. O'Brien's currently generates about 815 trips daily.
Several local residents, including Diane Roteman, who lives behind the proposed development on Gay Road, said she believes the proposal is "wholly inappropriate" for the location because of the increased traffic.
"I'm not exactly sure what the peak hours were studied, but I am here to tell you that between the hours of 6:45 a.m. and 7:20 a.m., these roads are heavily traveled by Fauquier County high school students," she said. "They are all used as a cut-through to avoid Broadview Avenue so that the students can get to the high school."
Commission Chair Susan Rae Helander said that although she "understands all those in the audience who have issues with traffic," she noted it's "really a town issue that everyone needs to be working on."
"I'm not sure what other kind of business can go in that corner in that location that would generate less traffic," she said. "And clearly, the Lidl that was proposed to go in there would have generated a lot more, and I'm not sure it would have protected the neighborhood streets."
If approved, the proposed development is expected to generate approximately $3.2 in tax revenue for the town over the next 30 years.
It would also require a connection to public water and sewer. According to staff, the wastewater from the development is projected to be approximately 24,470 gallons per day – 15,000 gallons used by the residential portion and 9,470 gallons used by the retail space and restaurant.
Foote said the development would generate an estimated 22 students and would not burden the school system.
"Even with the school growth, which is actually declining in Fauquier County, that number will remain under capacity at the build-out of this project," he said.
The restaurant and apartment renovations are estimated to take four months. The townhome construction could be completed within 18 months.
The proposal next goes to the Town Council, which has its next regular meeting on Nov. 9.