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Spotsylvania’s rapid growth is an issue
BY JEFF BRANSCOME / THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Another large subdivision is up for approval in Spotsylvania County this week, even as decision-makers wrestle with the overall impact of previously approved projects.
The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss the 1,060-home Heritage Woods development off U.S. 1 at its meeting Tuesday, about two months after it held a public hearing on the controversial project near Cosner’s Corner. Residents have expressed concerns about the development’s impact on traffic and schools.
Arizona-based Walton International Group is asking that the 378-acre site be rezoned from rural and commercial to “planned development housing” for 725 homes, 147 townhouses and 188 apartments.
The Planning Commission recommended approval of Heritage Woods in August.
But the supervisors tabled their decision after a public hearing in September and requested an analysis of other developments in the pipeline. This year alone, the board has rezoned land for four developments with a total of 2,634 housing units.
A staff report dated Nov. 12 projects that Spotsylvania doesn’t have enough room in its schools to support the developments that have been approved in the last five years, in addition to Lee’s Parke.
County staff included Lee’s Parke, which was approved in 2002, because of its proximity to the Heritage Woods site. About 6,000 of the 7,631 approved homes in the staff report have not yet been built, including about 1,000 in Lee’s Parke.
It will likely be many years before those homes become a reality, but if they were built today, the staff says seven schools would be overcapacity: Cedar Forest Elementary, Robert E. Lee Elementary, Battlefield Middle, Freedom Middle, Spotsylvania Middle, Courtland High and Massaponax High.
Add Heritage Woods to the mix and an eighth school, Parkside Elementary, would exceed its capacity by 227 students, the staff says. Walton, the Heritage Woods landowner, recently announced it was donating $15,000 to Parkside for a new playground.
Supervisor Gary Skinner, whose Lee Hill District includes the Heritage Woods site, said he thinks the development would help schools and roads, not hurt them.
He noted that Walton is offering to pay $2.6 million in cash proffers for transportation before any homes are built. Seventy percent of all proffers would be earmarked for roads and 30 percent for schools, based on revised proffers submitted this month.
“We’re not going to get this money from the state right away, and if we don’t start doing something we’re going to put ourselves in a bind,” said Skinner, who won re-election this year against an opponent who opposed Heritage Woods.
With the proffer money, he said, the county could take advantage of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s revenue-sharing program that supplies matching grants to localities.
Still, county staff has recommended denial of the development, noting that its cash proffers are about $12.4 million short of what local guidelines call for.
Walton is offering to pay $18,600 per detached home beyond the first 53 homes, which are allowed without county approval; $13,500 per townhouse; and $6,500 per apartment. The company must pay Spotsylvania by the time each home receives an occupancy permit.
That brings the developer’s contribution up to roughly $15.7 million. But county guidelines call for about $28.1 million in proffers on a development like this.
The county has approved three large mixed-use developments this year without any cash proffers. Unlike Heritage Woods, those projects had commercial components.
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402