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HOLD 'EM OR FOLD 'EM?
Fredericksburg-area elected officials take steps to manage residential growth

 Visit the Photo Place

Date published: 10/17/2004

• Aerial photos: Click here to view Development Watch 2.0, an overview of some major projects

Just about every week in the Fredericksburg area, elected officials and developers sit down to negotiate what can be built on some plot of land.

Both sides don their best poker faces and play their cards close to their vests.

Neither side may know exactly when to hold 'em or when to fold 'em, but government officials are becoming wilier players. They are learning the value of the cards they hold, when to raise the stakes and how to bluff.

That's welcome news to Spotsylvania County resident Merle Witt, who leads the Committee of 500, an activist group.

"Past boards basically came and played the hands they were dealt," Witt said. "This board is playing a little more proactive.

"They're at least helping call the game--seven-card stud, or whatever. They're at least getting out front a little bit and saying, 'This is what we expect.'"

The growth game
Part 1:
• High-density developments run into snags. Is there a plan for smart growth?
Part 2:
• Proffers do not guarantee rezoning approval
• Stafford developers propose projects, but hesitate to file for rezonings because supervisors have not reached consensus on growth
Part 3:
• New tool for managing growth draws interest, but can area taxpayers afford it?

A good example is the recent stare-down that could be called Chancellorsville hold 'em.

Developers had offered to hand over some historically significant acreage related to the Civil War Battle of Chancellorsville in return for permission to build a 2,000-home Town of Chancellorsville on the Mullins farm.

Turn down the town, farm owner John Mullins told Spotsylvania supervisors, and he would build the smaller number of houses, stores and offices already allowed under county zoning rules--without preserving any land or making any proffers.

The board called his bluff. In March 2003, supervisors rejected the town plan.

Earlier this year, Mullins sold some of the residential land to luxury homebuilder Toll Brothers Inc.

In July, supervisors took steps to cut off public water and sewer access to Mullins' 55 acres of commercially zoned land fronting State Route 3. Without utilities, Mullins would have had a hard time attracting businesses.


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