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Museum's request supported
Residents testify in favor of height variance for U.S. National Slavery Museum's slave ship.

 Former Fredericksburg Mayor Lawrence Davies and museum Executive Director Vonita W. Foster listen to comments last night.
ROBERT A. MARTIN/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 7/27/2005

By PAMELA GOULD

Eight of 11 Fredericksburg residents who spoke at last night's public hearing on the U.S. National Slavery Museum's request to build a museum taller than allowed by city regulations expressed support for granting a variance.

Addressing the City Council, Richard Davis of Wolfe Street noted that no one has complained about the steel beams rising at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in a form reminiscent of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima.

"There has never been an outcry about the visibility of the monument," he said of the museum under construction beside Interstate 95 near Quantico.

Instead, Davis said it will draw visitors to that museum. Increasing the visibility of the slavery museum would produce the same effect, he said.

A full-scale replica slave ship--the reason officials are asking permission to build a museum taller than allowed--would "add to the true educational experience and historical value" visitors would receive, Davis said.

"The visibility from I-95 will be a draw for the entire region, and I urge you to consider and approve their request for the height variance," he said.

The U.S. National Slavery Museum is asking the council for a special-use permit to build a structure taller than the 90 feet allowed in Celebrate Virginia South's Planned Development Commercial zoning district. The request was prompted by the desire to make a 118-foot-tall replica slave ship the museum's centerpiece.

Last month, the Planning Commission voted 5-1 to urge the council to grant the request.

If approved, the museum would have a maximum height of 150 feet, 3 inches. The request is for 29 feet over what's currently allowed, because the variance is based on the average height of the sloping roof.

The museum is to be built on 38 acres in the Celebrate Virginia South tourism complex overlooking the Rappahannock River, and will be visible from I-95.

Frank Brooks, who opposed the variance, expressed concern about the structure's impact on the view from the river.

"I don't think this is at all necessary," he said. "I think it is a scheme to break our 90-foot limit."

Two residents suggested "digging a hole" to lower the ship.


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