The impact a new development off Lafayette Boulevard will have on that busy highway was the No. 1 question on people’s minds at a public information session this week about Telegraph Hill and Fredericksburg Park.
Kettler’s 44-acre project will have 80 single-family homes and 204 townhouses when it is completed. That will result in too many people in too small a space who will want access to a road that also has to handle traffic from new development going up in Spotsylvania County, longtime resident Dr. Jay Brock told Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw as he and about 50 residents examined renderings displayed at the Dorothy Hart Community Center on Tuesday night.
“If these are done deals,” he said, “we really need to invest in infrastructure.”
Chuck Johnston, the city’s director of community planning and building, kicked off the session a few minutes later by giving a brief history of the project. It dates to 2011, when a group of local developers proposed building a subdivision on the site.
They asked the city to rezone 22 acres for 350 residential units and 350,000 square feet of commercial space. The remaining 22 acres, where they planned to build a subdivision with 81 single-family houses, has been zoned for residential use since the 1980s.
The developers filed a lawsuit after the City Council rejected plans for the subdivision, and a settlement was reached in 2014 after the developers agreed to build a roundabout on Lafayette Boulevard to lessen the effects of traffic on the Lee Drive entrance to the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
Later plans for the project called for a revised mixed-use development that would have included 81 single-family homes, 45 townhouses, 295 apartments and 75,000 square feet of retail space. Those never came to fruition for financial reasons.
Kettler, which is based in McLean, bought the property 18 months ago and has begun preparing it for development. Ryan Homes will build the townhouses, which will start in the low $200,000, and the single-family houses, which will start in the high $300,000s.
The new project will have only 30,000 square feet of commercial development, Johnston said, because the city realized Lafayette Boulevard wouldn’t be able to handle a constant flow of traffic that would have been created by the larger shopping area the original developers had envisioned.
Kettler’s plans call for a tree-lined median to be built along the stretch of Lafayette Boulevard bordering the development, and traffic going in and out to be limited to right only. Drivers who need to go left will have to make a U-turn at the traffic circle that Kettler will build at one of three entrances to the development.
About 90 percent of it will be located mainly on property Kettler has dedicated to the city, which will minimize disruption on Lafayette Boulevard during its construction.
Lafayette Boulevard will also be four-laned from the Blue and Gray Parkway to St. Paul Street, and there will be a pedestrian crossing from the development to Lee Drive.
Johnston said that one of the questions he’s received about the development is why it does not have an access to the Blue and Gray Parkway. He said the Virginia Department of Transportation won’t allow it because the parkway is a limited-access highway.
“No developer can access it,” he said.
The National Park Service’s concerns about the plans have been taken into account because the development will be right across from the Lee Drive entrance to the park. To help shield it, Kettler will plant “hundreds and hundreds of trees” along the front of the property as a buffer, and the houses and townhouses will be built on land that slopes away from Lafayette to minimize the impact on the site line from the battlefield park, Johnston said.
He, city transportation administrator Erik Nelson and Kettler Vice President for Land Development Pete Olechnovich then fielded questions from the audience, which included a number of other city staffers, several City Council members and additional representatives from Kettler.
People wanted to know such things as:
- Will the roundabout be large enough to accommodate tractor–trailer traffic? It will.
- Will there be a Fredericksburg Regional Transit stop at the development? It’s being discussed.
- Will a roundabout be built at the intersection of Lafayette and Twin Lakes Drive? That’s to be determined.
Others wanted to know if the city had considered the development’s impact on the school system and whether Kettler plans to include affordable housing in the project.
Johnston said that the city considered the original proposal would have a minimal impact on enrollment, and there were so many issues involved during the lawsuit that this wasn’t a factor. No money for schools was proffered.
“Today there might be a different response,” he said.
Olechnovich said that no provision is being made for affordable housing in either Telegraph Hill, which is the name of the single-family subdivision, or Fredericksburg Park, which is what the townhouse section is being called.
One resident asked if the city had given any thought to diverting the increasingly heavy traffic from Spotsylvania to U.S. 1. He said there is so much traffic on Lafayette now that it’s barely usable.
Nelson said that the city had considered making its stretch of the boulevard a four-lane divided highway, but that would involve removing 50 houses and be prohibitively expensive. Instead, it is looking at eventually adding more roundabouts, which can be done at a more reasonable cost.
City Councilman Matt Kelly noted that Lafayette isn’t the only artery in the city that will be impacted by “the 2,000 to 4,000 residential units” that he said are coming to Spotsylvania, and the county wants the city to also look at State Routes 2 and U.S. 17.
Asked about the timeline for the project, Olechnovich said that Kettler anticipates turning over the single-family lots to Ryan Homes in October, and the first model home should be ready three to four months after that.
He said that the company is waiting for City Council to approve shifting the public right of way for Alum Spring Road and the VCR Trail and accepting a half-acre parcel north of Blue and Gray Parkway as open space before it can begin work on Fredericksburg Park. He expects that should be ready for Ryan Homes early next year.
The approximately 30,000 square feet of commercial space, he said, won’t be ready until 2021.