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Mill District Rezoning Faces Questions

The Heritage Trail near Caroline Street in Fredericksburg. Photo copyright Fredericksburg.Today.

Fredericksburg City Council delayed a vote Tuesday night on rezoning land for a planned mixed-use development in the Mill District.

Dreamland LLC, headed by former Fredericksburg Planning Commissioner Ed Whelan, is requesting rezoning of 10 properties totaling about 9.23 acres between Princess Anne Street and the Rappahannock River. The project would include 124,800 square feet of commercial, office, event and hotel space, 162 condominiums, and conversion of the former Embrey Power Plant into a multi-level restaurant.

City Council voiced support for the project, but echoed the concerns of many who spoke at the public hearing. Key issues included increased traffic, impact on the Rappahannock Heritage Trail, river conservation, and noise.

A planned parking lot entrance would cross the Heritage Trail at Caroline Street. Whelan estimated about 600 car trips daily would cross the trail, and he said his group would install stop signs and detectible warning strips as safety measures. But several commented this was unacceptable, including Fredericksburg Pathways Partners representative Anne Little. “The impact of cars crossing Heritage Trail would destroy the trail,” she said. “Access to the parking lot must be from Princess Anne Street.”

The Rising Sun Neighborhood Association voiced concern over noise and traffic.

Councilwoman Kerry Devine said the proffer of $26,000 for city schools was too little.

Kathleen Harrigan, executive director of Friends of the Rappahannock, said the group wants more specifics about how the developer will protect the river. Fredericksburg Zoning Administrator Mike Craig agreed. “It’s going to be a real challenge to build along the river,” he said. “The applicant faces a real uphill march.”

The Historic Fredericksburg Foundation (HFFI) supported rezoning, saying issues could be addressed during the ongoing approval process. “This area is very much in need of revitalization,” said Sean Maroney, executive director of HFFI. “If nothing is done, it will lead to the demise of the [historic] structures.”

City Council asked Dreamland LLC to address these concerns, and to submit a more specific plan of what will be built and when.

The Fredericksburg Planning Commission also participated in the public hearing, voting six to one in favor of rezoning. Jim Pates cast the dissenting vote. The commission had approved the project at two previous meetings, but had to attend a third public hearing because of two defects in the public notification process

Related Story:
Mill District Public Hearing Nov. 11

Read the project details in the November 2, 2014, memo from Fredericksburg Zoning Administrator Mike Craig.

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