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Public Hearing Remains Open on George Street Brownstones

By Susan Larson.

Fredericksburg City Council heard from several residents during their September 27, 2016, public hearing on Mike Adams’ proposed townhouse project in the 300 block of George Street behind the National Bank Building.

City Council Tuesday delayed their vote on the certificate of appropriateness until their October 25 meeting, and left the public hearing open until that time.

City Manager Tim Baroody then suggested council delay the vote on the corresponding performance agreement — also scheduled for Tuesday night — until after the vote on the certificate of appropriateness.

Adams’ company NBB offered a redesign of the proposed townhomes in exchange for a $300,000 economic incentive performance agreement. The revisions addressed concerns from City Council and city staff, with adjustments including:
– Reducing the number of units from seven to five.
– Reducing the height of the units by five inches, to 44 feet, four inches.
– Removing one of the stories of the units.
– Lowering the cornice.
– Providing a front yard on George Street, and a side yard on Charles Street.

The property is within the Historic Fredericksburg District (HFD).

“In general, it is our opinion that the developer’s revised proposal successfully addresses the site planning and building scale criteria, and the building mass criteria, with some suggested modifications,” wrote Kathleen O. Frazier, principal of Frazier Associates, the firm hired by the city to review the revisions.

Kate Schwartz, the city’s Historic Resources Planner, said in her report, “The revised proposal is generally in accordance with the standards and guidelines in place for Fredericksburg’s Historic District, though some clarification or revision is suggested for specific items.”

Some of the revisions suggested include changes to roof shape, roof pitch, roof overhang, dormers, skylights, and chimneys.

Read the reports online.

“This development is at ground zero of history in Fredericksburg,” said Historic Fredericksburg Foundation (HFFI) Board Member Ed Sandtner. He thanked council for involving HFFI, and said the group had pared-down their concerns to two.

“The roof decks on the front elevation are not in keeping with the stylistic traditions and the rhythm of the building,” he said. “Putting the decks in the back is a high priority for us.” HFFI would also like “the Charles Street elevation to be given more consideration as a primary façade … so there is continuity on the very visible side of the building.”

“Persevering the historic character of our downtown can go hand and hand with economic development,” Sandtner said. “We’ve seen this in the renovated National Bank Building.”

Architectural Review Board (ARB) Member Kerri Barile said her group is pleased that discussions between council and the developer have led to revised plans. “Our members are not unanimously in favor of every aspect of the new plans, and we do see opportunities for refinement. However, we are all glad to see the smaller footprint, the blending of architectural elements with neighboring properties and, especially, the reduction of scale and massing.”

Barile also addressed the litigation related to the proposed development filed by City Council against the ARB and project developer NBB, and by NBB against City Council.

“Since the first week of the suit, our members, through our legal counsel, have repeatedly encouraged the Council and NBB to sit down and resolve this matter out of court. Despite feeling caught in the middle between the Council and NBB, we offered to help find a solution in the best interests of the community. Your ARB members are unpaid volunteers, and we care deeply about the City of Fredericksburg’s people, history, and community. We wanted a successful outcome and a quick end to the case for our tax-paying citizens, the project applicant, and our historic district.”

“There is no question that mistakes were made and need to be addressed,” said Councilor Matt Kelly, At-Large. “If we don’t learn from what happened … we have in fact wasted $300,000 and legal expenses.”

“The process to get here is very unfortunate, but the place where we ended up is much better for the city,” said Councilor Kerry Devin, At-Large. “I still hope tweaks and adjustments can be made. I encourage everyone to keep moving forward.”

“We only have one time to get this right,” said Councilor Chuck Frye, Ward 4.

The Fredericksburg Economic Development Authority (EDA) voted September 12 to fund the economic incentive for City Council. The city will pay NBB $150,000 upon completion of the rehabilitation of the National Bank Building and the issuance of certificates of occupancy for the first two townhomes. The second $150,000 is due upon completion of the rest of the project. The city will reimburse the EDA at three percent interest on the outstanding balance.

During their October 25 meeting, City Council will also vote on whether or not to enter into the performance agreement with the Fredericksburg Economic Development Authority and NBB.

In 2015, the Architectural Review Board approved Adams’ plan to build seven, four-story townhouses, but City Council voted 6 – 1 in November 2015 to suspend the ARB’s approval.

Adams’ company sued City Council, seeking to void their action.

City Council then filed a lawsuit against NBB, asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit. City Council also filed a lawsuit against the ARB, claiming citizens were not properly notified of the public hearing.

City Council voted unanimously September 13, 2016, to move toward a settlement agreement with NBB, which involves the redesign and the incentive package. The next step is the public hearing.

If after the public hearing City Council approves the redesign and the incentive package, then the lawsuits will be dismissed.

If City Council denies the certificates of appropriateness and/or the incentive package, the lawsuits would continue.

November 8 is the deadline for city action. The time frame could be extended by mutual agreement.

More
City Council to Hold Public Hearing on Proposed George Street Townhouses

City Council Votes to Move Toward Settlement Agreement with NBB

EDA Votes to Fund $300K Incentive to Settle NBB Lawsuit

City Council to Vote on NBB Townhome Settlement

FoodE Opens in Historic Bank Building

Future of National Bank Building May Head to Trial

Developer Sues City Council Over Proposed Townhomes

City Council Overrules ARB’s Approval of Bank Property Townhomes

Preservation Group Opposes Plans for National Bank Building Property

Downtown Fredericksburg’s Historic National Bank Building Sold

Historic National Bank Building For Sale

Historic Bank Closes its Doors in Downtown Fredericksburg

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