In the wake of proposed zoning changes that would ease restrictions on the Silver Cos.' Celebrate Virginia project, a new round of criticism has surfaced.
The changes, drawn up by Stafford County Supervisors Ferris M. Belman Sr. (R-At Large) and Linda V. Musselman (R-Hartwood), include increasing the amount of office space, allowing for more residential development and markedly raising the height limit for buildings. A provision for a convention center, which was originally slated for the Fredericksburg portion of the project, has also been added.
The changes will be presented to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
The current cries of concern, from both political and residential circles, center on whether the new proposals would cede too much control to the Silver Cos.
"It's certainly more than I originally had the impression of," said David R. Beiler (I-Falmouth), the only supervisor who has opposed the changes. "We're starting to put in a Tysons Corner of office space."
If Celebrate Virginia is allowed to add office space, Beiler argues, the project would attract a slew of businesses with low-paying jobs, which would spawn the type of development that county officials are vigorously trying to avoid.
"My primary concern is the intensity of use and how much square footage they put in there," he said. "If we keep [the intensity] low, we'll have, on average, high-dollar tenants with good paying jobs. If we go wholesale with it, it'll do more harm than good."
Beiler also said that at next week's meeting he will propose changing the minimum land for a Recreational Business Campus from 500 acres to 1,000 acres to prevent future developers from capitalizing on the ordinance.
But Belman defended his actions. "It's 4.5 million square feet of office space," he said. "That's not a heck of a lot when you stop to think about it. Spotsylvania Shopping Mall is 1 million square feet. This is four times that on 1,200 acres."
Asked whether he was concerned that too much control was being given to the Silver Cos., Belman responded: "Sure, it's a concern . . . but [Silver is] not getting a free ride."
As with every other step of Celebrate Virginia, the proposed zoning changes have sparked criticism from residents. Members of Rappahannock Area Grassroots (RAG), which formed in August after the Fredericksburg City Council approved zoning for the project over the vocal objections of hundreds of citizens, have met and plan to voice their opposition to the Stafford policymakers next week.
"We want to ask the supervisors some questions," said Paul Lewis, spokesman for the Stafford County chapter of RAG. "We do not like all the uses they're going into."