With little fanfare and virtually no debate, the Stafford County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved zoning changes guiding the Celebrate Virginia project that grant more power to its developer.
The measures allow executive-style housing, raise the height limit of the office buildings and increase the amount of office space--provisions that many, including Supervisor David R. Beiler (I-Falmouth), had criticized as recently as last week.
But only a handful of people showed up to express concern about the added provisions, and aside from a few questions, Beiler exhibited no reservations about the changes.
"This development is 85 percent commercial," said Ferris M. Belman Sr. (R-At Large), putting forth his argument for the changes, which he helped craft, in what little discussion took place.
A small contingent of residents, many of whom have spoken out against Celebrate Virginia many times, spoke against the changes.
"I'm a little bit put out with the number of changes," said Ruth Carlone, who has consistently opposed the development. "This is an outrage, and we're going to fight you tooth and nail."
"I'm disappointed that the subcommittee came back with these recommendations," said Alane Callander, chair of the Stafford County Democratic Club. "Why should developers have the right to develop mini-cities in the county?"
But Celebrate Virginia continues to march on. Despite the opposition of a vocal group of citizens, every new proposal concerning the project has been backed squarely by elected officials.
Thus, the 1,100-acre development--which is intended to include an upscale office park, hotels, a conference center, a slew of service businesses and several golf courses in Stafford--appears to be moving closer to reality. Celebrate Virginia also is slated to include a tourist campus and related services on the Fredericksburg side of the Rappahannock River.
The next step calls for the zoning ordinance to be referred back to the county planning commission, where another public hearing will be held to discuss the ordinance and its new provisions.