The Celebrate Virginia project moved another step closer to reality last week after the Stafford County Planning Commission approved a rezoning request from the developer.
The commission on Wednesday voted, 4-1, to endorse creating a Recreational Business Campus, which would establish zoning guidelines for the developers, the Silver Cos. The commission's recommendation is now forwarded to the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, which must vote on the zoning change.
The business campus would allow the Silver Cos. to mix offices, golf courses, hotels, houses, retail outlets and other structures on the 1,400-acre property.
Celebrate Virginia is a planned development in Stafford and the City of Fredericksburg. The developer has not finalized its plans, but the project is slated to include an industrial park, golf courses and houses in Stafford and a tourism hub and retail outlets in Fredericksburg.
The business campus came under criticism in July when Supervisors Ferris M. Belman Sr. (I-At Large) and Linda V. Musselman (R-Hartwood) wrote changes to it that added housing and increased the height of buildings to 120 feet, almost double the current county limit.
Planning Commissioner Spencer Hudson cited that concern as one of his reasons for voting against the measure Wednesday.
"We ought not to even give the perception that the big man can get something that the little man can't get," Hudson said, adding that he wanted to know more about the details of the project before granting the business campus.
In addition to approving the height change, the commission added more provisions for retail and service businesses and supported a proposal to extend the county's water and sewer service to the area.
Wednesday's action was the second meeting last week concerning Celebrate Virginia. On Tuesday night, supervisors held a public hearing to discuss creating the Celebrate Virginia North Community Development Authority.
But supervisors delayed action on the issue because not all of the property owners within the site have signed a petition supporting creation of the authority.
If approved, the authority would be responsible for financing improvements within Celebrate Virginia, such as roads, sewers and storm water management systems. The authority would be able to levy taxes on property owners inside its limits to pay for the infrastructure. The authority would consist of a five-person body, appointed by supervisors.
Initially, the authority came under fire from residents and supervisors, but there was virtually no opposition Tuesday.
Peter Fields, who is challenging Supervisor Alvin Y. Bandy (R-George Washington) and was one of two residents to speak at the hearing, said that he didn't necessarily oppose the creation of the authority but that he thought a decision was premature.
"I'm not speaking for or against" the community development authority, Fields said. "But it's premature to establish it when the zoning [for the project] is not finished."