The Stafford County Planning Commission has approved a redrafted plan for the large-scale Embrey Mill housing and retail project that includes a second school, more fire and rescue facilities and a library.
The proposed development, which could include as many as 2,365 houses and 750,000 square feet of commercial space, now moves to the Board of Supervisors, whose members could begin discussing rezoning as early as next week.
Current zoning allows for about the same number of housing units. But the builder, Ed Peete Co., is seeking to rezone the area to accommodate its plan for a more complex neighborhood development, which would include a town center, shops and various other facilities.
As proposed, Embrey Mill would be a 957-acre project stretching south from Hampton Oaks to the intersection of Interstate 95 and Route 630. The property is bounded on the east by Austin Ridge and stretches to H.H. Poole Middle School on the west side.
Planning commissioners approved the revised proposal Wednesday, 5 to 1, after the developer proffered sites for the second school, fire and rescue facilities and a library, plus $75,000 toward library construction.
"I think it's a better project than what we had," said Commissioner Thomas A. Cropp, who voted in favor of the plan. He added that Embrey Mill now "has less homes than the developer would have had by right; it's the better of the two options we had."
Commissioner Barbara Kirby said that concerns about growth, particularly how the project would affect area roads, led her to oppose its construction.
"I had some very real concerns about transportation, schools and the growth issue," Kirby said. "My concern is we're talking about a 20 year build-out. In 1979 in Stafford County, no one in his right mind dreamed of what has happened on [Route 610]. . . . It's hard to put this in the future, but I only see growth."
To help address those concerns, the builder agreed to proffer about $7 million for the completion of Mine Road, which would cut across the middle of Embrey Mill and provide a connection between Routes 610 and 630. Under terms of the plan, the road would not have to be completed until 1,750 units--roughly three-fourths of the total development--are built.
The traditional neighborhood design that the developer is seeking would create a project more akin to a historic downtown, as opposed to the more prevalent models of subdivisions with cul-de-sacs. A few streets in the sprawling development would end in cul-de-sacs, but the majority would be on a grid pattern, with roads and alleys separating one block from another.
"It's really kind of somewhat similar to old sections of Fredericksburg, with green space in the middle and houses closer to the street," Kirby said.
The housing would be primarily single-family houses, plus about 400 town houses and 220 apartment units for the elderly. Also, there would be several units that would permit both residential and commercial use, such as a retail store on the first floor of a town house.
The handful of neighborhoods within the project would be united by a town center, which would include a recreation center and other amenities. Other recreation facilities--as well as churches, schools and a library--would be included throughout the development. And 479 acres, or half the land, would be open space.
The retail component of Embrey Mill would allow for several dozen stores on 60 acres of its southern end, near Interstate 95 and Route 630. But the extent of the retail center would not be finalized until plans for a revamped interchange are completed, the developer said.
Given the breadth and scope of the project, the developer said it likely would take as many as 20 years before all of its components are completed.
"This is a unique development," said Jay du Von, spokesman for Peete Co. "There are a lot of architectural issues. There are a lot of decisions to be made with the owner on a much more detailed level."
First, though, the development must attain approval from the county board--not a sure thing after last month's election, in which two new supervisors were buoyed into office primarily because of their adamantly slow-growth stances.