County officials discuss sites for Urban Centers
Posted: February 11, 2013
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — The younger generation’s housing demands are changing, a group of Frederick County officials was told Saturday morning, and planners are trying to prepare some parts of the county to meet those new needs.
“People in their 20s, 30s and 40s have a different mindset,” Jim Vickers, CEO and chairman of OakCrest Cos., said during the Frederick County Planning Commission’s annual retreat at the Holiday Inn Winchester SE-Historic Gateway on Front Royal Pike (U.S. 522). “I live on a five-acre lot. My kids would never do that.
“We need to plan for a shift in lifestyles.”
That shift, county planners think, involves putting policies in place to encourage town-center-style development in targeted Urban Centers. Such developments would feature a mixture of residential and commercial space, with some housing units constructed above the first-floor storefronts.
County planners have identified four potential Urban Centers, all east of Interstate 81.
Greenwood, in the Senseny Road-Greenwood Road-Channing Drive area
Parkins Mill, in the Front Royal Pike-Justes Road area
Crosspointe, at the proposed Va. 37 eastern bypass extension just east of I-81
Sherando, in the Fairfax Pike (Va. 277)-Warrior Drive-Sherando Park area
Mike Ruddy, deputy planning director for land use, said Frederick County would like to develop its own style of town center, not “copycat” similar developments elsewhere.
But he highlighted three such projects — West Broad Village in Henrico County and Loudoun County’s Village at Leesburg and Lansdowne Town Center — to illustrate for the members of the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors in attendance what town centers look like.
The town center concept creates walkable communities where people live, work and play. Frequently schools are nearby, too.
Planners presented designs to demonstrate potential land uses in each Frederick County urban center. Those designs, Ruddy noted, are illustrative and not meant to dictate future land use.
“We may or may not have them in the future here in Frederick County,” he said. “The idea is to give guidance to property owners, people who might want to do these sorts of developments.”
Vickers, who was joined by OakCrest Builders President Vaughn Foura and ERA OakCrest Realty President Suzette Neff in giving a presentation on housing market trends to open the retreat, said that if the commercial developments along Warrior Drive were combined and integrated into the surrounding subdivisions, you’d have a town center.
“What we have doesn’t create a walkable community,” he said. “You just want to get in and get out. What you want to develop is a place people go to and want to stay for half a day, walking around and shopping.”
Foura said that if apartments had been built atop the buildings at Creekside Station in Winchester, that would have been a small version of a town center.
Younger housing consumers like the flexibility of apartment living because they easily can move for a professional opportunity, Vickers said, and they like being able to walk to shop instead of driving. Empty nesters also like the concept because they don’t have to maintain a yard.
However, he said both groups demand higher-quality apartments than traditionally have been built in the region.
Assistant County Administrator Kris Tierney said the town centers haven’t developed on their own because different uses weren’t allowed to mix.
“Zoning prevented the creation of communities for years,” he said. “It segregated uses. Now we’re trying to integrate uses so people can walk to where they want to go.”
Supervisor Charles Dehaven Jr. said he supported removing any remaining obstacles and perhaps even providing incentives for such development if it was thought that they are important.
But Supervisor Gene Fisher wasn’t convinced.
“I struggle with it,” he said. “People tell me they moved here to get away from what’s going on [in Northern Virginia].”
Planning Director Eric Lawrence said that unlike the examples cited, he doubts that a single developer would build a town center in Frederick County. He thought it more likely that multiple people will do sections and a town center will develop over time.
“I think it will be more piecemeal here in Frederick County,” he said, “and as long as the intensity is right, we’ll get a good end product. We want people building apartment buildings by existing shopping centers, where we already have the necessary roads, and not out in the middle of nowhere.”
— Contact Vic Bradshaw at email@example.com