By Morgan Edwards
The development team behind Wilderness Crossing, the proposed 2,602-acre mixed-use development at the eastern edge of Orange County, is planning to host a town hall at Locust Grove Middle School on Thursday, June 17, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Charles “Chip” King, Kenny Dotson and their attorney Charles W. Payne Jr. will be hosting the informational session on the recently submitted rezoning application in the county’s Greater Wilderness Area Plan (GWAP).
Wilderness Crossing would be at the center of the fast-growing Route 3 corridor between Culpeper and Fredericksburg. King and KEG Associates III have requested to have the 20 parcels that make up the property rezoned from a mix of Agricultural, Residential, Commercial and Industrial to Planned Development — Mixed Use (PMD). The total timeframe for the project is approximately 30 years and would be broken up into phases. Eleven distinct neighborhoods are proposed for the development. The first 10-year phase likely would include 740 homes (townhomes, single-family), 260 apartment units and an estimated 125,000 square feet of retail space. Additionally, this phase calls for an 80-bed senior living facility.
A town hall meeting is required for such for such projects within the GWAP.
“At the town hall meeting we’re hoping to explain the project, really the economic benefits and how it can help balance the county’s tax base,” Dotson said. “We feel like it can be an economic engine and place that people want to live, work and play. Basically, what we are trying to do is be informative and get community input.”
The conceptual plans for the development are currently being evaluated by an application review committee (ARC). Josh Gillespie, the county’s planning and development services director, explained that the ARC includes a vast array of people.
“The committee is formed by the agencies that work in land development,” he said. “That’s the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District, representatives of the county planning & development services department, Orange County Sheriff’s Office, fire and EMS, economic development authority, Orange County Public Schools and the Rapidan Service Authority (RSA). And then in the Germanna Wilderness Area, the supervisors for those areas have traditionally participated in the ARC. That’s basically the reviewers.”
Gillespie said that the ARC review portion of the process can vary in length depending on how easily all of the parties can resolve any sticking points.
“The idea is that the ARC would go through one, two or more review cycles based on the comments, gather the commenters together, work through the issues by discussing them with the applicants, get their responses back and then go through the review again,” Gillespie said. “Some commenters, the economic development authority for example, might have a pretty straightforward comment about meeting the plans and goals for economic development in that part of the county. Whereas the RSA might have some very specific comments, and until those are addressed, then things might not move forward.”
“We’ve finished up round one,” he continued. “We’ve not really had a conversation with [the developers] yet. It was kind of difficult to get people together the first time around and agency employees weren’t there in person. But we’ve progressed beyond that in many ways. So, in June or July, I think it will be a lot different.
Eventually, the proposed rezoning will come before the planning commission for a public hearing and ultimately before the board of supervisors for another hearing and a final vote.
Once the board of supervisors has approved or rejected the conceptual plan, then the process begins again, except this time in miniature.
“A concept plan can include a lot of detail, and the plan for Wilderness Crossing does include more details than most,” Gillespie said. “But for any site to develop they’ll need to go through a site planning process. So, there’s a distinction between the concept plan and the detailed site plan. With the latter type, over a 30-year process, there might be 200 detailed site plans submitted. These will be for pieces and portions of the whole development; maybe a site plan for the medical office campus, or one for Phase One and Two of the town center and we might get one for each of the residential zones.”
Dotson feels like the interactions between all parties in the process have been amiable and encouraging so far. He maintains that he is optimistic about the development’s chances to succeed and weather any economic storms that appear in the future.
“We’ve been very open with the board and the county,” Dotson said. “We are really trying to parallel the Greater Wilderness Area Plan (GWAP) that they created. I think that’s helped facilitate things.”
To view renderings of the residential and commercial portions of Wilderness Crossing and join the development mailing list visit www.wildernesscrossingva.com.