Battlefield Preservationists Come Out Against Telegraph Hill
The discussion continues on a 79-unit subdivision and its potential impact on traffic, area businesses and the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
The attorney for the developers of a 79-unit byright subdivision off Lafayette Boulevard called Telegraph Hill cautioned Fredericksburg City Council members Tuesday night that he doesnt think they can vote against the final subdivision plat because of their traffic concerns.
During the public hearing Tuesday, battlefield preservationists urged City Council to vote against the subdivision plat for Telegraph Hill because the project would adversely impact Lee Drive, the entrance to the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
Gary Nuckols, the attorney for the developers Fredericksburg Park LLC and clients Hunter Greenlaw Jr., David Horstick and Andy Garrett, told City Council that if a majority does vote against the subdivision plat, the members need to be specific as to why they are voting that way so the developers can try to come up with a solution.
The three concerns raised during the public hearing were how the byright development would impact the battlefield across the street, the best location for the entrance to the community and the restriping of a city-owned and maintained left turn lane on Lafayette Boulevard to be used for the development.
“We don’t believe that council has discretion to reject this plat because of traffic concerns or concerns about the entrance," Nuckols said.
Telegraph Hill is on 28 acres off Lafayette Boulevard on Alum Springs Road. The project has been under city review for 18 months. The group wants to develop the reclaimed mine into 79 single-family detached homes in two phases with no open space requirements. A byright development means that it meets existing zoning requirements and does not need government approval to be built, but the subdivision plat does need council approval by ordinance.
The site plan shows the entrance to the subdivision across from Lee Drive, which concerned preservationists and other businesses near the development on Lafayette Boulevard.
Kimley-Horne conducted a traffic study that stated this development would not worsen the "Level D" traffic at the intersection of Lafayette Boulevard and the Blue and Gray Parkway, but council members expressed concerns that the study only measured traffic to 2013 and did not take into account development occurring farther south on Lafayette Boulevard in Spotsylvania County. A "Level D" is considered "acceptable" but only one level above being at capacity. The study estimated the development would add 65 total trips per day and 85 trips per day during peak morning and evening hours.
"I find it interesting that during this entire conversation no one has mentioned the battlefield specifically or the impact to the battlefield," Councilman Matt Kelly said to city staff members after their presentation to council.
Russ Smith, superintendent of the military park, said that on Nov. 11, 1931, about 3,500 local residents celebrated the opening of a new national park and it started with Lee Drive.
He said the city's comprehensive plan, which is a guide for growth, states that the military park is a gateway into the city and that any development near it should be done so in careful coordination with the National Park Service. City staff said that the National Park Service has been involved in the process and was asked about the entrance to Telegraph Hill.
Smith said Lee Drive deserves respect and that it shouldn't be treated like any other road.
"Personally, I just think we need to go back and reconsider the issue of access, including moving that access up the hill with a signal light," he said.
Mike Stevens, president of the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust, said the battlefield is a cemetery without headstones and should be treated that way. Stevens said visitors to the battlefield should not be subjected to the "visual pollution" and traffic that this subdivision will bring to the corridor.
"Lee Drive is not simply an old road. It is a pathway to the hallowed ground," he said. "Surely there is a better way. Surely there is a better plan that won't diminish this gateway."
Mark Coombs, of the Civil War Trust, said Lee Drive is arguably the most striking entrance to a national treasure in the city and that the development's current access point is not sensitive to the battlefield. Last week, the Civil War Trust sent City Council a letter urging it to vote against the subdivision plat unless the entrance to the development was changed to be more sensitive to Lee Drive.
Hamilton Palmer, who represents Penn-Mar Floors and Jones and Frank on Lafayette Boulevard, said customers to his clients' businesses use the turn lane that is expected to be restriped as a left-turn lane for Telegraph Hill. Palmer said the devleopment's entrance does not meet the design guidelines in the city's adopted Lafayette Boulevard Overlay District or the Lafayette Boulevard Corridor Study. He also said that even with the developer dedicated about eight feet of right of way, there still won't be enough space to widen Lafayette Boulevard to four lanes as it is planned in the corridor study.
"I would rather see the developer go back to the table and do what Mr. Smith says and work with adjoining landowners to come up with an entrance that is acceptable by all," Palmer said.
Councilwoman Bea Paolucci said the Planning Commission recommended approval of this subdivision plat without checking to see if it was compatible with the Lafayette Boulevard Overlay District. She said city plans require that any development on Lafayette Boulevard improve traffic and make it safer, but she questioned if this development does either of those things.
"Why hasn’t that been mentioned at all in any of these discussions?" she said.
Planning Director Ray Ocel said the overlay district primarily addresses design for commercial developments and that he didn't recall any guidelines that would come into play with this byright subdivision.
Nuckols said even if this development made the traffic level of service worse, the developer would not be responsible for making any transportation fixes because the project already meets zoning regulations. He said adding a second traffic signal so close to the one at the intersection of Lafayette Boulevard and the Blue and Gray Parkway would cause more traffic problems, so it was ruled out.
Nuckols said the restriping of the left turn lane is the safest option, but the development will be built even if the lane is not dedicated as a turn lane to Telegraph Hill. The result without restriping the lane would be one lane on Lafayette Boulevard as drivers head into the city and if any car wants to make a left turn into Telegraph Hill, cars wouldn't be able to get around the vehicle until it turned.
"The development can proceed with that lane or without lane. We happen to think it will be a lot better if that lane is done with the restriping," Nuckols said.
Council members decided to postpone the vote to their Sept. 18 meeting.