Council reverses rezoning request for condo project

By Matt Ward

 

Six months after neighboring residents won in a fight to prevent construction of an 11-unit condominium project on South Lee Street, the Fredericksburg City Council denied a zoning change to stop similar projects from development in that area during their regular meeting Monday evening.

Continuing a public hearing that began June 17, the council denied the change, with Mayor Jeryl Hoover and council members Tim Dooley and Gary Neffendorf opposed to changing the land use plan from medium- to low-density residential and the zoning from R-2 Mixed Residential to R-1 Single Family Residential.

“This is R-2, has been and was when you all bought (property),” Hoover said. “The fact that you have developed it more in the flavor of an R-1 is an after-the-fact nice thing, but it does not impose upon us to make the changes to reflect what you have done when you knew it’s what it was when you bought it.”

 

‘Large amount of support’

In January, the council voted 3-2 (Hoover and Councilman Tim Dooley, opposed) to grant an appeal overturning the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval of a site plan for the Cottages at Baron’s Creek.

However, attempts to rezone the area to prevent similar projects were rebuffed last month as the Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend that the area remain zoned R-2.

“I’m not willing to override Planning and Zoning,” Neffendorf said. “If it didn’t have East Creek Street on it and it was just the rest of the subdivision, I might have been.”

Several residents spoke in favor of changing to an R-1 zone in the neighborhood, citing concerns about maintaining the integrity of the neighborhood.

“It just seems to me that our quiet neighborhood has been under siege for the past two or three years,” East Creek Street resident Mitch Leland said. “We lost our floodplain, we have had a misplaced condominium project and I think it’s time that we lift the burden for our neighbors from this R-2 (zoning).”

The city received 25 letters of support of the change and none in opposition. Among residents who spoke at Monday’s meeting, only Matthew Mabery, who owns three lots on East Creek Street and intends to develop multi-family housing on one lot, spoke in opposition to the change.

“Obviously we’ve got a large amount of support and I don’t think Mr. Mabery is going to suffer a tremendous loss just because his property would be rezoned to R-1,” Councilman Graham Pearson said. “As an R-1 lot, he can still make money. It may not be his original plan, but I don’t think we’re pulling the rug from underneath him.”

Mabery insisted that the proposed changes would hurt him financially as the decision would limit his ability to use his own property for what he initially intended and for which it was originally zoned.

“It will impact me economically because I will have one rentable unit versus three,” Mabery said. “R-2 allows you to do more with the lot; therefore for a developer, it’s a lot more valuable than a single residence.”

Dooley said that Mabery’s individual property rights should not be infringed for the sake of the wishes of his neighbors.

“Mr. Mabery bought that property with the anticipation of doing something with it that he would be allowed to do under R-2,” Dooley said. “I feel no reason for us to rob him of his privilege to do with that property what he wants to whether it’s one person that owns the property around him or 25-30.”

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