A handful of concerned citizens spoke last week during the public hearing before the Town of Warrenton Planning Commission (see accompanying story), and town residents also were able to weigh in with their thoughts in writing. Most written comments received by the town expressed concern at the concept of “by-right” housing, at the two roads proposed in the plan (Timber Fence Parkway and a southern bypass), and/or at rapid growth in general. The majority stated they like the town the way it is and don’t want to welcome too much growth – or too many more people.
An entry from Richard and Elizabeth Gookin was typical, describing “the negative impact on the town's historic character and nature,” that the plan would have. They wrote, “Warrenton has always enjoyed an enviable reputation as a charming, small country town -- in which to live, and as a special weekend destination for holiday seekers. With careful planning and limited growth, let's keep it that way.”
Local business owner Tony Tedeschi’s main issue was with the Timber Fence Parkway. He wrote, “The proposed [Timber Fence] parkway is dangerous, destructive and expensive. It is a waste of time, money and the diverts the town's focus on many things far more important …”
Tedeschi expanded further with specifics about the parkway, then wrote, “I travel [Va.] 211 and Broadview [Avenue] every day. Even pre-COVID, I never once thought traffic was 'bad' nor hoped for a very expensive bypass to our beloved town. Please remove this and the equally outlandish southern bypass from the comprehensive plan. It diminishes the great work that has been put into this much needed updated plan.”
Lucas Ragusa also objected to the new roads proposed in the comprehensive plan. He wrote, “Another bypass and connecting Timber Fence Parkway to [U.S.] 29 or [Va.] 211 would be disastrous thing to do for this area; passing traffic would abuse the infrastructure.”
Carl and Stella Lilley’s comment was concise: “Please vote no to the Timber Fence Parkway extension. This would ruin our quiet, quaint neighborhood in Old Gold Cup.
Joseph Volpe III and others objected to the plan’s stated objective to add more housing options to the town. He wrote, “While I support the goal of introducing new housing to the town, I question some of the means proposed to accomplish it, especially those proposals for housing so markedly different from the style and substance of what we have now. At what point is change so drastic that it detracts from the very character of the community the plan professes to preserve?”
Several residents pleaded with the planning commission to take more time to sort out problems with the plan. Susan James, for instance, wrote, “I am very disappointed to read that the Town of Warrenton Planning Commission and the town council appear to be in a rush to adopt the Town's 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The members of the planning commission need to carefully and thoroughly review this very complex and detailed 437-page comprehensive plan that obviously will have a significant impact on our town's future. The planning commission and town council are obligated to make their decision based on what is best for all of the residents of Warrenton, not just a select few.”
Carol Hegwood spoke for many of the residents who submitted written comments: “I strongly plead with you to take your time and consider every aspect before it goes any further. As is, we are in danger of changing from a small town with a caring, considerate atmosphere to a generic everyday town where there is no sense of community. Look at the overall affect and really study the ramifications before it goes forward.”
And some residents believe that more community input is necessary. Jill Pawal wrote, “I don't understand why it is necessary to hold an important meeting, such as this, needing community town resident's input, during a time when we are in the middle of the pandemic and told to stay home and social distance! Please select a time when residents are able to attend and give their input.”
Katherine Christie agreed, “It is my hope that you will provide more time, not during a pandemic disaster of epic proportion, to allow for more public input into decision-making for a proposal that has the potential to destroy the country village aspect of this historic area, and ruin the future for all who live here by encouraging more cars/vehicular traffic with no current need for it.”
Duncan Van Buskirk said about the plan, “… it would negatively impact all of the positive characteristics of Warrenton and permanently damage the town's uniqueness. Please do not proceed forward with the plan until further public input can be garnered and a critical eye can be focused on ensuring that a plan of this type and importance is in the best interests of the citizens and the town.”
Not everyone was against the level of growth described in the plan. Kevin Roop wrote, “It is critical that we take this organic yet professionally guided input and its results to adoption. In other words, this is a huge ‘crossroads’ moment for our town and its economic viability for years to come.
“The numbers … that outlined the town's current economic picture are bleak at best. If we do not make moves now to increase the tax base and encourage investment where appropriate in commercial and residential, we will end up as an example of what not to do.”
Nina Weissberg, owner of the Warrenton Center and Warrenton Village shopping centers, wrote, “The new plan … brings clarity while protecting the town's history and character. Even prior to the impact of COVID-19, market realities were dire for existing retail.
“The concept of retail has changed. People want walkable town centers with experiential concepts, places where people want to be (sense of place). The exiting older shopping centers are well positioned to reduce the traditional expanse of asphalt and be transformed into these mixed use walkable welcoming spaces as so well described an illustrated in the Warrenton 2040 plan.
“Successful retail also depends on diversity of population. Diversity of housing is critical for the health of all aspects of a community. … A variety of housing types and price is a missing component of this area. To attract more workforce opportunities, we need the workforce and the housing stock for them.”
Reach Robin Earl at email@example.com