Re: Sprawling devleopment in Opal

This text was taken from an alert sent out on January 9th, 2014:

A map of the Opal interchange.
Last-minute changes keep Opal Gateway alive — FauquierNow’s article from mid-November provides a good summary of the issue.

Fauquier Resident,

Well the new year has begun, but a bad idea from 2013 is still lurking. After delaying a vote in November, the Fauquier Board of Supervisors will hold another public hearing (and likely vote) on the proposed “Opal Gateway” project this Thursday, Jan 9.

There have been a few changes to the proposal, but the applicant is still asking to open up more than 50 acres of agricultural land outside of the Opal Service District to strip-commercial development. The project would also convert 46 acres to a travel RV park (with 175 sites for water and sewer hook up).

This development outside of the planned service district would put a strain on County services like water and sewer, make the traffic situation worse, and ultimately detract from future economic opportunities in the area.

If you did not have a chance to write the Board in the fall, I encourage you to send them an email with your concerns. You can also join me at the public hearing on Thursday.

Board of Supervisors Public Hearing
Thursday, January 9, 6:30pm
Warren Green Building
10 Hotel St., Warrenton

It’s frustrating that this proposal has gotten this far. When it was first proposed back in May, the County Planning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend that the Board of Supervisors deny the project. But in response to pressure to support ‘economic development’, regardless of flaws, the Board is now seriously considering approval.

Tell the County that they should encourage development within the existing Opal Service District and turn down sprawling proposals like this one.

Sprawling Development Proposed on Outskirts of Opal

Most everyone who travels south of Warrenton on Rt. 29 ends up stopping (at least momentarily) in Opal. On weekday mornings and weekend afternoons traffic gets backed up in both directions, with drivers struggling to turn on to Rt. 17 or get in and out of existing businesses.

This Thursday, the Fauquier County Planning Commission will consider a development proposal that would make the traffic situation worse. The proposal would open up more than 80 acres of agricultural land to strip-commercial development — putting a burden on County services like water, and ultimately detracting from future economic opportunities in the area.

Over 853 acres are already designated for growth in the Opal Service District, most of which hasn’t been developed yet. Even so, the ‘Opal Gateway’ project applicant is asking the County to expand the service district further out. Their conceptual plan includes:

  • 25 acre truck/travel plaze with a stand alone restaurant
  • Hotel with 100 rooms
  • 50 acres travel trailer park with water and sewer hook-ups
  • RV repair/related retail
  • Bank, pharmacy, and fast food restaurant with drive-throughs
  • 60,000 sq ft of limited industrial use, 40,000 sq ft of medical offices

A Traffic Mess

In response to backups at the intersection of Rt. 29 and Rt. 17, VDOT is constructing a fly-over just south of the intersection which should be completed later this year. If the Opal Gateway proposal is approved, it will effectively negate the purpose of the $45 million project.

After reviewing the current development proposal, a VDOT representative said that “if approved it will make traffic at the intersection worse with major delays in all directions.” It’s not every day that we find ourselves in agreement with VDOT, but on this one, there is little doubt about the impact it will have.

We Have a Choice

Fauquier County can choose to invest its taxpayers’ money in smart growth or it can choose to subsidize speculative development. The Opal Service District has real needs that include public water service, transportation improvements, and focusing on enhancing existing business opportunities — these need to be the priority. The first opportunity to speak out about this issue will be at the Planning Commission this Thursday.

Planning Commission Hearing
May 30th, 6:30pm
Warren Green Building
10 Hotel St., Warrenton


Julie Bolthouse
Fauquier County Land Use Officer
The Piedmont Environmental Council

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