Warrenton Residents Deserve Better than “Plan Warrenton 2040”

3/10/21 Update: The Town of Warrenton is keeping the public hearing on Plan Warrenton 2040 open for 30 days. Comments can continue to be sent in (see the list of comment options below). A vote on the draft plan by the Warrenton Town Council is expected on April 13.

Plan Warrenton 2040 banner image

On March 9, 2021, the Warrenton Town Council will consider whether or not to adopt the vision outlined in the latest draft of Plan Warrenton 2040. The town council is set to hold a public hearing on the draft plan on Tuesday, March 9 at 6:30pm at the Warrenton Town Hall (21 Main Street, Warrenton).

PEC believes that residential growth should occur (and be planned for) in our towns and service districts. However, over the last year, PEC has highlighted specific concerns tied to the draft plan’s unbalanced approach to residential growth, the lack of planning to tackle affordable housing, the inclusion of a new western bypass and missing information on water and wastewater needs, among many others. We believe these concerns need to be addressed and urge the Warrenton Town Council to redraft the plan with these issues in mind. 

More on the draft Warrenton 2040 Plan

The substance of the latest draft plan, released in January 2021 and recommended for approval by the Warrenton Planning Commission in February, is largely the same as it was the prior summer. And although there have been other improvements, such as the removal of the term “by-right” from the plan, most of the concerns we raised in our July letter to the planning commission have not been addressed

The January 26 version of Plan Warrenton 2040 is available here with hyperlinks to sub-sections available here

What’s the issue? 

The draft plan continues to outline a growth trajectory for Warrenton which emphasizes recruitment of new residential development in areas once planned for commercial and industrial. This plan charts a new course, focusing on attracting residential development in the hopes that economic growth will follow. 

The town is planning for a rate of growth several times higher than what has occurred over the past decade in Warrenton or Fauquier County more broadly. We are concerned this approach will have detrimental effects on the town’s tax base and its ability to meet infrastructure needs, making it even harder to provide the quality-of-life amenities that residents desire, such as parks, sidewalks, transportation improvements, connectivity, shopping and dining, recreational activities, etc. 

The housing market is strong in our area, even more so since the Covid-19 pandemic. If approved, the plan would make Warrenton a target for speculative commuter housing. Troublingly, this seems to be the goal.

When it comes to housing, we believe the town has not focused enough on retaining and encouraging affordable housing—a critical need in Warrenton especially given that many of the employment opportunities are lower-income retail and food-service positions. Market-rate housing will come on its own because there is profit to be made in building it, but affordable housing must be intentionally sought and planned. Affordable housing can be addressed through such targeted means as limits on lot and housing sizes, flexibility of lot configurations, provisions allowing duplexes in existing single-family neighborhoods, low- and no-interest loan programs for home repair or improvements, and infrastructure investment in older neighborhoods such as those residents of Oliver City have asked for. Unfortunately, the town’s plan fails to propose these strategies, instead focusing on density bonuses for developers who include a small percentage of affordable housing in their market-rate development.

Many other issues with the draft plan are also worthy of comment / consideration. Here’s a short-list of some of the items we are asking the town to tackle in an improved draft:

  • Reevaluate the draft future land use plan which converts nearly all commercial and industrial land to mixed-use with residential, including the last few large undeveloped parcels left in town.  
  • Reevaluate the fiscal and economic benefit of shifting the plan focus to residential development over the next 20 years. Pursue a more balanced approach to growth. 
  • Reevaluate the broad application of mixed-use zoning in the Character Districts and target this incentive to priority redevelopment and infill sites. 
  • Develop a clear action plan for creating and maintaining affordable housing. This could include establishing a baseline inventory of all substandard housing and monitoring renovations and repair, mechanisms for preserving and creating new affordable dwelling units, creating incentives for small scale development such as accessory dwelling units and duplex conversions, and monitoring of racial and socioeconomic trends related to housing. 
  • Prioritize public investments in our existing neighborhoods and commercial areas such as expanding sidewalk connections, improving lighting, implementing traffic-calming measures, improving stormwater management, and facilitating affordable hook up to public water and sewer for existing residents.
  • Before including the proposed western bypass in the plan the town needs to evaluate newest information, provide justification, and engage stakeholders in conversations about this impactful new road that would connect Rt. 29 south of Town to Rt. 211 (Southern Parkway) and Rt. 211 to Rt. 17 (extended Timber Fence Parkway). 
  • Evaluate the traffic implications of the proposed growth and the costs associated with needed improvements. Ensure that these improvements are paid by development, not by existing taxpayers.
  • Be forthright about future water and sewer in the plan and provide cost estimates  for expansions associated with projected growth. 
  • Adopt a master park plan, Town Streetscape Manual, Town-Wide Tree Plan, and performance standards for protecting environmental features to guide development and protect these resources before incentivizing mixed-use development of the remaining undeveloped land. 

Read more in PEC’s detailed comments >>

Ready to Weigh In?

The town council public hearing on the draft plan is on Tuesday, March 9 at 6:30pm at the Warrenton Town Hall (21 Main Street, Warrenton) You can submit comments to the Town of Warrenton in three ways: 

  1. Attend the March 9 meeting in person and speak from the podium. *there will not be an opportunity for people to speak virtually at this hearing.
  2. Email your comments by noon on the 9th by…

    – Directly contacting the Mayor and Town Council (contact pageor

    – Using the action campaign page that PEC has set up to contact them all at once
  3. Use the town’s online comment portal to submit comments (also by noon on March 9).

If you choose to attend the public hearing and make comments in person, be sure to bring a mask and be prepared to have to wait outside for your turn to speak due to Covid social distancing requirements.

This is a complex issue with a lot of nuance, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to PEC Field Representative, Julie Bolthouse, at jbolthouse@pecva.org.

Timeline so far…

  • June 16, 2020 – Planning Commission held Worksession on Draft Warrenton 2040 Plan and indicated adoption by Town Council was planned for September 8.
  • July 21, 2020 – Planning Commission held Public Hearing on Draft Warrenton 2040 Plan and received numerous letters expressing concern; the decision was postponed
  • July – January 2021 – Subcommittee of Planning Commission streamlined and generalized language in the master plan
  • December 15, 2020 – Planning Commission held Public Hearing on commercial zoning amendment to add additional residential development options and received numerous concerns about making zoning changes prior to plan adoption; the decision was postponed
  • January 26, 2021 – Work-session on updated version of draft Warrenton 2040 Plan and new option for Commercial Zoning Text Amendment. 
  • January 27, 2021 – Updated version of draft Warrenton 2040 Plan released to public
  • February 11, 2021 – Second Planning Commission work session on the plan
  • February 16, 2021 – Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the plan to the Warrenton Town Council in a 5-1 vote.
  • March 9, 2021 – Town Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed plan. Submit your comment >>