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Fredericksburg

Hand-in-hand plans for growth
March 30, 2006 12:50 am

By GEORGE WHITEHURST

A smart-growth specialist told Fredericksburg-area civic and business leaders yesterday that linkage of land-use planning and transportation is a key tool for managing the influx of people who will move into the region over the next 25 years.

Gerrit J. Knapp, executive director of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education, also suggested that high-density development may help preserve the region's open space and historical lands.

Knapp delivered his remarks to about 75 people gathered at the Fredericksburg Country Club for a follow-up to November's Reality Check exercise, which was sponsored by the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce.

At the November gathering, the chamber invited business and political leaders, as well as environmentalists and preservationists, to figure out where to put the estimated 200,000 people and 125,000 new jobs the area will scoop up by 2030.

Participants at the November event were divided into 13 groups. Each group was furnished with Legos to represent new houses and jobs, a green pen to mark the areas that should be out-of-bounds to developers and a regional map. The map had roads and waterways marked, but political boundaries were erased to encourage people to think more regionally.

Not surprisingly, most groups clustered development around the Interstate 95 corridor.

All 13 tables declared that their top priority is preserving open space, historical sites and environmentally sensitive spots.

Other goals included encouraging mixed-use development and creating more affordable housing.

One suggested redeveloping already developed areas that are faltering.

Spotsylvania Supervisor Bob Hagan--who will soon resign that job to become the chamber's executive director--suggested that densely clustered development is a key to reducing suburban sprawl, and even easing traffic congestion.

He voiced hope that the localities involved in Reality Check--Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford--will some day develop a regional comprehensive land-use plan.

"Growth is coming," Hagan said. "So you have a chance to plan for it and manage it, or you can sit back and get overwhelmed by it."

Irv McGowan, representing Arlington-based McGowan Development, suggested that such plans look good on paper but often flop due to grass-roots opposition from residents.

"What people want is their single-family house and nothing else built around it," he declared. "That is political reality."

To reach GEORGE WHITEHURST:540/374-5438
Email: gwhitehurst@freelancestar.com

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