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Rezoning could bring planned community

By M.K. Luther


FRONT ROYAL -- A proposed rezoning in the town's Leach Run area could bring the community its first large-scale planned neighborhood.

Heptad LLC and Greenway Engineering are applying for a rezoning of 98.25 acres south of Happy Creek Road and north of John Marshall Highway for the mixed-density residential development, according to Director of Planning and Zoning Bruce Drummond.
The current zoning is suburban residential, allowing two housing units per acre. The planned neighborhood development zoning allows for a little more than three units per acre.

The rezoning plans for the property, formerly called Swan Farm, have been evolving since first presented in July 2005. The application came back before the Front Royal Planning Commission last July.

The $7 million proffer package provides $4 million for the town and $3 million for the county, Drummond said.

The planned neighborhood development zoning ordinance was created in 2005 in anticipation of the original application. No property in Front Royal has ever been zoned for planned neighborhood development.

The planned neighborhood development has a mixed-use plan for a combination of housing and commercial options, along with green space and open land.

The development must have at least 20 acres and contain 25 percent open space. The development ordinance also has several specific zoning requirements, including restrictions on the amount of commercial property and residential boundaries.
The property is flanked by the Happy Creek Knolls and Williamsburg Estates subdivisions and adjacent to Warren County High School and Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School.

Originally, all the traffic was supposed to go out Westminster Drive and Happy Ridge Drive.

"They would have been mixing it up with school traffic," Drummond said.

Following months of review and numerous revisions, the Planning Commission recommended conditional approval of the application following an April 20 public hearing.
The original rezoning application caused concerns with possible traffic congestion and incongruent land use, Drummond said.

The developer now has proffered money for a section of Leach Run Parkway by the 130th building permit to help address entrance access and road issues, Drummond said.

The original land-use plan called for cul-de-sacs and numerous streets, and was not suited to the property's natural slopes, according to Drummond.

The amount of open space increased to almost 45 percent in the revised application, Drummond said. The master plan also now includes plans for houses to be placed on alternate sides of roads.

"That gives a community a lot better feel and it doesn't seem to be as dense," Drummond said.

The applicant also agreed to tweak the master plan so the property could be added to the county's urban development areas.

To qualify for the urban development area, the applicant raised the number of units from 330 to 450 and included more condominiums.

The rezoning application's final public hearing and approval are dependent on the results of a Virginia Department of Transportation review, Drummond said.

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