Historic National Bank Building

City Council Overrules ARB’s Approval of Bank Property Townhomes

by | Nov 13, 2015 | Government

By Susan Larson

Fredericksburg City Council voted 6 – 1 November 10, 2015, to suspend the Architectural Review Board’s (ARB) approval of developer Mike Adams’ plan to build seven, four-story townhouses in the 300 block of George Street in downtown Fredericksburg. The property is adjacent to the historic National Bank Building.

The Historic Fredericksburg Foundation (HFFI) encouraged the change in a November 9 email to supporters. “We at the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc. (HFFI) feel this project is too large and out of scale for the historic area where it is to be located,” the group said.

City Attorney Kathleen Dooley crafted the resolution, which said ARB’s approval of the George Street Brownstones exceeded its authority to implement Historic District regulations and its decision was invalid.

Councilor Brad Ellis (Ward 1) cast the dissenting vote, concerned that the city could be sued. “We’re telling future investors we have a process in place they have to follow, but hey, it can change,” he said.

“I think the message that we’re sending the community is that we do value our heritage,” said Councilor Kerry Devine (At-Large). “That’s a message I would like to send loud and clear.”

In a letter to City Council opposing the project, John Hennessy, chief historian and chief of interpretation at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, said the intersection of Princess Anne Street and George Street, where the historic National Bank Building is located, is “at the heart of Fredericksburg’s historic identity.”

Councilor Matt Kelly (At-Large) agreed. He said suspension of ARB’s approval was the right thing to do, even if there are legal ramifications.

The National Bank Building is on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis both spoke from the bank building’s steps during the Civil War. Union troops used the building as a headquarters.

Council plans to discuss the project with Adams during the December 8 City Council meeting.

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