Approximately 50 Fredericksburg residents showed up to a 'Community Conversation' event at the Walker-Grant Center on Wednesday evening. (Photo by Lindley Estes)

Residents deliver sticking points at first Comprehensive Plan community conversation

by | Jun 27, 2024 | ALLFFP, Events, Fredericksburg

What does the Fredericksburg of 2030 look like? Of 2040? 2050? 

That was the question on the table at the first “Community Conversation” for Fredericksburg’s new Comprehensive Plan. During Wednesday’s event at the Walker-Grant Center, roughly 50 locals came to share their ideas with planning officials, as well as the companies contracted to create the 2025 Comprehensive Plan at the outset of the year-long process.  

The plan is a long-range document that establishes the community’s vision for the next two decades and guides official decisions. It is required by the Commonwealth in every locality and is typically updated every five years, according to city principal planner Mike Craig, who led the meeting. Fredericksburg’s last plan was approved in 2015, and since then they’ve worked to create small area plans that go into greater detail. 

“The intent of this process is to develop the next evolution of our thought on what makes this city sustainable economically and environmentally, what defines quality housing and neighborhoods and who can realistically access them, how we protect, reuse, and appropriately grapple with our history, the level and type of services the local government will provide, and how people move about the city,” Craig said.  

Becoming less dependent on cars, redeveloping shopping centers and housing costs emerged as common threads from the attendees.  

At stations spread throughout the room, attendees were asked what they love about the city, what they don’t like, and what can be enhanced. Additionally, they could leave notes on a large map showing specific areas of concern.  

Zooey Young, a UMW student who also works downtown, attended the meeting and shared a vision of affordable housing and week-round bus schedules. Young is able to live at home with their family while in school to save but has friends who work multiple jobs while learning to make ends meet, “and that affords a single room 15 minutes outside of town,” they said.  

Also attending was Matt Loehr, who lives in Central Park. He would like to see that community become more walkable and have a greater variety of mixed-use properties. Loehr also advocated for more affordable housing options.  

He attended the meeting with his friend Joseph Lyttle, who directs Fredericksburg Area Health and Support Services (FAHASS) in the city. While Lyttle also talked to staff about more affordable housing options, he also noted the need for walkability, more entertainment venues and free Rappahannock River beach access.  

Not everyone shared that vision.  

Denise Malczewski is retired and has lived in the Darbytown neighborhood for 15 years. She said she appreciates the close-knit neighborhood where people know and care for each other.  

She shared her hesitance about development in the city.  

“I’m wary of developers having to cut corners to make money and building less than stellar buildings in the historic district,” she said.  

Lynn Ackermann, who lives in College Heights, shared a vision of a “slower, more environmentally-friendly” city that welcomes more diverse residents in every neighborhood.  

Her sticky notes promoted more pollinator plants, a ban on pesticides, a 20-mph speed limit in town, more stop signs and crosswalks and a variety of housing throughout the city that works for people at different stages of life and incomes.  

Rupert Farley has seen the city evolve over his 80 years here. And he said he’d like to see a return to the walkability he remembers.   

“I would walk to ice cream, to the grocery store, to school,” he said.  

Couple Barzel and Brenda McKinney own the nonprofit Haven For Hero’s, which provides housing for veterans. They have two properties in the city that are affordable for veterans.  

“We’ve always had to come in and look at the plan, but now we can actually be a part of it,” Barzel McKinney said. “There are some big issues we’re looking at: does the Comprehensive Plan have affordable housing as a goal? And is the public transportation many of our veterans rely on a goal, too?” 

At the outset of the meeting, Craig explained Fredericksburg’s winding historical footprint and values from its origin as a port city in 1728.  

“We are on the cusp of the city’s fourth century,” he said. “It’s an exciting time.” 

When zoning first came into focus in the 1940s and ’50s, the issues were different: there was huge interest in regulating pickling enterprises in the city due to the concentrated population close to these businesses.  

“But you can see how the community fought to be heard at that time,” Craig said.  

And before then, he said, the city could never have planned for the automobile age. Now, arterial-based shopping centers have “lived their lifecycle.”  

Many neighborhoods have outdated parking solutions, added Craig, and the community is much more focused on environmental measures like the urban tree canopy and managing the floodplain.  

Anne Darby of Summit Design and Engineering is the project manager for the Comprehensive Plan and said she and officials from Stantec, who is also working on the plan, will be talking to as many people as possible.  

Wednesday’s event was the first of three “Community Conversations.” Two others will be held on Oct. 5 and Feb. 1, 2025, at different stages of the plan’s development.  

In July, they’ll be at local events including the Fredericksburg Farmers Market and the Fourth of July festival to get input. Neighborhood-specific meetings will follow, leading to a draft vision statement in September.  

There is also an online survey live for feedback. As of Wednesday, 150 people had taken the survey in the first week it was available. Darby said that’s a good response rate and reflective of an active community.   

The first draft of the plan will be available for comment in early 2025, after which it will go to City Council for additional changes or approval later in the year. 

Share This