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Sunday, May 26, 2024

UPDATE: CW Withdraws Rezoning Near Sports Complex, HTRFA to Submit New Application

WILLIAMSBURG — The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation withdrew its rezoning application for property near its Visitor Center earmarked for building a 200,000-square-foot indoor sports facility that would be jointly run by James City County, York County and the City of Williamsburg ahead of the Williamsburg Planning Commission meeting on March 19. 

“The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has withdrawn its authorization for the rezoning application for the Visitor Center/Bypass Pasture properties on Wednesday’s meeting agenda. As we explore potential uses for the underutilized properties, the Foundation looks forward to a robust engagement process that solicits many perspectives,” stated Ellen Peltz, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Public Relations Manager.

Nicole Trifone, City of Williamsburg Communications Director said, “To facilitate the best possible outcome, the Historic Triangle Recreational Facilities Authority (HTRFA) and Colonial Williamsburg withdrew the joint application. The HTRFA will soon submit a new application that seeks the allowance of HTRFA-owned public buildings, such as the regional sports complex and the potential live performance venue, on the parcel adjacent to the Visitors Center.”

The plan had sparked concern from local residents, and Citizens for Responsible & Sustainable Development group spokesperson Fraser Hudgins thanked those who planned to speak or wrote emails in opposition.

“This is just a quick note to let you know that late today CW withdrew its applications to amend our Comprehensive Plan and zoning laws. All matters previously on the Planning Commission agenda concerning the Sports Complex have been withdrawn. Thanks to all of you who wrote those emails and to those of you who were planning to speak tomorrow at the PC meeting,” Hudgins stated.

Mar 7, 2024 — Three zoning requests from the Historic Triangle Recreational Facilities Authority (HTRFA) were tabled prior to the Wednesday, Feb. 21 Williamsburg Planning Commission meeting, and language in the requests has spurred concern from a group of Williamsburg citizens.

HTRFA is a governmental entity formed to evaluate, and if feasible, oversee the construction and management of recreational and tourism facilities in the Historic Triangle. A new 80 million dollar Sports Complex facility, to be run by HTRFA, was approved Dec. 2023.

According to the agenda; there is a request from HTRFA to amend the Williamsburg Comprehensive Plan to add the Recreational and Entertainment Zoning District (RE-1) as a district that implements the Economic Development land use category.

This includes a request to change zoning from Museum Support (MS) to Recreational and Entertainment District (RE-1) for the sport’s complex project to move forward.

“The current zoning of the property is Museum Support, which doesn’t provide for uses such as a regional sports center or a live performance venue. Therefore, the HTRFA is pursuing necessary land use changes to provide for those types of uses,” Nicole Trifone, City of Williamsburg Communications Director, explained about the necessity to change the current zoning.

“The owner of the property, which HTRFA leases, is the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, which anticipates interest in mixed-use development as a result of the HTRFA’s development activities,” Trifone continued.

Citizens for Responsible Spotswood Development, which said it will be broadening its scope to keep concerned citizens of Williamsburg informed and engaged regarding developments in “our small town,” became troubled when the application included in the wording of the proposed change to add “limited multifamily”.

“I get to the part [of the agenda packet] where there’s all this high-density housing, potentially, and my jaw just dropped,” said Fraiser Hudgins with the Citizens for Responsible Spotswood Development. “And then my jaw dropped even further when you have this other 80 acres being pushed in for no apparent reason.”

HTFRA Proposal (HTFRA)

Proposed Ordinance #24 states that permitted uses of the land could include “Multifamily and Townhomes in accordance with section 21-380. Not more than 30% of the gross area of contiguous land in a recreation and entertainment district (RE), whether under the same or different ownership, may be devoted exclusively to residential use.”

“What’s troubling is the attempt to quietly re-zone this property to include high-density residential use without any meaningful public disclosure or discussion, without any master plan for a residential development, and without any fiscal, environmental, or traffic impact studies — all under the guise of “Recreation and Entertainment,” Hudgins’s group said in an email sent out to citizens.

“It’s really the process that concerns me, the lack of transparency,” Hudgins said. “You can’t judge any development there because there’s no plan for any development. It’s just spot zoning.” Hudgins stressed that the organization is not against the sports complex, however, it is concerned about the addition to allow the “high-density housing” and the lack of transparency at the city government level.

“The colocation of commercial and retail spaces, and even some residential, would benefit the entertainment recreational uses planned by the HTRFA and increase their overall success,” Trifone explained. “The current zoning change wording was based on the input of the Colonial Williamsburg consultants and the HTRFA design team.”

“The application requires an authorization form from the landowner that we did not receive prior to the hearing, so it was tabled,” Trifone added. “It has since been submitted and we anticipate the Planning Commission to consider it at their March meeting.”

Jillian Appel contributed to this story.

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