The Augusta County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the rezoning of 135 acres of county land at the I-81 and Woodrow Wilson Parkway highway interchange. The developer, Northern Virginia firm of Pence Friedel, presented a plan to build a three phase commercial and business marketplace. It would include three “Big Box” stores, a movie theater, several independent restaurants, and a 180-room hotel. The construction of the Augusta Marketplace would be the biggest commercial development in the history of Augusta County, according to The News Virginian.
The Board held a public hearing for local citizens to voice their opinions. Concerns were raised about traffic congestion, noise and light pollution, and disruption and or damage to the nearby Lewis Creek. The developer answered questions about the traffic congestion and gave a detailed presentation on how those issues would be corrected. The developer also explained that the lighting will be tight on the site and not spill over to the surrounding area. The Pence Firm also stated that they have complied with all the environmental zoning ordinances in terms of Lewis Creek and had even set development further back than the ordinance dictates. Other citizens had various other concerns including a need for bike trails and walking paths.
One local resident and local physician said that while jobs are all well and good we need more stable jobs than retail and commercial sales, which are not doing well in the present economy. He stated that we have a mall in Staunton that is pretty empty, almost a ghost town. He asked why this area could not be used instead. He stated that he would hate to see another farm in the county lost.
Beverley Manor Supervisor Jeremy Shifflett countered in his remarks that the site was designated for commercial development, according to the Comprehensive Plan adopted by the Board in 2007. Shifflett also stated that the development would bring about 5,000 new jobs to the area and about 2 million new dollars in tax revenue. He said, if you live and work here, you should be able to spend your money here.
With the passage of the rezoning, construction is planned to begin in 2011, with the first phase scheduled to open for business late 2011 or the beginning of 2012.