By Christopher Bonner
The wildly unpopular Warrenton Comprehensive Plan will change Warrenton, and that change will be forever. Population will increase by 50 percent within 20 years. Traffic will explode. Quiet neighborhoods will become through streets. Taxes will increase.
Historic, charming Warrenton will become the faceless, congested Northern Virginia suburbs many of us fled.
If Warrenton Town Council approves the comp plan, the big winner will be developers, who could build lucrative residential complexes up to six stories of any design without citizen review.
The comp plan was quietly on its way to being approved first by the planning commission and then by the town council. The skids were greased, but then Covid 19 happened. Residents with time on their hands began wading through hundreds of pages of suggestions, directives and mandates to discover that something was lost in translation. And that something was Warrenton’s small-town feel and character.
After receiving blistering comments from 56 of the 62 citizens who participated in the first public hearing, the Planning Commission was tasked with redrafting and streamlining the comp plan.
A revised plan, to be released any day, is not expected to be materially different from the original plan. Unless residents of Warrenton and Fauquier County voice their concerns directly to Town Council, nothing will change.
In their rush to get the comp plan adopted by council, supporters gave away the store.
For example, the plan:
Tosses the keys to Warrenton’s future to builders who will have a free hand in designing and constructing almost anything they want — up to six stories — without citizen review.
Bets the future on residential growth by turning one of the town’s few remaining industrial plots over to homebuilders, forgoing high-paying jobs brought by industry. Without revenue from business and industry, higher taxes will make up the difference. And that’s just for starters.
The comp plan, as proposed, will be a costly enterprise for Warrenton and Fauquier taxpayers:
Warrenton taxpayers will foot the bill for costly water projects, and even the drought reserve may be threatened because there isn’t enough water to support a housing boom.
Residents will also pay for the controversial Timber Fence Parkway, knifing through two neighborhoods and skirting Rady Park, and the unneeded Southern Parkway. Quiet neighborhoods will become through streets choked with cars, eroding our quality of life.
Fauquier County taxpayers will be squeezed to provide new schools, public safety and other services required by a town experiencing tremendous growth.
Please write or call your town council member today and say that Warrenton deserves a comp plan that works for all of us, not just developers. A council vote on the plan could be next month. Please visit citizensforfauquier.org for the latest information.
Comprehensive Plan Threatens Warrenton’s Water Resources
By Sally Semple
The proposed Warrenton Comprehensive Plan threatens the town’s reliable daily water supply with an aggressive 50 percent population growth strategy. Warrenton’s reservoirs, wells, and treatment plant are not unlimited resources. Their capacity has been challenged in the past at significantly lower population levels.
Some may recall the 2007 drought, when the Town invoked “voluntary” water restrictions. By September 2007, the water level at the Warrenton Reservoir had dropped by half, the Airlee reservoir was down four feet and was dropping 1.5 inches a day, and Warrenton was only days away from mandatory water restrictions. Fortunately, it rained.
Back in 2007, Warrenton had a 32 percent cushion between its daily water supply capacity (“safe yield”) and average daily demand. Plan Warrenton 2040 would shrink that cushion to just 9%, even with the reactivation of two dormant wells.
Consecutive days of higher than average water usage can strain systems that don’t adequately plan for water storage, breakages/downtime, and drought. Some towns, even in water-rich states, must endure routine restrictions on water use, simply because town planners did not pace development with water resources. Is this Warrenton’s fate?
Warrenton uses at least 50 percent more water on peak water demand days than on the “average day.” The growth called for in Plan Warrenton 2040 would force Warrenton to run at a deficit of over 875,000 gallons of water on a peak day at plan build-out. The town has never experienced daily deficits of that magnitude. The peak day demand gap in 2007 was only 154,000 gallons.
How will Warrenton fare in future droughts with fewer reserves? Might water restrictions be imposed just to meet normal demand in the hotter months? Is the town depending on adding water storage or expanding the reservoir? Why is this not discussed in the proposed Comprehensive Plan? How much additional storage do we need and at what cost?
The current Comprehensive Plan states, “The size of the reservoir … could be expanded… but only at considerable public expense to raise the dam.” Why do planners now believe it is to our benefit to grow the town beyond our current water resources?
Worse, Warrenton Plan 2040 may have underestimated future water needs. Questions remain unanswered about the omission of water demand for the new Walker Drive development, and other projects with site plans approved since 2015. Further, Warrenton Plan 2040 water supply projections assume “There will be no substantial or major operational problems and mechanical failures in the current water and wastewater system…” This unrealistic assumption is in direct conflict with basic system reliability safeguards for determination of safe water yield.
In 2018, the Virginia Code was amended to protect citizens from such shortsightedness. The law now requires that sustainability of the water supply be specifically addressed in Comprehensive Plans. Warrenton’s proposed Comprehensive Plan should be no exception. For example, the town should:
Institute system reliability standards for safe yield from wells
Complete an inventory to identify any sites omitted from the water demand projections
Identify the amount of water storage needed to meet repeated days of peak water use in summer
Clearly state if existing water supplies are sufficient for the targeted growth
Identify if increased water demand will trigger environmental requirements to plan for a water plant expansion
Adjust population targets and aggressive building policies to ensure that demand does not outpace current water supply resources.
60 Years On A Precipice
Now on Sale!
Hope Porter's long-awaited book chronicling Fauquier’s conservation history, 60 Years on A Precipice, is available now, direct from CFFC, for $20 plus $3.50 shipping. The book describes the men and women who helped shape modern Fauquier, the envy of the commonwealth with over 100,00 acres under conservation easement. That achievement was hard fought as developers, with help from some politicians, tried to transform Fauquier into another faceless, sprawling suburb of Washington.
Telling the CFFC Story:
The First 50 Years
Warrenton First Fridays
Another conservation-minded Fauquier resident signed up to learn about CFFC on a night when hundreds of people strolled Main Street Warrenton during the town’s First Friday event. The CFFC tent attracted the curious and the committed, as well as school children who learned that conservation includes habitat for Butterflies. The First Friday events run through October.