Two Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors candidates addressed hot-button local issues like recently approved housing developments, traffic and real estate tax rates at a forum Wednesday evening.
Battlefield District candidate Chris Yakabouski, a Republican, stressed his local government experience while one of his opponents, Lora Pierce, called herself a “neighbor trying to represent the rest of my neighbors.”
Willie Brown, another candidate for the Battlefield District, declined an invitation to attend the forum, which was hosted by the Fredericksburg Patriots tea party group at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s Salem Church branch. Pierce and Brown are running as independents.
Current Battlefield District Supervisor Benjamin Pitts is not running for re-election.
Patriots member Bryce Thorpe posed questions to each candidate—first to Pierce and then to Yakabouski, who previously served on the Board of Supervisors from 2004 through 2007.
Pierce, addressing a question about development, said she thinks the supervisors have approved too many subdivisions in too short a time period.
Since July, the board has voted in favor of four developments with a total of more than 2,500 houses, townhouses and apartments. Three of them also have commercial components.
“We’re doing it backwards,” Pierce said. “I think we need to get the roads built first and then put the development in.”
Yakabouski said he didn’t know if he’d vote in favor of future developments, in addition to what’s already been approved. “Each project, I think, needs to stand on its own,” he said.
Thorpe asked Yakabouski if he would’ve supported Courthouse Village and Crossroads Station—mixed-use projects envisioned to have about 2,000 residential units. Both were approved this summer.
Yakabouski noted that he would’ve studied the projects more had he been on the board. “But in theory, yes,” he replied. Pierce was not asked about how she would’ve voted on those developments.
The candidates also addressed cash proffers, which are voluntary payments from developers to offset the cost of roads, schools and other infrastructure needed for additional homes. Most of the developments that have been approved this year have not included cash proffers.
Pierce said she thinks the voluntary fees need to be “more uniform and fair.” “Sometimes they charge proffers, sometimes they waive proffers,” she said. “It seems to me there’s no uniformity.”
Yakabouski called cash proffers “a bad way to do business” and said the county’s recommended proffer amounts are too high.
The candidates were also asked about the contentious issue of a bypass to relieve congestion on State Route 3, U.S. 17 and Interstate 95.
Pierce said she doesn’t support the bypass plan that was introduced by Courtland District Supervisor David Ross.
The majority of Spotsylvania board members support that bypass, which would run from the Centreport Parkway interchange in central Stafford County down to U.S. 17, then cut west through Hartwood into Culpeper and Orange counties, where it would connect to State Route 3 near Wilderness.
“It totally goes around Spotsylvania County, and I don’t think it’s going to relieve congestion enough,” Pierce said.
She said she prefers the plan supported by the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
That option, which is in line for funds, includes improvements to the Interstate 95 interchanges at U.S. 17 and Route 3. Another component is a toll road that would leave I–95 at the Virginia Welcome Center, pass through Celebrate Virginia South and connect with Route 3 near Gordon Road in Spotsylvania. Pierce did say she’s not in favor of charging a toll.
Momentum for the toll road halted at the beginning of last year, after the Board of Supervisors formally opposed it.
Yakabouski said that the area needs another span crossing the Rappahannock River “first and foremost.”
He did criticize the proposed toll road for dumping traffic onto Gordon Road, which he said would create another mess. Yakabouski touted transportation as one of his major issues.
“There are several ways we can get traffic moving, and I do believe we need to get that done very quickly because we are getting to a critical point,” he said.
On the issue of taxes, Pierce didn’t rule out increasing the real estate levy but said, “I want to make sure that if we have to raise taxes, that we really have to.”
Yakabouski called the current levy of 88 cents per $100 of assessed value a “good rate.” “And I don’t plan on increasing the rate at all,” he said.
The Fredericksburg Patriots will have a forum for candidates in the Lee Hill District on Oct. 21 and another for candidates in the Berkeley District on Oct. 23.
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402