Lake gateway eyed for ‘human scale’ shopping

Members of the Louisa County Planning Commission members got a crash course on Aug. 29 in what it means to build a new shopping center “at a human scale.”

Their instructor, county planner Tom Egeland, explained that a person can gauge whether they’re in a place that has human scale by asking, “Does it make you feel like you want to be there?

“We all have streets that we love to drive or walk down … and there are others that we want to get away from real quick,” he said. A pedestrian might make a point of walking their dog down a street that feels welcoming, he said, and might avoid doing so in the parking lot of a big-box store.

Egeland offered that guidance before the commission recommended rezoning 113 acres at Wares Crossroads on Aug. 29 for the shopping center, sending the proposal by developers Gary Griffith and Lonnie Carter to the board of supervisors for a final vote.

Commissioner George Goodwin asked Egeland to explain the developers’ assertion that they would create a “human-scale” environment on the property, which is divided into two parts on the north and south sides of Mansfield Road (Route 613). Egeland said the developers should have given the commission more details about how they will lay out the shopping streets.

“It would have been nice to have a visual illustration that shows exactly what’s going to be built,” he said. “We don’t require that.”

The northern half of the development would house the shopping center with pedestrian-oriented streets. On the south side of Mansfield Road, development would be on larger parcels, with possible uses such as an assisted living facility or distribution warehouse.

Griffith told the commission the types of businesses that will lease space in the development will be ones the county would want to see. 

“If someone wants to have an adult book store or a gentlemen’s club, they can go across the street,” he said.

The development has drawn strong criticism from Charles Purcell and W.A. Dickinson, who are joint owners of several properties on the opposite side of Zachary Taylor Highway (Route 522). Purcell said his biggest concern is how Griffith’s plan will worsen traffic conditions at the already-troubled Wares Crossroads intersection. 

While Purcell said he and Dickinson plan to move the entrances to their property away from the intersection, Griffith is planning a new entry and exit point closer to the corner.

“I don’t think you have the information you need to make an intelligent decision,” Purcell said. “To even consider another development using that same intersection would be almost malfeasance.”

Mark Wood, a Virginia Department of Transportation engineer, attended the meeting and said if the development is likely to generate more than 5,000 vehicle trips per day, a traffic impact study will be required before any construction can occur. 

The state agency plans to build a roundabout at the intersection in 2023 to slow down traffic and reduce the number of accidents. 

While some nearby landowners are worried about the development, Jon Koren, who co-owns Lake Anna Tractor and Hardware, said he was looking forward to the additional services it will offer the lake community and the county as a whole.

“We have customers every day who say, ‘Where can I get this?’ and we tell them they have to go to Fredericksburg,” Koren said. “But I would say make sure you plan this smartly, with concern for neighboring properties.”