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Public to judge courthouse plans page 2
Fredericksburg will let residents weigh in about new courthouse for first time in public hearing Tuesday.

View all of the proposals for the new courthouse complex.
Date published: 5/15/2011

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"Putting it off is just going to cost us more money in the end," she said.

But Councilman Fred Howe III said now isn't the right time because it will force the city to raise taxes 10 percent to 15 percent. He wants to put the issue to voters in a referendum.

"I'd say it warrants a majority, or at least the opportunity for the majority of voters to chime in," he said.

Tuesday night's public hearing will include a presentation by city staff of the process the city has followed and brief summaries of each proposal. Then the staff and council members will take comments and questions from residents.

Cameron said that while residents are welcome to ask questions, city officials probably won't be able to provide a lot of answers.

"I would anticipate that many questions would require additional research," he said.

Cameron said staff will make an effort to record the comments and respond to questions in writing as quickly as possible.

The developers will not be part of the presentation, he said.

The city set up an email account for the public to send in comments about the courthouse proposals, but it hasn't received many.

Tomzak said he's gotten five to 10 emails, all negative. He thinks the people who support a new courthouse don't email and probably won't show up for Tuesday's session.

Other council members hope the public brings a range of opinions.

"I think we have enough people in this city that have been outspoken previously on other issues and need to be outspoken on this issue, pro or con, one way or the other," said Councilwoman Bea Paolucci. "I just want a dialogue started."

She said she thinks the success of this public hearing--whether a lot of people come out or not--will determine whether more are held on the issue.

"Any time you hold a public hearing like this, you hope to get a good representative sample and opinion--hopefully thoughtful opinion," Councilman George Solley said.

Several council members said the developers have submitted high-quality proposals.

"The teams were excellent, every one of them," Greenlaw said. "We owe it to those teams to come to a decision."

How much of that decision-making process will be public is still an issue of debate among council members.


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2005: Circuit Judge John W. Scott Jr. sends letter signed by all eight Circuit Court judges requesting new courthouse.

AUGUST 2007: Moseley study completed detailing need for new courthouse.

DECEMBER 2007: City Council members choose the Princess Anne Street post office site as the location of new courts, turning down another proposed site off Lafayette Boulevard. DECEMBER 2008: Council members are presented with more information on the post office proposal. A majority appear willing to keep moving forward with what is expected to be a $47 million plan, but a month later they change course and hire a new consultant to look for cheaper options.

OCTOBER 2009: Glave & Holmes study presented to council cites fire station on Princess Anne Street as best location for new courthouse facilities.

NOVEMBER 2009: Council authorizes city manager to prepare to move forward with a $39.7 million plan to build a new courthouse on fire station site.

JULY 2010: Councilman Fred Howe III asks council to consider Executive Plaza on Caroline Street for new courthouse.

NOVEMBER 2010: City requests private proposals to build courts on fire station site, Executive Plaza or in that vicinity.

MARCH 2011: Council receives five proposals on new courthouse facilities.

APRIL 2011: Council receives report from a consultant reviewing courthouse proposals

TUESDAY: Council plans public hearing to present courthouse proposals to city residents. END OF MAY: Council hopes to trim list of proposals.

CLANCEY & THEYS

This plan calls for one centralized building for all three courts on the site of the fire station at the corner of Princess Anne and Wolfe streets. The courtrooms would be stacked on three floors, and the basement level would be for office space and parking. It would have room for five courtrooms but be able to expand to a sixth, if needed. Construction would take about 33 months and cost $31 million, not counting the $5 million to $6 million cost of building a new fire station at the site of the old regional jail.

W.M. JORDAN

This plan would use land already owned by the city and not move the fire station. The Circuit Court would be on the site of the existing Juvenile and Domestic Relations building and the General District and J&DR courts would be together in another building on the site of the existing General District Court building. The project would be done in three phases, and the three courts would not be relocated at the same time. The cost of the project is $32.6 million and would take 36 months. This plan also includes renovating the Renwick building, which is where the Circuit Court is now.

HENSEL PHELPS

This plan would tear down the Executive Plaza at 601 Caroline St. and replace it with a new courts building, which would use the parking garage next to it. All three courts would be in one building, with five courtrooms and the ability to expand to add three more. It would cost $38 million and take 25 months.

FIRST CHOICE

First Choice offers two locations on Princess Anne--one where the fire station is now, and one where the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court is now. The J&DR location would put the courts in two different buildings and connect them with a tunnel. The fire station location would put the Circuit Court and General District Court in a new building, but would have to find a new place to put the fire station. The plan suggests putting it on Amelia Street. The J&DR location would cost $36 million and take 30 months and the fire station location would cost $41 million and take 36 months.

DONLEY'S

Donley's proposes three sites, each costing $34 million. The first would be where the fire station is. All three courts would be in the same building. It would take 44 months to complete. The second would be where the Executive Plaza is on Caroline Street and would demolish the current building. It would take 37 months to complete. The third location would be on Sophia Street and have riverfront views and be central to downtown. It would take 36 months to finish.

ON THE NET: To read the full courthouse proposals, visit fredericksburg.com

WHAT: Public hearing on city courthouse proposals. WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Council chambers, City Hall, 715 Princess Anne St.

COMMENT: You may email comments about the proposals to courtproposal comments@fredericksburg va.gov.