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As Dumfries Talks Redevelopment, Is Unkempt Property Keeping Businesses Away?

DUMFRIES, Va. — As development plans go, the City of Norfolk’s is as highly detailed as any.

The plan, called planNorfolk 2030, outlines which types of development and buildings are desired in each of the city’s 21 neighborhoods. The guide also outlines which neighborhoods should remain urban, which ones will see more mixed-use development with a mix of new retail stores and new homes, and which ones should remain largely suburban with single-family homes lining the streets.

Come north to the much smaller, 1.6-square mile Town of Dumfries, and leaders here say there is much redevelopment that needs to be done. One of those elected leaders, Councilman Charles Brewer, wants to adapt Norfolk’s plan as a sort of guide for the future of redevelopment in Dumfries.

“Basically, what [the City of Norfolk did] is they create[d] a plan, and they help you implement a plan to redevelop your town,” Brewer told Town Manager Daniel Taber at recent meeting of the Dumfries Town Council.

Taber was asked to do more research into Norfolk’s master plan and bring back information on it to members of the Dumfries Town Council, specifically about Norfolk’s master plan to redevelop its waterfront districts.  Dumfries was once known for its bustling port, but its waterway, Quantico Creek, became filled with silt and is no longer navigable by large boats.

So, while waterfront access may not be in Dumfries’ near future, the town does have another substantial redevelopment tool going for it. Much of the town has been designated a Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone). Businesses in these areas can apply for preferential treatment when it comes to winning federal contracts.

Dumfries Business Association President Chris Caldwell says the town’s location near the main gate of the Quantico Marine Corps Base and its easy access to Interstate 95 makes it an ideal place to locate a business. Be he adds that some existing businesses don’t keep up their properties, and that can lead to diminished interest in the town.

“[Business owners] look at the commercial buildings that are here but they are not desirable because they are not well kept, even at a price of $8 per sq foot,” said Caldwell.

He cites shopping centers with older facades and parking lots that look less than pristine.

The Dumfries Town Council has made amendments to the town’s comprehensive plan and allowed churches to operate in shopping centers and in the Elwey Center office building on U.S. 1. (where Caldwell’s business office is located). Caldwell is also against this, opting for commercial districts to remain solely for business and for churches to locate elsewhere in the town.

As for adhering to a master plan that would govern development in the town – Caldwell said its success could go either way.

“It could be a double edge sword. Anytime you get government telling people what they can do and what they can’t do is not a good thing. At the same time when you have biz owners not keeping up on their end of the bargain something needs to happen,” he said.

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