2023 City Council At-Large and Mayor Candidate Forum

Fifteen Minute Fredericksburg is a group of Fredericksburg citizens who are committed to a vision of our city as a place where all residents can conveniently live their daily lives on foot or by bike.  As a group, we broadly support the development of high-quality bike and pedestrian infrastructure; streets that are safe for all users young and old; affordable and accessible housing for all Fredericksburg residents; and healthy small and neighborhood businesses.  We want our city and all of its neighborhoods to be open, accessible, affordable, convenient, and pleasant places to live.

To that end, we developed a short list of four questions about Fredericksburg and its future and posed them to the candidates for City Council and Mayor currently up for election on November 7, 2023.  We are publishing all the candidates’ answers that we received, unedited, below.  We make no endorsements in this election; rather, we want to share information related to our vision with our supporters that will help them make their own decisions.

Matt Kelly, Will Mackintosh, and Jannan Holmes are running for At-Large seats on City Council. Since there are two At-Large seats available, the two candidates who receive the most votes will fill the seats. Kerry Devine is running unopposed for Mayor.

Question 1: In an era of rising rents and rising property values, especially in downtown but spreading across the City, how do you propose to address housing affordability and accessibility issues for residents of Fredericksburg?

Matt Kelly headshotMatt Kelly (for At-Large): Affordability will not be addressed by higher density which comes with problems of its own. Fredericksburg currently has one of the most diverse housing stock in the region. It also has the largest proportion of subsidized housing in the region.  I chaired the first regional housing affordability plan bringing developers, realtors, and affordable housing groups, together to come up with options to deal with affordability in our region. I would recommend looking at the updated plan on the George Washington Regional Commission website.

The biggest issue in the city is land value. Housing to our north and south will always be cheaper than in the city. Another issue is size. As small as the city is most projects are not big enough where minimum affordability quotas would work. And as noted, more density does not mean affordability. Look at any recent project in the city, including infill and none of it would be considered affordable. What would help is reductions in building/planning fees, possible tax breaks, and guaranteed loan programs. Have asked on a number of occasions that we have a discussion on housing in the city. Still waiting.

Will Mackintosh headshotWill Mackintosh (for At-Large): To a certain extent, the problem of rising housing costs is a regional and national problem, endemic to prosperous regions like ours.  That being said, there are several things City Council can do to address the problems of housing affordability and accessibility in our City.

First, on City Council I will keep one central guiding moral and political principle in mind while making decisions about land use: if you work in the City of Fredericksburg, you should be able to afford to live in the City of Fredericksburg if you want to.  For me, that’s the special sauce of what makes Fredericksburg such an amazing place: we are a diverse community that strives to include all people.  So for any decision that comes before me on Council, I will be asking the question “does the proposed action move us closer to or further away from our goal of being a city where everyone who works here can afford to live here?”  Having that as our north star will guide good policy decisions.

Second, the City can be much more aggressive and creative with pursuing win-win deals with builders and developers to be sure that they are building a diverse array of housing types at a diverse array of price points, and that they are actively building units that are set aside for members of our workforce making the median income or below.  Recently, the City cut just such a deal with the construction of Hanover House on the corner of Hanover and Sophia.  They allowed the builder to change the ratio of residential to commercial space in their development in return for the developer setting aside four apartments “affordable to those earning 50 percent of the area median income.”  I think the City should aggressively be pursuing more projects like this one that bring units to market at a variety of price points.

Finally, our rising housing costs are a simple result of supply and demand.  More
people want to live in Fredericksburg than there are available places for them to
live.  And as we all remember from high school econ, where there is more demand than supply, prices go up.  So City Council can be making decisions aimed at making sure we are meeting the demand for housing as best we are able to.  Of course, the question is where and how to meet that demand without undermining what makes Fredericksburg so special.  That’s why I think we can do smart, well contextualized infill development around the City, and also focus on redeveloping some of our underutilized commercial corridors into mixed-use areas that include businesses, shops, housing, and parks.  Underutilized areas along Route 1, Route 3, and west of 95 could be re-developed into real neighborhoods, where people live, work, and play. Those neighborhoods could provide workforce housing, new green space, and new tax revenue. Also, if we commit to connecting them to the rest of the City with high-quality bike and pedestrian paths, they will add fewer cars to our highways than greenfield developments.

Through its small area planning process, the City staff has offered a compelling vision of what those neighborhoods could look like, but we must bolster their efforts with the political will to realize their vision.  We need leadership who can work with the private sector to make sure that their investments meet our targets for workforce housing, green space, and amenities. We have no time to waste as the City is growing rapidly and we need to intentionally direct that growth in ways that will benefit all of our citizens.

Jannan Holmes headshotJannan Holmes (for At-Large): Housing affordability is a complex, and important issue. As a resident and candidate in Fredericksburg, it’s important to me that people who work in Fredericksburg can afford to live in Fredericksburg. One example of why this is important to our city is illustrated by our teachers not being able to afford housing in Fredericksburg. Over 70% of our schools’ staff live in the surrounding counties. This means that we must align our calendars to the counties’ calendars, even when a different calendar may benefit our students. If more of our teaching staff could live in Fredericksburg, we would have more flexibility in our school calendar. First responders living in their communities has obvious benefits for building relationships and increasing safety. 

Local government can play an instrumental role in increasing affordable housing. We need to prioritize balancing affordability and growth with the infrastructure needs that accompany growth. We need to balance the demand for new housing with maintaining the character of our historic city and the close community feel of Fredericksburg. I’d like to look at changing our Zoning Ordinance to allow duplexes in some of the districts where that is not currently permitted.  

Auxiliary Dwelling Units (ADUs) are another step toward affordable housing options in Fredericksburg. There has been a healthy conversation in Fredericksburg about ADUs recently. I appreciate all sides of this conversation and understand the concerns voiced. Caring for older family members, or family members with disabilities, is challenging in the best of times. During the Pandemic, we witnessed the isolation, and extreme challenges residents of care facilities faced. Personally, my mom lives alone, two hours away. If she could no longer live completely independently, I would want my mom to live with me. Our current home does not have a first-floor bedroom, or full bathroom. We would need to add on to our home or build a home for my mother on our property. This is not a “Jannan Holmes” issue. This is a generational issue that many people are facing. Families who have a child with a disability also face the challenge of their child living as independently as possible and affording that housing. We need to look at all aspects of ADUs and proceed thoughtfully. 

Another way to help with housing affordability is to decrease or eliminate parking minimums, which I will discuss in Question 4. 

I would also like for Fredericksburg to look at developing an affordable housing trust and/or community land bank. 

Kerry Devine headshotKerry Devine (for Mayor): Complementary infill is an important component of our growth in our built areas. Downtown infill does not necessarily equate to affordability though. I envision redevelopment in some of our large shopping centers as a viable way forward. Increasing local economic opportunities also speaks to the affordability issue – raising local salaries is a part of the solution.


Question 2: Residents across the City report feeling unsafe and disconnected when riding their bikes and walking. How can the City make our pedestrian and bike infrastructure safer and more convenient for all residents?


Matt Kelly headshotMatt Kelly (for At-Large): The city has the most extensive trail system in the region. My involvement has been in securing state funding through the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (FAMPO) to expand that system. To include having to push the city to apply for available funds for work on the VCR trail. Most recently work has been done, and is about to get started, on the Lafayette Blvd. corridor which will finally link this major residential area with downtown. In the future, any transportation project will need to have a bike/pedestrian component if it is to be successful in securing funding.

The issues that are still in play are crossing major roads and riding downtown. In my travels overseas I have seen better signage and dedicated lanes for bikes. Traffic controls for just pedestrian traffic, safe zones on major streets, and bollards to protect pedestrians/bikers at crossing points. Chatham Bridge is an example of how some of these concepts can work. The issue downtown is the narrow streets and parking. As we continue to discuss the possibility of ending one-way streets downtown bike/pedestrian access should be part of that discussion. This is an area where I do not have a lot of experience and would ask that those who do bring options to the table.

Will Mackintosh headshotWill Mackintosh (for At-Large): One central pledge of my campaign that the City should set as a goal the construction of high-quality mixed-use pedestrian and bicycle pathways within 5 minutes of every front door in the entire City. That means finishing the pathway on Lafayette Boulevard as far as the city line and the Lafayette/Walker-Grant complex; building pathways along the Route 1, Route 2, and Route 3 corridors; and connecting those pathways with spurs to every neighborhood.  Our existing pathways are great and very heavily used by people both for recreational purposes and for getting around the City; we need to make sure those critical amenities are accessible to everyone in Fredericksburg.

On a smaller scale, the City has a budget line for street resurfacing every year.  City staff determine which streets, curbs, and sidewalks need rebuilding most urgently, and they repair and resurface them using that budget.  We need to make sure that as the City performs routine maintenance on our streets and sidewalks that they are doing so with pedestrian and bicycle safety in mind.  We should be looking not just to replace what exists, but to enhance it as we go.  That means that we add new curb cuts and crosswalks as needed, explore traffic calming measures, and evaluate on-street bicycle access as part of our annual cycle of maintenance.  That way we will improve bike and pedestrian safety around the City as part of our normal annual maintenance cycle.

Jannan Holmes headshotJannan Holmes (for At-Large): I am committed to Fredericksburg becoming more walkable, and bikeable. I would also like to increase our public transportation. A crucial way we can help our residents safely walk and bike in Fredericksburg is by researching where people want/need to go and where those destinations are located. By using our Area Plans and being thoughtful about clustering essential amenities (groceries, medical facilities, etc.), our residents wouldn’t need to travel Rt.1 or Rt.3 to get their essentials. 

Fredericksburg has some wonderful trails and paths. Connecting our trails and paths also needs to be prioritized.  

Having bicycle lanes that are physically separated and protected from car traffic where there would be potential conflicts would be a big step forward for people feeling safer biking in Fredericksburg. 

Adding sidewalks where they are missing, repairing damaged sidewalks, and adding trees, and benches along walkways would vastly improve the safety and walkability of Fredericksburg. Downtown has sidewalks, but many neighborhoods do not.  

Kerry Devine headshotKerry Devine (for Mayor): I am a frequent walker and bike rider around town, as were my children growing up in Fredericksburg. In fact, the first bike rack that was installed at JMHS was installed for my kids who were riding bikes to school without a place to lock them up. (We were originally told it would be “unsightly” to have a bike rack in front of the school!) One of my sons is fortunate to regularly commute by bicycle in the city.

City Council recently lowered the speed limit downtown as one measure to improve pedestrian safety. Protected bike lanes (through signage/road diets) and a focus on crosswalks/intersections is critical. We need to fix gaps in the pedestrian network and that is being addressed through our Small Area Plans. Quite frankly, the more pedestrians and cyclists we have the safer we all are, as awareness increases as ridership increases.

Question 3: What is your approach to addressing congestion? 


Matt Kelly headshotMatt Kelly (for At-Large): Traffic congestion is a regional issue and will require a regional approach. At build out the city will be roughly 40,000 people in a region of over 650,000 people. What we can do for transportation in the city will not have a significant impact, but what goes on around the city will have a significant impact on us.  One point is clear, building more roads is not the solution. The regional transportation board, FAMPO, has included transit as an important component in future transportation planning.

I serve as the city’s representative on both the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and the Potomac Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) which oversees transit in Northern Virginia. What has become clear is that transit is going to be extremely important to this region. To that end, VRE is now working to improve north-south mobility by adding weekend service and express trains. At FAMPO I requested that Fred Transit and Omniride, the bus system to our north, begin to see where we can cooperate in expanding transit services in the region. Omniride is currently operating commuter buses in Stafford and Spotsylvania. They have the staffing, and contacts that we need to expand services in our region.

Will Mackintosh headshotWill Mackintosh (for At-Large): Anyone who has lived in Fredericksburg for the past few decades realizes that you can’t build your way out of congestion by adding more car lanes.  We’ve been adding lanes for decades, and congestion is worse than ever.  The only way we will really tackle our congestion problem is to give people alternatives to driving.  Part of the solution is enhancing our bicycle and pedestrian network and enhancing safety, like I mentioned above.  It also means planning and preparing for the massive expansion in train service that we’re going to see in the next decade as a result of the state’s investment in the DC2RVA high speed rail project.  With track capacity expansion, the construction of a new Long Bridge into DC, and the purchase of additional train equipment, we are about to see a massive increase in the speed and frequency of trains in and out of the City.  We need to make sure that we’re preparing now for that increase in service so residents can take full advantage of it.  One important step we need to take is to figure out how to better integrate the FXBGo bus service with train service, so people can travel through and beyond our region conveniently without driving.  Now is the perfect moment to begin rethinking how we do bus service in this region so we can be prepared to take full advantage of the new alternatives to driving that are headed our way.

Jannan Holmes headshotJannan Holmes (for At-Large): Again, making it easier for people to get where they need to go without getting in a car would help immensely with traffic congestion. Increasing transit frequency, and bike/pedestrian infrastructure, and using the area plans to encourage more mixed-use hubs in and around neighborhoods would all help ease congestion.  

Working with the Economic Development Authority to attract and create jobs in Fredericksburg may help ease commuter traffic. 

Kerry Devine headshotKerry Devine (for Mayor): Unfortunately post-Covid traffic congestion has increased as VRE ridership is still down. “Rush hours” have increased in duration as many commuters have more flexible schedule options. Increased local options and telecommuting are critical to reducing daily congestion.


Question 4: Minimum parking requirements are frequently cited as a barrier to new housing and development, especially in infill sites. Would you support the reduction or elimination of minimum parking requirements? (Please be specific in your answer.)

Matt Kelly headshotMatt Kelly (for At-Large): The city developed long before there was even a concept of zoning or cars for that matter. The result is in the older portions of the city that have narrow streets and limited parking while development after zoning does not suffer under similar constraints. The city has areas for redevelopment and infill, especially along the Rt. 3 and Rt. 1 corridors which could still meet parking requirements.

Your question seems to be aimed at the downtown area. Within the Historic District, we have waived parking requirements. However, when talking about infill here, and to a lesser extent in the case of Rt. 1 and Rt. 3, you cannot ignore the need for parking for commercial development. In the case of downtown, we instituted permit parking in the neighboring residential areas because commercial/employee parking was pushing into the neighborhoods.

There is no cookie-cutter solution to parking that would work in a city as diverse as Fredericksburg. What I have mentioned are just a few of the issues that need to be considered. It is a discussion we need to have. It is a discussion I have asked for on a number of occasions.

One other point I would make is that defining housing needs/affordability within the confines of a political boundary makes no sense. If you want to add transit to the mix and be within (15) minutes of downtown, you are now in Spotsylvania and Stafford. Affordability is a regional issue. One factor that we need to consider in the housing issue is mobility. A robust transit system, giving access to the downtown should be considered in this discussion.

Will Mackintosh headshotWill Mackintosh (for At-Large): I think it makes sense to reduce or eliminate on-site parking requirements in most parts of our City.  I think we need to significantly enhance the fee-in-lieu program that already exists in the historic district, whereby new development can “buy out” of providing onsite parking by paying a per-space fee to the City.  Currently, those fees are used to fund vaguely parking-adjacent activities, like running the trolley during First Fridays.  I think we should increase those fees and set them aside in our city budget into a fund that is specifically earmarked for parking.  We could use those funds for a number of creative ways to enhance existing parking: we could start up for a new parking structure if one is needed, or we could provide parking validation for people who come to eat or shop downtown, or we could reach deals with the owners of existing private parking lots for off-hours public access.  Parking is a problem best solved collectively on a neighborhood- or city-wide scale, rather than on a parcel by parcel scale.

Jannan Holmes headshotJannan Holmes (for At-Large): Parking in some neighborhoods in Fredericksburg is challenging. Reducing or eliminating parking minimums can help in promoting affordable housing and eliminating urban heat islands from large surface parking lots.  This does not mean that new developments would not have adequate parking. Reducing or eliminating parking minimums would enable businesses and homeowners to determine how much off-street parking they need, versus having to provide an arbitrary amount of parking. I would support analyzing current parking requirements and amending requirements to be more flexible. We have limited space in Fredericksburg. If we increase bicycle/pedestrian paths, and public transportation, and we have area plans with hubs for our essential needs, we would require fewer cars, and therefore less parking.  Until then, we need to keep talking about the parking challenges in some neighborhoods. 

Kerry Devine headshotKerry Devine (for Mayor): Quite frankly, our Parking Advisory Board may need to become a Transportation Advisory Board. We need to consider better public transportation and shared parking options before we reduce or eliminate parking requirements. I am not in favor of street parking meters, as some communities have done.

2023 State House and Senate Primary Candidate Forum

Fifteen Minute Fredericksburg is a group of Fredericksburg citizens who are committed to a vision of our city as a place where all residents can conveniently live their daily lives on foot or by bike.  As a group, we broadly support the development of high-quality bike and pedestrian infrastructure; streets that are safe for all users young and old; affordable and accessible housing for all Fredericksburg residents; and healthy small and neighborhood businesses.  We want our city and all of its neighborhoods to be open, accessible, affordable, convenient, and pleasant places to live.

To that end, we developed a short list of four questions about Fredericksburg and its future and posed them to all the candidates currently running in the Democratic and Republican primaries (as well as independent candidates) for State House District 65 and State Senate District 27.  We are publishing all the candidates’ answers that we received, unedited, below.  If a candidate does not appear on this forum, it is because we did not receive a response from them (see list of candidates at the bottom of the page).  We make no endorsements in this primary; rather, we want to share information related to our vision with our supporters that will help them make their own decisions.

Question 1: How can the state ensure that we grow smart in the Fredericksburg region?

Joshua Cole, Democrat, Candidate for State House District 65:
We need to take a holistic approach to the Fredericksburg region’s growth. We know that people want to live here and that our area is rapidly expanding but if we don’t take key items – like housing, transportation, and jobs – into account, we will be left behind. In order to grow smartly, we should preserve our greenspaces, increase walkability with pedestrian and bike paths, create a range of housing options, and expand our schools.

Monica Gary, Independent, Candidate for State Senate District 27: We need to establish a regional transportation authority, particularly one that would be funded from sources other than the localities. Senator McPike filed a bill last session that did just that and I would support it coming back with some adjustments. This is key to funding a few key projects to provide more of a grid for the region and prevent spawl. Funding public transit is a major component. On the VRE Operations Board, PRTC, and FAMPO I’ve supported millions to be dedicated to public transit including the continued efforts to build out the third rail so that VRE can have a dedicated passenger line with more flexibility for commuters. Residential development must be incentivized near public transit and different transportation options must be connected. I will advocate and fund “complete streets” that work for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transportation riders.

Regarding residential growth, our region has a lack of affordable and variety of housing that must be addressed. As Chair of Stafford County’s first ad hoc Affordable and Workforce Housing Committee, which I fought to establish, I am working with my colleagues to identify barriers to attainable housing for our most vulnerable. The Virginia Health Department identified both housing and recreation as major factors in mental health, depending on socioeconomic status, so not only is attainable housing needed but it will also help pour community be healthier and thrive. I have lived in both Section 8 and mixed income communities. Studies support what I have experienced, that mixed income developments are ideal for stable communities. Housing should not concentrate poverty and struggle as this results in heavy burdens on our social services, first responders and the psychological health of our community.

During my time on the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, I have seen that inability to fund basic needs and infrastructure is a common concern when considering residential developments. As such, the state must provide increased funds to localities for public education and transportation projects, much of which can be allocated from setting up an equitable cannabis market as soon as possible.

Ben Litchfield, Democrat, Candidate for State Senate District 27: The most effective way that the General Assembly can ensure that the Fredericksburg region grows smart would be to repeal the Dillon Rule which prohibits localities like Fredericksburg from adopting innovative approaches to development and land use to address sprawl, lack of affordable housing, and lack of public transit infrastructure. I am a firm believer that these kinds of land use decisions should be made by localities and not by lawmakers in Richmond.

The Dillon Rule is a common law principle that local governments only have the powers expressly granted to them by state legislatures, powers necessary or implied from such grants of authority, and powers crucial to the existence of local government. In close cases, there is a presumption against a locality having a power that is not expressly granted to it. This rule hamstrings localities like Fredericksburg who are in the best position to make land use decisions.

Apart from repealing the Dillon Rule, some policies that the General Assembly could adopt to prioritize smart growth include:

    • Targeting state infrastructure funds to compact, walkable, transit-oriented places and prioritize state funding to jurisdictions that plan housing for all levels of the workforce;
    • Linking economic development funds and Opportunity Zones to mixed-use, walkable, and transit-oriented localities; Increasing state funding for the affordable housing trust;
    • Authorizing inclusionary zoning for all localities; Encouraging and incentivizing multi-family housing and the elimination of parking minimums and within half mile of all bus rapid transit and light rail;
    • Encouraging and incentivizing accessory dwelling units where appropriate; and
    • Providing community land trusts and land banks a statewide right of first refusal on all abandoned and/or blighted properties up for auction if they commit to using those properties for affordable housing.


Question 2: What is your approach to addressing congestion?


Joshua Cole, Democrat, Candidate for State House District 65: Congestion is a serious problem in the Fredericksburg region and unfortunately, we are well known across the nation for it. To combat this, we need to expand public transit infrastructure. As a Delegate, I supported a JLARC study in 2020 to see the feasibility of extending the Blue line to woodbridge, carried legislation to create a Regional Transportation Authority in our area (with regulations for emissions), and want to increase accessibility to rail transportation. I also want to boost our economy and bring high paying jobs to our region, so we can keep people here, rather than having to commute up I-95.

Monica Gary, Independent, Candidate for State Senate District 27: The last resort for addressing congestion should be adding more asphalt, however there are some key projects that may be helpful including a potential river crossing west of I95. This crossing has been discussed for many years, with no resolve. Approximately 79% of respondents to a recent FAMPO survey support an additional crossing. As a Member of FAMPO Policy Committee I voted to support the funding of a NEPA study to determine the feasibility of this project.

As an elected official, I have always supported funding for public transportation and will continue to do so in the Senate. It remains key to resolving many of our issues including congestion. The volume of freight on the Interstate is much higher than necessary considering that much of it could be moved to rail and use the CSX lines. This high volume of freight on I95 often affects our local roads as travelers seek alternate routes during congestion. As the third rail is completed along with the long bridge in Northern Virginia, this freight will no longer have to share lines with VRE, which would then have a dedicated commuter line. Complete streets, with multiuse paths and bike lanes are imperative to provide safe, alternative commuting options around the region. I would also work to incentivize and allocate funding for more rural areas to develop proactive comprehensive plans for public transit sites and complete streets, if they so choose.

As a Commissioner on the Potomac Rappahannock Transportation Commission, I am currently working to ensure regional synergy across various legislative agendas for localities and PRTC to advocate for public transit friendly policy from the Commonwealth. One of the funding issues for Omniride (PRTC) is Virginia does not allow for advertising at the bus shelters. Changing this could result in significant additional revenue and relieve some of the burden from local taxpayer, as well as increased economic development opportunities for local businesses. Well-built and well-funded public transportation systems are directly linked to a stronger local economy. I am proud to say that during my time on the Commission, I have supported resolutions and various efforts that helped Omniride return to and surpass pre-COVID ridership numbers.

Ben Litchfield, Democrat, Candidate for State Senate District 27: We will not solve congestion in the Fredericksburg region unless we provide residents with affordable and reliable public transportation.

Our current approach to addressing congestion is to widen roads which creates a perverse incentive for more development and more cars on the road. While I recognize that we do need to improve our infrastructure, and I am a strong supporter of infrastructure improvements, I believe that we should create incentives for residents to use more public transportation including FXBGO!, Virginia Railway Express, and Amtrak.

In the General Assembly, I will champion legislation to bring money to the Fredericksburg region to allow FXBGO! to purchase an entirely new fleet of electric buses and establish new, high-frequency routes so that our residents have alternatives to getting into their cars when they need to go to work or want to visit downtown Fredericksburg to do their shopping or dining.

Several Northern Virginia localities have high-frequency transit options including the Fairfax City-University-Energysaver (“CUE”) buses that run on permanent loops between George Mason University and the Vienna Metro station. The CUE buses have a daily ridership of 2,800 people during the week and an annual ridership of 579,500.

I would like to build on the CUE template to create dedicated high-frequency transit in the Fredericksburg region.

Question 3: In an era of rising rents and rising property values, how do you propose to address housing affordability issues in the Fredericksburg region?

Joshua Cole, Democrat, State Candidate for House District 65: Creating affordable housing for low and middle income families is important. I’m ready to carry legislation to invest more funds into the Virginia Housing Trust Fund and to enable non-profit organizations to have automatic rezoning to allow affordable housing on said property.

Monica Gary, Independent, Candidate for State Senate District 27: Micah Ministries is planning to build a “Jeremiah” community in our region, which has been described as a “tiny home village for the chronically homeless”. I was glad to provide a letter of support as a local elected official for their recent federal grant application. When I was very young, my family lived in motels prior to finding suitable county-maintained housing. This is the lived experience of too many families in our region. Beyond the unhoused population, we have many people who cannot afford housing due to low wages and lack of availability of housing. I hear stories from constituents and my children about the challenges for working class folks, including and especially our educators. This is why I pushed for and was able to establish Stafford County’s first committee on Affordable and Workforce Housing, which I now Chair.

We are working to maintain low-income housing stock and identify barriers to attaining workforce housing. One thing that can be done is to provide suitable senior living communities which can help free up some of the smaller, more affordable homes in the area as people transition to those communities. We are listening to industry professionals and stakeholders to understand the challenges better and what we can do to remove barriers that prevent needed development. Again, much of this comes back to funding basic needs for the localities. Taxpayers don’t want more housing if the existing infrastructure is insufficient.

As Senator, I would work to correct unfunded mandates to free up vital resources for localities. Stafford alone has exonerated approximately 50 million dollars since the constitutional amendment was passed to provide certain real estate and car tax benefits to one hundred percent disabled Veterans. I am encouraged that we care for our veterans enough to do such a thing; my husband is a disabled USMC veteran and we have two adult children in the USMC and Army. Maintaining housing has been a common struggle for veterans. However, the localities are suffering under the lost revenue and the state must replace these funds to affected localities as losing it has given elected officials reason not to approve much needed housing. I also believe that the required number of affordable units is too low units within developments that seek federal funding, and would advocate to change this as well as working to make multi-income developments more common.

Nearly forty percent of Americans cannot afford a four-hundred-dollar financial emergency, which makes it difficult to keep a rental unit or buy a home. I have continued my volunteer work after being elected and expanded it to include training people to advocated for higher wages and to ultimately change the federal tax code for the ultra-wealthy and large corporations. Working class wages remain too low while corporations reap huge profits. In the Senate, I would support the State minimum wage increases scheduled for January 1, 2024, 25, and 26 as well as annual indexing to begin in 2027 and fight for increased tip minimum wages.

Ben Litchfield, Democrat, Candidate for State Senate District 27: We need to significantly increase the housing supply in the Fredericksburg region to address the lack of affordable housing. According to the Fredericksburg Area Association of Realtors, the “months of supply,” which is a measure of the housing supply in our area, continues to plummet which is only going to cause housing prices to skyrocket as supply dwindles and demand continues to increase.

One approach is to grant localities the authority to require developers to set aside portions of new units for rent or sale below-market or pay a fee to the locality. While that approach has some merit, I do not believe it is enough to address the significant lack of housing supply in our region. We also need to ensure the Virginia Housing Trust Fund is capitalized to meet the housing needs of organizations like Habitat for Humanity, who use trust funds to finance the purchase and/or construction of affordable homes for lower income residents, and expand the trust fund’s authorities to provide housing stabilization services particularly for disabled veterans and those experiencing chronic homelessness.

Moreover, the Commonwealth should create incentives for localities to create, on their own or in conjunction with a non-profit housing provider such as Habitat for Humanity, land banks and community land trusts to purchase abandoned and/or blighted properties up for auction and redevelop those properties for sale as affordable housing. Furthermore, I believe that the Commonwealth should grant localities greater authority to encourage and incentivize multi-family housing where appropriate.

In 2020, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (“JLARC”) conducted a study of the problem of affordable housing in the Commonwealth of Virginia and made the following additional recommendations:

    • Amending the Virginia Code to require publicly funded rental units set aside for low-income households to charge rents that are affordable to households earning 80 percent and below the area median income;
    • Directing the Department of Housing and Community Development to evaluate how a grant program could be structured, funded, and administered to incentivize localities to adopt zoning policies that facilitate the development of affordable housing; and
    • Directing the Department of Housing and Community Development to study housing needs every five years, develop a statewide housing plan with measurable goals, and provide annual updates to the General Assembly.

I support these JLARC proposals.

Question 4: How can state policy accelerate Fredericksburg’s and Virginia’s transition to a carbon-neutral future?

Joshua Cole, Democrat, Candidate for State House District 65: I am a proud to be Clean Virginia endorsed candidate, which fights back against money corruption on politics for cleaner governing and clean energy regulation. As Delegate, I carried the fossil fuel moratorium bill that would have stopped fossil fuel projects at the state level. We also need to reimagine our communities and make it easier for people to walk, bike, and utilize public transportation to get to where they need to.

Monica Gary, Independent, Candidate for State Senate District 27: Here is an area where my Independent political nature is vital to progress in the Senate. The argument for cleaner energy has evolved into an all-or-nothing approach by many legislators. In reality, the industry professionals advocating for clean energy within the Commonwealth understand that it is a flight path that is needed and a combination of both fossil fuels and clean energy as we progress to a goal of becoming carbon neutral. I would support the work already being done by staff and professionals to quicken this timeline.

We also need to re-evaluate the way that carbon credits are handled. Companies claiming carbon neutrality depend on other factors making up for their damaging practices and it is misleading to label some as actually being carbon neutral despite the negative environmental impacts.

Again, we come back to tax structures and tax benefits for large corporations. I have not supported such benefits to corporations at a local level, nor would I do so as a Senator. For example, private jets owned by corporate executives are approximately one percent of aircraft and yet account for nearly fifty percent of the fossil fuel usage in the industry. Greed and excessive wealth are destroying our economy as well as our environment. The revenues generated from taxing these corporations and the excessively wealthy could be reinvested into programs that mitigate environmental impacts, fund education, and expand public transportation which also reduces carbon emissions.

Ben Litchfield, Democrat, Candidate for State Senate District 27: The General Assembly can accelerate our transition to a carbon-neutral future by significantly increasing the deployment of solar energy facilities, creating incentives for localities to replace their public transit fleets (including school buses) with electric vehicles, and adopting carbon fees and dividends.

We could expand the use of shared solar facilities to allow individuals who do not have access to their own solar energy facilities, especially people living in apartments, to purchase energy from renewable resources.  In addition, we could adopt tax incentives and grant programs to ensure that lower-income individuals are able to obtain solar panels if they want them and provide economic incentives for localities to adopt zoning requirements that mandate solar panels on any new developments.  Furthermore, we could create similar tax incentives and grant programs for localities to put solar panels on government buildings.

The General Assembly has created pilot programs to allow localities to purchase electric school buses.  Those programs were widely successful and hugely popular.  We can significantly expand those programs to ensure that localities can replace their public transit fleets, including school buses and commuter buses like FXBGO!, with electric buses as soon as possible.

As a stop-gap measure, we can also adopt carbon fees and dividends.  A carbon fee and dividend policy create a tax on corporate polluters based on how much carbon dioxide they emit. Tax revenue from increased carbon prices would then be distributed among Virginians through tax refunds.  A student at the College of William and Mary, Emily O’Keefe, is spearheading a movement to adopt such a policy in the Commonwealth.

The underlying idea is that if we raise the price of pollution, this will create a strong economic incentive for companies to reduce their carbon footprint.  Although this does not solve the problem – by a mile – putting a cost on pollution could encourage more companies to be conscious of the carbon that they emit at least in the short-term while we implement some of the more ambitious plans to transition Virginia to a carbon-neutral future.

Here is the list of candidates that we attempted to send the questionnaire to:

State House District 65

    • Joshua Cole (Democrat)
    • Michael Kasey (Republican)
    • Lee Peters (Republican)
State Senate District 27
    • Tara Durant (Republican)
    • Monica Gary (Independent)
    • Joel Griffin (Democrat)
    • Ben Litchfield (Democrat)
    • Matt Strickland (Republican)
    • Luke Wright (Democrat)

Ernest and Lynn Ackermann: We Support ADUs to Help Our Community

Close headshot of the Ackermanns smilingBy Ernest and Lynn Ackermann

We have an Auxiliary Dwelling Unit (ADU) on our property. It has existed for several years, long before we bought our current house. From what we know about its history it has been used as a creamery, a living space for the dorm mother when the house was a dormitory for students at Mary Washington College, a garage with an apartment above, an office with an apartment and now we rent the space as apartments. Our ADU enables us to provide affordable housing for two people within walking distance of UMW, Eagle Village and many local businesses. As we age we feel the ADU would be a very good place for a relative or caretaker to live to assist us. Both we and the people who are in the ADU feel comfortable helping each other when help is needed.

Continue reading Ernest and Lynn Ackermann: We Support ADUs to Help Our Community

Melissa Colombo: I Support ADUs for Future-Proofing Our Homes

Headshot of Melissa ColumboBy Melissa Columbo

Fred15: Tell us about yourself-what is your profession, and how long have you lived and worked in Fredericksburg?

I have lived in the City of Fredericksburg since 2002 and bought my 1930s bungalow in 2003. I am a licensed architect with extensive experience working in the city and its historic district. I also serve on the Board of the Directors for Fredericksburg Virginia Main Street.

Fred15: What are your specialties as an architect: residential, commercial, and what types of properties?

My work within the city includes both residential and commercial projects inside and outside the city’s historic district. Projects include: adaptive reuse, change of use designations, renovations, additions, tenant fit-outs, feasibility consultations and new construction. I regularly have to provide code analyses to determine if a client’s project is feasible within the parameters of zoning restrictions, as well as building code regulations. It’s a process I would describe as a dance within a Puzzle.

Continue reading Melissa Colombo: I Support ADUs for Future-Proofing Our Homes

Calvin Roberts: I Support ADUs for Housing Diversity

Close up headshot of Calvin Roberts with water in the backgroundBy Calvin Roberts

I am a 34 year old long time resident of the city- I have been here since high school- and have spent my entire life since graduating from JMHS working in the foodservice sector in downtown, largely using a bicycle as my primary means of transportation. My support for approving the construction of new ADU’s in the city cannot be overstated.

I lived in an ADU for a few years and loved the experience. ADUs offer a young person or young couple on a service worker or entry level income an alternative to the crowded and precarious roommate situations that currently dominate in my demographic. This is not the only demographic that could be better served by an ADU than by either more large multi-unit development or more single family homes- I always dreamed of putting my aging father up in that ADU. I am currently in the process of using bedsheets to convert a living room in a townhouse that the family owns to move him into for palliative care- how much more graceful, how much more dignified would housing him in an ADU be in this moment? 

Continue reading Calvin Roberts: I Support ADUs for Housing Diversity

Big Plans for the VCR Trail

Picture of a bike trail with a rest area along the side with a bench, a trash can, and a historic markerBy Aaron Frank

The leafy Virginia Central Railway (VCR) trail is one of the most heavily used trails in Fredericksburg, extending from near downtown westward towards Idlewild, offering pedestrians and bicyclists a pleasant recreational and commuting opportunity from neighborhoods and access to Alum Springs Park. Efforts are underway to improve and extend the trail to connect directly downtown, extend beyond Idlewild, and recently improved road crossings across Rt.3, Rt.1 and a new I-95 crossing have been discussed. Many Spotsylvania residents are already familiar with the trail, albeit on a different 3.9-mile stretch between Gordon Road and Salem Church Road; an I-95 crossing would advance efforts to connect the two stretches of VCR trail, creating a truly regional opportunity for recreational and functional transportation.

Continue reading Big Plans for the VCR Trail

Fred15 Transportation Corner for February 2023

A picture of some green fitness equipment in front of a hillside. The lawn is brown and the trees are bare since it is winter.
The new fitness equipment along the Heritage Trail by Old Mill Park.

Rt.1/Falmouth Bridge Replacement

If you’ve ever walked the Heritage trail or swam the river underneath the Rt.1/Falmouth Bridge, it’ll be no surprise to you that the bridge needs structural repairs. VDOT concurs and a project is funded to structurally improve the bridge. Bridge improvements are not cheap, and the project will cost millions to address the important structural improvements. Concerningly, the improvement project does not include plans to improve the poor-quality sidewalks that provide an important connection between Falmouth and Fredericksburg.

Continue reading Fred15 Transportation Corner for February 2023

Rev. Joe Hensley: I Support ADUs for Community

Informal headshot of the Rev Joe HensleyBy The Rev. Joe Hensley

As a faith community leader and resident of Fredericksburg, I wholeheartedly support expanding regulations around ADU’s (Accessory Dwelling Units). We need to make it easier, not harder, for people to live in community and be a blessing to one another.

ADU’s provide housing options that can promote mutual support and care. When people are able to live together, although not necessarily under one roof, they can more easily help each other. Our society expects people to be self-sufficient and even makes it difficult sometimes when people want to share resources or shelter. By expanding access to ADU’s, the city is sending a message that we want give people more ways to collaborate and live together. This is a benefit to everyone, especially to residents who do not want to live all alone for physical, emotional, or financial reasons. Continue reading Rev. Joe Hensley: I Support ADUs for Community

Julie Kay: I Support ADUs for Climate Justice

Casual photo of Julie and Pail Kay leaning on a railing overlooking a body of water.By Julie Kay

In August of 2019, I attended a training with Al Gore to become a Climate Reality Leader.  One of the most enjoyable sessions was when the sister city mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Melvin Carter and Jacob Frey, spoke about how both cities were united in finding climate change solutions that would benefit their communities while emphasizing equity and climate justice.  Mayor Frey spoke of their planning process for new communities within downtown that would include increased density with little or no parking, universal access to public transportation, and smart “green” building practices.   Continue reading Julie Kay: I Support ADUs for Climate Justice

Brad Smith: I Support ADUs for Opportunity

By Brad Smith

For many reasons, as a kid growing up just north of the city, I could not imagine myself living in Fredericksburg as an adult. As an adult, there are few places I could imagine living that bring the same mix of community engagement, diversity, recreation, and potential. I say potential because, while there is already so much to be admired and emulated in our community, I believe our greatest days lie ahead. Continue reading Brad Smith: I Support ADUs for Opportunity