by CHRISTOPHER FOLS
A Fredericksburg City Council vote on Tuesday, October 8 granted a special use permit to the Catholic Diocese of Arlington to use 1604 College Avenue. as a rectory for priests serving the Catholic Campus Ministry. The building in question is located next to the St. John Bosco Center of the Catholic Campus Ministry at 1614 College Ave., which is also owned by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.
The Diocese hoped to expand the special use permit to tie both properties together. Instead, the special use permit was granted independently of the property next door, allowing for one property to be sold without the other.
The buildings surrounding 1604 College Ave. include the new Hillel Jewish student center and Baptist-affiliated student center.
The Planning Commission and Staff recommend approval to the City Council, subject to several conditions including the rectory should be used as the residence of a priest who works with the Catholic ministry associated with the UMW, it should remain a separate subdivided residential lot and the existing building should not be expanded, and group activities or meetings on the property should be limited to 18 participants.
Members of the neighborhood surrounding the properties had concerns with the special use permit being amended to include both properties.
According to City Council’s meeting minutes, John Nere, a resident of College Ave, said that he wanted the number of people that could be using the property limited and also said, “A special use permit goes with a property indefinitely regardless of ownership.” This means that if one of the properties was purchased by someone else the special use permit would allow the property to continue to be used as a student center.
Tim Brown said he owned 1616 College Ave next to the St. John Bosco Center but had to move because it became hard to live there.
“Everything done there was done by volunteers and there was lots of noise,” Brown said. “They hold weddings there and events, and they do not treat these facilities like they are located in a neighborhood.”
Many people in the neighborhood also expressed concern that College Heights was being taken apart and is becoming less like a neighborhood and more like a business.
Meredith Beckett, resident of Brent Street and current president of the Civic Association, said, “The residents have no objection to a rectory… the facilities [should be] exclusively for the students of the University of Mary Washington and not the Diocese in general.” She also wants the two properties to remain separate on the special use permits.
Sue Sargeant, a resident of William Street and member of the College Heights Civic Association, said, “The neighborhood was under significant encroachment between the University, the Diocese of Arlington, and the silver companies and it was losing its neighborhood qualities.”
Matthew Malanga, student president of the Campus Catholic Ministry, said the new building will be beneficial to students.
“The Catholic Campus Ministry here at Mary Washington has drastically grown in the past few years which has been a tremendous blessing,” he said. “This added space will be very helpful for the Catholic Campus Ministry and it’s growing population.”
“The special use permit allows us to accommodate the large amount of students that frequent the St. John Bosco Center. The top floor of the house will be used as a place of residence for our Chaplain, then the bottom floor of the house is going to be used for small groups of students to meet as well as house the staff offices for the Campus Ministry,” said Malanga.
The Diocese of Arlington, which owns the St. John Bosco Center where the UMW Catholic Ministry holds worship, owns seventeen properties in the College Heights area. They own five properties on Stafford Ave, three on Buckner Street, two on William Street, three on Augustine Ave., three on Royston Street and one on College Ave. All of their properties are located near St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church which is a Catholic church under the Diocese of Arlington.
The properties surrounding St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church are used as residential homes and storage. The Diocese of Arlington plans to keep the residential appearance of all of the properties.
A previous version of this article referred to the Diocese of Arlington as the Archdiocese. It has since been corrected.