The neighborhood across from the University of Mary Washington’s Fredericksburg campus will have another building that is used for religious purposes.
The City Council voted unanimously this week to approve a revised special use permit that will allow the Catholic Diocese of Arlington to turn the two-story, white frame house at 1604 College Ave. into a rectory for the UMW Catholic Campus Ministry. The ministry’s St. John Bosco Center is next door to the rectory property.
The College Heights neighborhood already is home to the Methodist-affiliated Campus Christian Center, which has been in operation since 1953; the Baptist-affiliated Center for Faith and Leadership, which was built in 1963; and the Jewish Hillel Center, which was approved in 2017.
In addition, the Saint Mary-Immaculate Conception Parish manages a number of properties in the neighborhood, including St. Mary’s Catholic Church, its rectory and the residence being used by Holy Cross Academy’s principal and his family.
A number of College Heights residents sent letters and spoke to both the Planning Commission and City Council saying that they opposed the original request for the SUP because it was to be an amendment to the one that was granted for the St. John Bosco Center in 1999. They wanted the diocese to get a standalone SUP for the rectory, and didn’t want the two properties to be combined because that could make it difficult for the residence to be sold at a future date.
The Planning Commission and City Council also had several concerns. These included the number of people who would be living in the rectory, the occupancy limit for events held there and how its use would impact parking at the student center. City Council held a public hearing on the SUP at its Sept. 10 meeting, but delayed a vote until Tuesday when the application was brought back with revisions made in response to issues that had been raised.
The SUP is now just for the rectory property, which will remain a separate parcel. Other conditions require that the chaplain be the only resident, restrict the number of employees or volunteers working there to five, and cap attendance at meetings and special events for UMW students, alumni and friends at 18 people. The exterior of the rectory also has to remain residential in character.
As for parking, the property has a driveway with space for two cars, there are two on-street parking spaces in front of it, and the student center has 16 spaces, according to James Newman, the city’s zoning administrator.