Manassas Park City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday in favor of an comprehensive plan amendment that allows 82 town homes to be built at Manassas and Andrews drives.
The Manassas Park Planning Commission also was present for the joint public hearings on two separate development proposals.
One council member, Michael Bunner, decided to refrain from voting on the issue and member Suhus Naddooni wasn't present. Vice Mayor and planning commissioner Bryan E. Polk voted against the project.
The decision came after several people spoke against the project, many saying that the land should be used for business and retail.
The land was zoned commercial, but the approved amendment changed the zoning to residential.
"I'm opposed to it," Manassas Park resident Jesse Ludvigsen told the council and commissioners before the vote. "The tax burden on citizens is outrageously high ... we can't continue to afford to rezone."
Manassas Park needs businesses to pay some taxes, she said.
The city has gotten away from its original intent, she added.
"We can't just take a few (thousand dollars) today at the cost of our tomorrow," Ludvigsen said.
The developer agreed to pay $1.9 million or about $23,000 per unit in proffers to offset the costs this development will have on city services such as police, fire-rescue and schools.
Manassas Park resident Kirstin Day took the podium and showed council members a car bumper sticker with the phrase, "We support Manassas Park businesses," printed on it.
Manassas Park is small and friendly and that's why she and her family chose it, Day said.
"A time will be right sooner or later to do commercial-we need to be patient and wait for that," Manassas Park resident Brian Leeper said.
Manassas Park resident Richard Schubert said he would like for Manassas Park to have its own movie theater or grocery store.
"If I wanted to be in in a place full of townhouses, I'd been in Chantilly or Fairfax," one resident told the council. "Manassas Park is a small town, with a small-town feel."
Lawrence K. Doll, owner and developer of the land and owner of a nearby shopping plaza, said that he's tried unsuccessfully for more than 20 years to bring businesses into Manassas Park.
He's talked to fast-food chains, day cares and other big retailers, but no one is interested, Doll said.
Doll said he thought he was on the brink of an agreement with Rite Aid to have a pharmacy built on the land, but in 2008 the company changed its mind, apparently because of the proximity to Liberia Avenue in Manassas.
"Liberia (Avenue) is really what's sucking the air out of the possibility of commercial development in Manassas Park," Doll said.
The town homes are really going to give Manassas Park an urban look and the city could even have some sort of monument constructed near there, the developer said.
The town homes will be built facing the roadway, to enhance the "gateway effect" into the city, Doll said.
Many residents said they think of that area as the "back door" to Manassas Park and that it serves as an entryway into the city for people coming from "the country."
Robert Makheja, a businessman of the Manassas Park Plaza, also owned by Doll, said the current number of households in Manassas Park can't sustain retail at all. There are store owners not profiting now because they aren't being supported.
One store is closing its doors at the end of the year after only one year in business, Makheja added.
"Leaving (the property) commercial will leave it an empty lot," Makheja said.
Businesses opportunities just don't exist, that's why the retail spaces in City Center are still empty, he said.
The traffic count on Manassas Drive is too low for many businesses, Makheja told the commission and council.
For example, Starbucks wants 40,000 cars a day to travel past a certain area before it will consider opening a store. The traffic count on Manassas Drive is about 15,000, he said.
There is an 80 percent "delta" that has to be filled before big retailers will come in, he added.
"I've heard all of that before," Manassas Park resident Preston Banks said. "People use to say Manassas Park was a "back of the woods town" ... now look at us today. We can get some commercial (businesses) in, but its not worth this short term gain."
The city's planning commission did not support the project. The county's planning staff did support the project, and ultimately the council did, too.
Before voting on the matter, council members took a poll among themselves to decide if they would even deliberate on the matter Tuesday or wait until they meet next year.
Councilman Bunner, who will not be returning to the board next year, suggested waiting until next year to let the two incoming council members consider the matter.
Manassas Park Mayor Frank Jones said waiting may put the two newest members in an awkward position.
City Attorney Dean Crowhurst told the body it would be improper for new governing body members to vote on a matter that was considered before they were even official seated.
Council eventually voted in favor of it after Doll agreed to add more parking spaces and build a park and donate it to the city.
There will also be an acceleration lane added to Manassas Drive so motorists won't have to pull right on to Manassas Drive. The intersection will be right-turn-in, right-turn-out only with no breach in the median once the homes are built.
In other news, council also voted to approve the reduction in the housing density on 12 acres on the east side of Digital Drive and about 2,000 feet north of Manassas Drive.
The land was rezoned in 2006 from industrial uses to mixed uses. The applicants, M - F of Manassas, J.S.C. Excavating & Land Development, M.E.B. L.L.C. and Shahin L.L.C, want to construct 126 units on the property, known as Manassas Park Station II, instead of the original 200 units.
Crowhurst told the council that is behind on taxes and owes several thousand dollars to the city of Manassas Park.
Doll's company is behind on its taxes too, Crowhurst said.
Both have made good faith efforts to clear up the overdue taxes, the city attorney added.
The council approved the reduction in units for Manassas Park Station II, but added to the proffer agreement that the back taxes had to be paid.
The same was added to the proffer agreement the city has with Doll.
The developers of Manassas Park Station II also have to install lighting along Digital and Carodeolet Drives that is consisted with that in City Center Apartments.
The council is expected to meet again in January.