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UPDATED: Council Switches Gears, Approves Manassas Drive Development Project

Developers of the project came back with additional perks to the project including water tap fees and additional retail space.

Manassas Park City Council voted Tuesday to approve a $55 million retail and residential development they voted down less than a month ago.

The proposed 14-acre development known as will be built after all. The council voted 5-1 to approve the project; councilman Suhas Naddoni was absent and councilman Preston Banks voted against the project.

the council voted against the development in a 4-3 vote. 

The developers of the project, Digital Park LLC, appeared before council again Tuesday and to amend the proffer conditions, saying they would now pay the city $1 million in water tap fees up front, add 5,000 feet of retail space to the project—2,500 in phase I and 2,500 in phase II— including some $4.5 million in proffer agreements. 

in a council meeting that they would put forth a $500,000 commercial deposit in escrow within two months of the closing of the residential parcel. 

The developers said they would agree to let the zoning of the property change back to business if they didn't start the phase one of the projet within 24 months. Phase one is slated for Manassas Drive and Railroad Avenue near the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) commuter station in Manassas Park.

Phase two of the project will be on now-vacant property across Manassas Drive at the intersection of Railroad Avenue.

Manassas Park Vice Mayor Bryan Polk said the main details of the amended proffer agreement that pushed the project more toward what the city envisioned for it's downtown area.

The project now has more retail space and now shows a "real commitment" that the development is going to be build, Polk added.

Polk, who is also on the Manassas Park Planning Commission, showed real concern earlier this year about the project being approved only to be never built by the developer.

In late July, many Manassas Park residents spoke out for and against the development; citing the lack of business in the already constructed as a negative, and the

The approved project is now known as Park Place at The Station, but that's not the final name, Manassas Park Economic Development Director Vanessa Watson said at an earlier meeting. The final name isn't clear, but it won't have the words "park," "place," or "station" in it, she added. 

Patch editor Lauren Jost contributed to this story. 

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Patient23 August 22, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Guess I should have been there if I wanted to raise objections. Hope they required adequate parking and landscaping at least. I am not against development, but it is a concern that it is so unbalanced toward residential development and not business -- especially business beyond retail. Giving up these areas zoned for business development to more housing represents another location that now can't be used to build our business tax base, which we desperately need. The City Council has to find a way to be more pro-active in attracting business because only residential developers are going to come walking in the door.
Isaac Cohen August 22, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Is this transparency in government when council votes something down weeks ago, and then in a public meeting (when its not even on the agenda or in the agenda packet) they then vote for it? When did this vote happen and did they discuss this in closed session or secret meeting? It was not obvious when this vote took place to those of us viewing at home Virginia Freedom of Information requires all information and packets be provided to the public at the same time they are provided to the council members. When did the council learn about this new offer? Why was it not provided to the public? Were there email exchanges going on behind the scenes? If it was provided in closed session where was the opportunity for the public to know and understand this? Are they so desperate to quiet the furor over the water bill increases that they will accept any kind of development that will give them some tap fees? Is this a violation of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act????? This council has a habit of taking votes on items that are not fully described or explained to the public so the public knows what they are talking about. Yet another example!
Patient23 August 22, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Good points. I assumed I just missed any announcement or ignored it.
Brian Leeper August 22, 2012 at 04:54 PM
The updated proffer statement was available at the meeting. I personally made sure that it was made available to Jamie Rogers. Bryan Polk asked that the agenda be amended to make a motion to reconsider. That was placed on the agenda at the beginning. This is all in keeping with Robert's Rules of Order. I voted for this due to the following information that was not available at the time of my original no vote: 1)The developer proffered an additional 5000 sq. feet of retail. 2)The developer proffered a reverter to revert the zoning back to B2 if the development hasn't broken ground in 24 months. 3)I checked the projections and, unlike Dominion Crossing and Belmont Reserve, this development does not cause the city to go negative in terms of revenue in the out years after the proffer money is no longer a factor. Belmont Reserve will cost the city approximately $350 per unit in the out years. This development will gain the city approximately $850 per unit in the out years. The major difference is that this development is expected to have approximately 0.17 school children per unit, whereas Dominion Crossing and Belmont Reserve will have 1.5 school children per unit. It is estimated to cost the city $5000 per school child per year. In speaking with Jay Johnson, the left turn into and out of the development from Manassas Drive has to meet strict VDOT criteria for sight distance before we can allow it, and that will be verified.
Jeanette Rishell August 22, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I’m disappointed that City Council chose to pass this without further discussion, which would have been in the public’s interest. I believe there is still a concern about the amount of commercial that is being built in Phases I and II. The percentage of commercial floor space (including the newly added 5,000 SF of commercial) will be about 23.4% instead of 21.9% previously calculated. If this land were rezoned to Mixed Use-Downtown (MU-D) zoning, as preferred by the Comprehensive Plan, it would need to include 60% or more of office or commercial space. Instead, the developer chose to rezone to Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning so that the commercial percentage would NOT have to comply with the 60% restriction. The Comp Plan only recommends “…significant non-residential uses…” in PUD zoning. So what is allowable hinges on what is meant by “significant”. My contention is that a logical estimate of what “significant” might be, is the 60% commercial that Mixed Use development would require. (My calculations are based on using the smallest residential unit size for all 304 units; in reality the percentage of residential space could be larger and commercial space smaller, depending upon whether or not the number of units is still 304). Apparently, a majority of the Governing Body considers 23.4% to be a “significant” amount of commercial floor space.
Brian Leeper August 22, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Additionally, the traffic study done for Walker Station shows that traffic volumes on Manassas Drive have dropped about 2000vpd in the last 4 years, which alleviates many of my concerns about the traffic impact of this development. The developer also proffered $25,000 to be used for coordinating the traffic signals on Manassas Drive. They are currently not coordinated in any manner at all, which is why in the worst case you might hit three red lights in a row. Once those signals are coordinated, there should be an improvement of traffic flow on Manassas Drive, at least heading east. Heading west, Route 28 will be a factor that we have little control over. Additionally, the developer has proffered to put $1 million in escrow to be paid to the city should the commercial development not be completed. The story states $500,000, that is an old figure. Jamie, if you read this, my suggestion is to call or email Jim Zumwalt or Lana Connor for the original and revised proffer statements and attach them to this story.
Jamie M. Rogers (Editor) August 22, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Hi Brian, Thanks so much for your comments. I remember us discussing this during intermission, but I didn't get a copy of the update proffer last night. I've asked the clerk to council for a copy of the agreement. Once I obtain it, I will review it and post it here.
Jamie M. Rogers (Editor) August 22, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Some very interesting comments so far, thank you all for viewpoints. I have some additional information I am going to add to this story today ... your Patch editor has a lot of irons on the fire :)
Bloomie August 22, 2012 at 08:47 PM
So would it be safe to say that the vpd can be expected to increase by a min of 300? Or perhaps 600 if its a 2 income household? I guess that won't be significant.
Isaac Cohen August 22, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Mr. Leeper, Making certain that Jamie Rogers has a copy for publication the next day is not the same as making certain that the public has a copy before the vote and understands what is going on. People may have wanted to say something at citizens time.
MPSince03 August 22, 2012 at 09:15 PM
$1 million in water tap fees? When can we expect the rate increase on water to get rescinded? I am fully expecting this to happen the day after never.
Jamie M. Rogers (Editor) August 22, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Hi MP, I believe Mr. Leeper did tell me last night that the tap fees COULD lower our water rate at some point. If it does, I'm sure many residents will be happy.
Brian Leeper August 22, 2012 at 10:03 PM
They COULD. We shouldn't, however, use the tap fees for anything other than capital improvements to the water/sewer system and debt service. In the past the practice was to use tap fees to pay for consumable water and sewer gallons..not a real good idea when you have 50-year-old pipes that need work.
Brian Leeper August 22, 2012 at 10:10 PM
The document with the proffer amendments was not made available to me until about 1 hour before the meeting, I would guess because the applicant did not submit that document until late in the day. Furthermore, Robert's Rules of Order require that a motion to reconsider be done at the next meeting after the original motion, so it either had to be done then, or never.
Schubert Acoustic Live August 22, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Mp03 you know once a govt. puts a fee in place they seldom remove it.
Leo Mahoney August 22, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Pouring gasoline on an already lit fire...; common sense should have dictated that the City Center retail space be 100% leased before adding more. Correct me if I'm wrong but every retail unit has been vacant since inception. I guess the new MP city slogan should be, "if we build it, they will come...." Like any family budget that is over extended, one generally cuts spending and tightens the belt to reduce debt and meet necessary expenses (food, shelter, kid's, etc). Extremely poor past decision making on the part of the same people (for the most part) that are still governing us - a.k.a. spending in the name of QOL (good, but over kill) has led to the current fiscal mess. Interest debt payments will begin to accelerate in the next 24-36 months. Best case, the USG kicks the can down the road wrt sequestration and we can still expect sky high RE taxes 2-3 yrs from now; worst case...current RE tax rate and water tap fees, etc. go even higher than where they are today. This is a real attractive incentive for well informed home buyers. I have been advocating to the mayor and governing council since Dec 2009 that the city adopt fiscal austerity, but they obviously know best....Time will tell....unfortunately they are gambling with our livelihoods with their ill fated decisions. I look forward to the day that either the city of Manassas or PW County takes control of our benevolent, good spirited, but I'll-managed township.
Leo Mahoney August 22, 2012 at 11:21 PM
P.s. at a minimum the council should have deferred their decision until next year when it becomes clearer whether or not the USG is going to massively cut jobs / spending as sequestration currently dictates. This would have been the most prudent Course of Action (COA).....
MP Resident 09 August 22, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Don't hold your breath.
Leo Mahoney August 22, 2012 at 11:41 PM
P.s.s. Breaking News (Source: CNBC, Kudlow Report, 22 Aug 12) - Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issues recession warning - calling for 9% unemployment rate for 2013 and a GDP of negative - 0.5% if looming fiscal cliff (I.e. sequestration, tax hikes, etc) takes effect 1 Jan 13. Like I iterated above, there are very few, if any CEOs in corporate America taking on additional risk until these major macro-economic answers come into better focus "after" the November Presidential elections / Spring 13 Congressional session. Thus, why in the heck are we?
Vasquez2 August 23, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Whew!! Finally!! Some common-sense fiscal logic for a change!! You gentlemen had me worried after the last vote.
Bloomie August 23, 2012 at 01:49 AM
If this was the last chance to vote, then it should have been on the agenda regardless. Perhaps it was added when they found out Councilman Nardoni(?) wouldn't be there? And I'll bet the proposal could have been brought up for vote at a later date with some modifications to it. If the tap in fees would have been applied to infrastructure from the start, we wouldn't have the mess with water that we currently have. Predictions: 1)The retail portion of the new building and City Center will be at least 80% vacant 1 year after construction is completed on the new building. 2) Council will pass the deal for a new City Hall. (They'll probably name it after Jones or Treuting.) 3) Residential water rates will rise or stay the same over the next 3 years. The leaking water will still be an issue. 4) All of the council members that passed this proposal will be reelected if they choose to run again. 5)Within 10 years, MP will no longer exist and will become part of PWC. I hope I'm wrong on all of these predictions.
Brian Leeper August 23, 2012 at 02:46 AM
The water/sewer enterprise fund is not to be used to subsidize other government functions. The water bill is what it is because that is how much money it takes to run the water/sewer system, pay debt service, and build up a reserve so that we have enough cash on hand so that, should there be a catastrophic failure of some part of the system, we have the money to fix it. I have asked for a monthly report detailing income and expenditures from the water/sewer enterprise fund. The water/sewer fees were calculated without taking into consideration tap fees from future development, because that is money that has not been paid into the enterprise fund yet. All of the tap fees from this and future development will be paid into the enterprise fund, and those tap fees will offset some of the costs of running the system as well as enable improvements to make the system cost less to run (by reducing sewer infiltration and water loss).
Isaac Cohen August 23, 2012 at 03:09 AM
About the Roberts rules of order: How convenient!
mojavegreensnake August 23, 2012 at 07:03 AM
I commend Councilman Leeper and the Patch for keeping us informed on this matter. I look forward on why Councilman Banks voted against it and question why Councilman Naddoni was absent. I find it refreshing never the less that local government leaders voice their opinion onhow they vote. Please continue to keep the no parking signs on Digital Drive up please. The end of the road near MP station is looking quite GTS and Irongate as of late. Can't say I like to see landscape trailers, boats, and RVs here, but what can you do? Would like to see a pharmacy once the retail is in motion. It would be beneficial for the senior apartments around the corner and residents in general to walk too vs trucking down to/ through Manassas. I am sure that we could support it. Would like to see regional and national brands in general in ALL empty areas of retail in MP. Don't forget about the shopping centers near the police department,near Sheetz, and near Guapos- aka the old section of town. Also, what ever happened to the proposed annexation from the county of the land near the NOVEC power station and Birmingham green? Any plans on the Conner Drive extension to 28? Kudos to VDOT on the construction near 28 and Old Centreville Road. I look foward to the "no left turns" there and the longer turn lanes.
Isaac Cohen August 23, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Agree with you Bloomie! It's not right that something should be rushed like that. there was not time for anyone to say anything. I think it was done that way on purpose so people couldn't say anything The mayor probably worked them over good after the last meeting. He probably leaned on them big time. Think about that, and also think about their bad judgment passing the water bill increase (only Mr. Banks voted against it). now they're trying to throw their car in reverse and do something at the last minute that would lower the water bill, but the damage is already done. Most of council have already shown their bad judgment and willingness to cave in to the mayor
Leo Mahoney August 23, 2012 at 10:24 PM
See URL, USA Today, "2013 Tax Increases: Should You Be Worried" - also see USAA financial planner advice at end of article: Don't take extra risk / make big bets; tighten belt/pay down debt; stay alert. I guess our city officials believe in the time honored adage, the early bird gets the worm. Recommendation to the council from a well informed citizen / federal employee: "batten down the hatches, now." http://www.military.com/money/personal-finance/taxes/2013-tax-changes-should-you-be-worried.html?ESRC=finance.nl
Kathy S. September 07, 2012 at 11:02 AM
very disappointed that the retail is empty at City Center. I agree that City Center retail space should be 100% leased before adding more.

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