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City Council Rejects Proposed Downtown Development

Governing body turns down $4.56 million upfront payment.

In a heated meeting where, at moments, council members came close to yelling at each other, the Manassas Park City Council on Tuesday narrowly rejected a proposed multiphase residential-commercial development  and a one-time $4.56 million payment that would have helped the city balance its books.

On a 4-3 vote, the council turned down the development, , that would have had 40,000 square feet of retail for 10 to 12 stores and 304 apartments.

The project would have had a 20-acre footprint and the first phase would have been built along Manassas Drive and Railroad Drive near the VRE commuter station. The owners of the proposed development, Digital Park LLC, were present for the vote but did not address the council.

“By voting no, what you are doing is denying us an opportunity for development in the city,” said an impassioned Mayor Frank Jones, who supported the project along with Councilmen Keith Miller and William Treuting. in the past to attract successful development.

“You are denying us the opportunity to reduce our tax rate and a chance to get our ” Jones said.

The block that voted down the project was just as adamant.

“Let’s not get scared here,” Councilman Suhas Naddoni said.

We have an approved multi-year budget, to keep the city in the black, he added.

Joining Naddoni in opposition were Vice Mayor Bryan Polk and Councilmen and

In a last-minute deal revealed at the meeting on Tuesday, the developers, Digital Park LLC, said they would pay the city a $4.56 million proffer once they closed on the project, probably in March. Previously they had agreed to pay the money in stages as the project was constructed. A proffer is a normal monetary arrangement between developers and government bodies meant to offset the cost of an increase in services a project would generate.

Naddoni said he questioned the wisdom of the project, which would produce increased traffic on Manassas Drive and put more pressure on Manassas Park schools, which are at or near capacity.

“It is already a tough drive to get here and this will make traffic worse,” Naddoni said. “We come here to Manassas Park because of what it is, a small town. If we approve this, we will kill what we have here.”

In voting down the project, Leeper and Banks cited opposition from Manassas Park residents who expressed reservations and concerns about the proposed mixed-use development.

“Really it’s a relationship issue,” Banks said. “It’s the relationship that we have with our residents and they clearly don’t want this project.”

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Jason August 01, 2012 at 07:09 PM
With an extra $4.5 million dollars laying down, they could have come up with a better residential/commercial urban design for the property.
Bloomie August 01, 2012 at 07:58 PM
The mayor (and Treuting and Miller) seem to forget that we gave them a chance with the development of the City Center. When you get that right, come back and we'll talk. If he would have managed the city's finances better he wouldn't be looking for a pot of gold to cover his mistakes.
Jason August 01, 2012 at 10:05 PM
The City Center is a great property to begin the development of the downtown area. Even without retail section filled, it probably provides the city with the highest "net" tax revenue (i.e. low # of school children, high VRE ridership) for a property with a residential component. The problem with the new proposal is the poor mix-use urban design. (i.e all residential...maybe a commercial strip mall on a hill)
Patient23 August 01, 2012 at 10:48 PM
As long as it has practical parking, which City Center totally lacks, and a good design it might be workable. Instead of rejecting it they should be negotiating, and involving someone who has more sense than whoever advised them on City Center. Manassas Park needs commercial tax base to keep property taxes and service fees in check.
Jeff August 02, 2012 at 02:27 AM
MP residents have a few reminders of the mindset for projects like this - vacant stores for the past years near the VRE, highest taxes in the region, new schools & community centers without any regard for a stable budget, and constant increases in water fees. One of these would be acceptable but this group has to go before positive change can happen!
Vasquez2 August 02, 2012 at 05:09 AM
So, the "Martin O'Malleys" of Manassas Park didn't want to deal with the inconvenience of a little extra traffic and they've rejected $4.5m desparately needed proffer dollars. Brilliant! But that's ok..dont' worry about the 1m debt svc increase coming in 2016, or the 60+ yr old ailing infrastructure, or the increasing St/Fed regulations or equipment maintenance, etc. The citizens will be happy to shoulder those burden too just as long as we can keep that "small town" feel you folks enjoy!! Seriously? Manassas is a small town. Warrenton even. MP, is a glorified subdivision en route to becoming a developmental cul-de-sac if you guys have your way about it. Can't blame this one on the mayor, boys! Shame on you for this decision. Harry Reid would be proud of all 4 of you!! Keep up this kind of thinking and you guys will all have cabinet positions in no time!! Shameful.
AB80 August 02, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Very well said and I couldn't agree with your more, "instead of rejecting they should be negotiating."
Isaac Cohen August 02, 2012 at 02:37 PM
They did try to negotiate. if you watch the council on TV, they talked about hammering it out on Saturday (sounded like a negotiation session) so I guess the developer would not increase the commercial, even tho he seemed to be able to give a little more money
PARKrLongTime August 02, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Also strongly agree w/ Vasquez2! And its not ALL residents that dont want this project Mr. Banks! I keep seeing them scream commercial, commercial,commercial, But then say, MP doesnt need the extra traffic! Come on guys....These 304 apts. are not going to cause anymore traffic than the COMMERCIAL you so badly want to see here. Have you been to LIberia Ave recently? Do you think all of that traffic is a result of the people going to Battery Height apartments? Not hardly! And what's with all the talk about City Center? The Commercial is sitting empty and the apartments are FULL. And is it really fair to compare this project to City Center? Anybody who has read the history knows that CC was set up for failure from the beginning. The parking alone is a nightmare! Now, on to more important things....The city just turned down $4.5M that would have been paid in this fiscal year?? Didnt I just read on here recently that the city had to BORROW $4M from a local bank to 'tide them over' until all RE taxes come in at the end of the year? There is something here I am not understanding. Seeing the recent increase in my water bill and hearing the reasons behind it, not to mention the fact that we already have one of the highest RE tax rates in the whole state of VA, I dont think the City is in a position to turn down ANY money at this point!
PARKrLongTime August 02, 2012 at 02:48 PM
There are 2 phases of commercial being offered. A small one with the apartments and then a 2nd piece across the street. The Developer clearly stated at one of the meetings that the current Economic state is what's driving any potential commercial development at this time and its the Retailers that are reluctant to come in because of LACK of residential.
Avery Sun August 02, 2012 at 02:49 PM
There is no need to get sarcastic because we all have an opinion and can really defend that opinion. Its just different ways of thinking. I was worried about schools and the traffic both. Sometimes it feels like the city is swimming in shark infested waters with some people wanting to take take take, and then build what they want rather than whats good for city
Jason August 02, 2012 at 03:42 PM
The traffic issue is related to rush hour on Route 28, not Manassas Drive....It takes 30 minutes to get to I-66 in the morning from MP. There is a low impact to schools if then only use a 2 bedroom max. (i.e No Three Bedroom or Two-Bedroom with Den). With $4.5 Million to play with, they should be able to negotiate something that will produce a better long term solution for the city
Bloomie August 02, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Why is the developer offering more commercial when even he says there isn't enough people to support it? Even the vehicles coming from Signal View that use Manassas Drive as a cut through don't stop to patronize our businesses. We can't even get the types of businesses people want (chains) in the Guapo's plaza, which is on a major hwy. The cash gets us out of debt from prior mismangement and redeems the council/mayor(in an election year), but doesn't solve the water problem. And in a few years we'll be right back where we started financially. I'd at least talk to a few other developers to get their opinion, even if they aren't actually interested in developing in MP. (BTW-I can remember when the land across Manassas Drive from the Railroad builing was going to be turned into more VRE parking or a parking garage. What ever happened with that?)
JD August 02, 2012 at 06:03 PM
What exactly happened with the retail development of the City Center Apts? I've lived there for a couple years, and don't quite understand why they can't even get a coffee shop to move in that emply space? I like living there (Besides paying a RIDICULOUSLY HIGH water bill), but I just don't understand why no retailers have moved there...
MP Resident August 02, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Why does Manassas Park even exist as its own separate legal entity? For the high taxes we pay I don't see the benefit of running our own tiny little town. Dissolve the city government and absorb it into Manassas or PWC.
JD August 02, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Maybe if they ever decide to get MP out of debt, they can lower/stop raising the water bill fee!!!!
mojavegreensnake August 02, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Oh yeah,what about the shopping plaza near the police station? What happen to the family pizza place and the tailor shop? Word on the street is that the developer had a cash flow problem. Isn't this the one that also owns land across from the high school and was recently voted down from the digital land project.w Hmmmmm...Many empty spaces are sitting still there, the strip mall across from Sheetz, and don't even get me started on the Conner business park. Biggest fail ever: Those that didn't vote or voted against the referendum for Colonial Downs back in 2006. All the localities in MD seem to be cashing in on this now, but outside non-residents convinced us that this was bad. I bet that tax revenue would be pretty sweet about now.
BloomsCrossingMom August 02, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Because if I wanted my kids in county schools, I would have moved to the county. I like Manassas Park schools, thank you very much!
BloomsCrossingMom August 02, 2012 at 07:20 PM
I wasn't sure how I felt about the new development, but I am pretty upset that, given my water bill, the city council walked away from this deal.
PARKrLongTime August 02, 2012 at 09:22 PM
I may be mistaken but wouldnt 304 apts bring approx. $2.5M in water & sewer fees in addition to the $4.5 M?? If that's true, they actually walked away from $7M!!
Vasquez2 August 03, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Right on, Mom! Whether we have 100 residents, or 100,000, the city pays a percentage of the UOSA facility water treatment plant (bare with me, i just re-read the report for my own reference) based on the amount of water we send there. UOSA costs are divided among 4 member jurisdictions as follows: FFX Co (51%), PWC (29%) Manassas (15%) MP (5%) - I referenced the UOSA website for these numbers. As these other localities grow/develop, their usage increases and UOSA has to forecast projections for FUTURE expanse and get that done long before it's needed. This costs money, BIG money (when you're talking about $50m expansion projects, for example). So, the key word here is GROWTH. Expanse = Expense...for ALL UOSA members including us. 5% of a 50m UOSA project /4900 residents= more than you want to pay but it's reality! Look, I like "small town feel" too but it carries a high price when you want all the amenities of a big city (only 30 min outside the beltway) and you don't have the population to pay for it or the growth to support it! Read the report! This is where we would've been anyway (just more slowly over 13+ years). The debt service jumps up a million+ in 2016 and STAYS there! It aint coming back down! In fact, it goes up $100,000 or so, every year. I haven't even addressed the purchase of water or the loss problem (also counted/paid for as UOSA capacity..) Get it?? This is simple math folks. Call those guys back and tell em we've changed our minds before they leave town!
Isaac Cohen August 03, 2012 at 12:59 PM
The fact is there wasn’t near enough commercial development in that proposal. From what I’ve heard there wasn’t any commercial going to be built and there was no guarantee it ever would. I’m so tired of the city jumping like a puppy dog after a bone every time someone waves dollars in the air. Please think of what’s best for the city in the future, not the big “now” There’s a couple guys on council that pushed the city to spend money like a kid at the mall with their parents credit card. And now that the bill is coming due they want to sell the family car to pay for it. Same principle. Geez!!!

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