The housing developer behind a long controversial plan to develop the former Kline dairy farm into hundreds of new homes is tossing a new pitch to area residents: If Prince William County officials approve the latest iteration, it could provide a new home for the Greater Manassas Baseball League.
Developer Stanley Martin, the City of Manassas, Prince William County officials and representatives of the youth baseball league began discussions about eight months ago on the possibility of dedicating about 25 acres of the former Kline dairy farm to a new baseball complex for the GMBL, according to Truett Young, Stanley Martin’s vice president of land acquisition for the Washington, D.C. area.
The talks started a few months after the City of Manassas signed a deal in late 2021 to sell the E.G. Smith baseball and softball complex to nearby Micron, which operates a computer chip manufacturing facility at Godwin Drive and Va. 28. Located next to Micron, the Smith complex has been home to the GMBL since the 1980s. The league has had a presence in Manassas for 65 years.
In the fall of 2021, Micron, the city of Manassas’ largest employer and commercial taxpayer, signed a three-year option to purchase the 18-acre complex from the City of Manassas for about $14 million. The company has a tentative plan to build a new research and development facility that could bring as many as 1,000 new jobs, according to city officials. The Manassas City Council, meanwhile, pledged to use the proceeds from the sale on new recreational assets, including a new field complex for the GMBL.
Micron has two more years to exercise its option to buy the property and then would have to wait at least two years to take possession of it, which would allow city officials and the GMBL time to establish a new baseball complex elsewhere.
That’s where Stanley Martin comes in. The developer has been trying to rezone Kline farm’s 92 acres of picturesque open pastures at Prince William Parkway and Liberia Avenue into a new housing development since 2016. But the plan has met fierce resistance over the years from area residents and some elected officials who are concerned about adding traffic to an already congested intersection.
The last development plan for Kline farm was approved by the Prince William County Planning Commission in late 2019. It proposed 251 homes – a mix of 120 “two-over-two” condominiums, 74 townhouses and 57 single-family detached homes – with a 145,000-square-foot commercial area and 24 open acres for a new elementary school or park site. But Stanley Martin asked to defer the plan in late 2020, so it never came before the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.
On Wednesday, Nov. 30, the Prince William County Planning Commission will review a new plan, which now includes 240 townhomes as well as 45 acres that would be set aside for civic uses, according to Young and county documents.
Of those 45 acres, Stanley Martin is offering to give 20 to Prince William County for a new elementary school site. The remaining 25 acres would be available for purchase and could be developed into a new baseball complex for the GMBL – although that’s not a sure thing, Young told the Prince William Times last week.
“It’s not being proffered,” Young said of the 25 acres being discussed as a possible baseball complex. “It would either have to be purchased or it would have to be given [to the league] under some sort of agreement.”
But the rezoning, Young added, is “the first step in creating the opportunity for this to happen.”
Although Prince William County or the City of Manassas – or both – would have to purchase the 25 acres for the baseball complex, officials from both jurisdictions declined to comment this week about whether negotiations for such an agreement are underway.
Board of Supervisors Chair Ann Wheeler, D-At Large, declined to comment on the existence of even a tentative agreement, but said she saw “opportunity” in the new plan.
“We haven’t been presented this project yet, so I have not taken a position, but I would say the benefits offered by a proffered public civic site, which could include a needed school site well as the opportunity to potentially add additional sports fields, cannot be overlooked or discounted,” Wheeler said in an email.
Manassas City Councilman Mark Wolfe said he could not comment on the city’s talks with the county or weigh in on the rezoning – which he said is up to Prince William County officials.
Still, Wolfe said he believes the City of Manassas would be willing to make an investment in the baseball complex and work with Prince William County officials to bring it to fruition.
“The city is willing to be a partner with the county,” Wolfe said. “I think it’s an extremely good idea. It’s a win-win-win. It’s a win for the city, it’s a win for the county and it’s a win to get a new recreational asset we wouldn’t otherwise have without having to bear the cost of all of that.”
When asked, Wolfe said the city does have a “plan B” for the GMBL complex if the Kline plan does not work out, but he declined to say what that was.
Colby Poteat, president of the GMBL board of directors, said Tuesday night that he has heard about the possibility of building a new youth baseball and softball complex as part of the Kline farm development from both City of Manassas officials and developer Stanley Martin over the past several months.
The location, Poteat said, would be "great" for the league, because the Kline farm property is just outside the Manassas city limits, and more than 60% of the league's more than 500 players live in western Prince William County near Manassas but not within the city limits.
Poteat further said it was his understanding that the county and city officials have been discussing the proposal for some time.
"The city has definitely made me feel like there's some kind of commitment there," Poteat said, although he said he has not seen anything in writing.
The Kline farm is located in Prince William County’s Coles District. Supervisor Yesli Vega, R-Coles, did not return a request for comment on the project before press time. But Coles District Planning Commissioner Joe Fontanella expressed some reservations about the project during a meeting of the Mid-County Civic Association last week.
“I think it’s a lot of townhomes in a small space at an intersection that’s problematic already,” Fontanella said.
Fontanella also called the idea of a new baseball complex “aspirational” and said he viewed it as an attempt by Stanley Martin to win the support of the community as well as the planning commissioners and supervisors. The baseball field complex is not part of the official rezoning package the planning commission will review on Nov. 30.
“I think this is a way to show there is a public benefit [to the project], which makes it all the more appealing to planning commissioners and the supervisors,” he said.
The addition of the extra 25 acres to be used as a possible baseball complex is among the most significant changes to the Kline farm development that will be reviewed by the planning commission for the first time during its upcoming Nov. 30 meeting.
The plan also includes a smaller commercial area near the intersection of Liberia Avenue and Prince William Parkway as well as a second commercial area located across the street but also along Prince William Parkway. Stanley Martin is planning the area to include a drive-thru CVS, a fast-food restaurant, a storage facility and a day care center, Young said.
In all, the development is about 100 acres. But Stanley Martin’s application seeks to rezone only about 55.42 acres from A-1, or agricultural, to “planned mixed residential” and B-1, or general business.
The acres slated for the elementary school site and the possible baseball fields would not need to be rezoned and could remain A-1.
Stanley Martin is offering the 20-acre school site instead of monetary proffers to the school division and the county’s parks and recreation department. The Prince William County school division is not opposing the plan even though it is expected to generate 137 new students at the elementary, middle and high school levels, according to county documents.
Young said he hoped residents would find the new plan more appealing.
“We effectively reduced the scale of the Kline project based on community feedback,” Young said. “But at the same time, we wanted to find a way for it to provide a community benefit.”
The development does not currently include any units set aside for affordable housing but offers $250 per unit – or a total of about $60,000 – for the county’s affordable housing fund. Young said it’s hard to predict what the townhomes would sell for in two or three years, but he estimated they would start in the $400,000s.
The townhomes are planned to be similar to those in Bradley Square, a Stanley Martin development near the Prince William Fairgrounds, Young said.
The rezoning has not yet been scheduled for a public hearing before the board of supervisors.
Update and correction: This article has been updated with comments from Greater Manassas Baseball League President Colby Poteat. It's also been corrected to note that the GMBL has been playing at the E.G. Smith baseball complex since the 1980s. The youth league was established in 1957 and is 65 years old, Poteat said.
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