Dumfries Town Councilmembers offered a mostly upbeat assessment Tuesday of “The Rose,” a proposed $389 million gaming facility the Colonial Downs Group and its parent company, Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, want to build atop the Potomac Landfill in Dumfries.
The project is being proposed by the same company that brought “Rosie’s Gaming Emporium” to Dumfries just last month. The storefront gaming outlet opened on Jan. 8 with 94 slot-machine-like historical horse race betting machines in Dumfries Triangle Shopping Plaza.
The Rose is proposed to be much larger and grander. It would include 1,800 betting machines as part of a 50,000-square-foot gaming facility and 200-room hotel, complete with eight bars and restaurants and a 1,500-seat theater for live shows, according to a presentation Peninsula Pacific Entertainment leaders delivered to the Dumfries Town Council on Tuesday, Feb. 16, in what was the first public discussion of the project.
The Los Angeles-based gaming and entertainment company is proposing to close the landfill and build a 79-acre public park behind The Rose complex. The gaming facility, hotel and parking garage would be constructed on 12 acres at the edge of the landfill property fronting Interstate 95, while the park would be built atop the closed landfill.
According to an economic development study authored by Terry Clower of George Mason University, The Rose and the additional business activity it would spawn could generate as much as $10.9 million in annual tax revenue for the town. That’s enough to nearly triple the town’s current $5.6 million budget.
Dumfries Mayor Derrick Wood and the six-member town council said they liked what they heard about the project. Only Town Councilwoman Cydny Neville expressed concerns about traffic and the environmental impacts of closing the landfill and building a park on top of it. She pressed Peninsula Pacific Entertainment executives for details about an environmental assessment it had completed in recent weeks.
Stefan Huba, Pacific Peninsula Entertainment's chief development officer, said the company had paid an independent firm to conduct the assessment, which he promised to share with town officials. The company must file a plan to close the landfill with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and will have to monitor the site for 10 years for any needed mitigation, Huba said.
A traffic plan has been drawn up and is awaiting comments from the Virginia Department of Transportation. The company is considering the idea of adding a traffic circle near Harold and Kathy’s Diner, Wood said, as a strategy to mitigate added traffic congestion on U.S. 1. The roadway is already slated for a major widening project in the coming years that won regional funding over the last two years.
Neville also pressed Peninsula Pacific on whether it planned to use local minority contractors for the project, if it is approved. Karanja Augustine, a Peninsula Pacific Entertainment attorney, said those plans were already under consideration.
Aside from those few concerns, town councilmembers had only praise for the project.
“I am actually very excited about the possibilities of what’s to come. I think this development is going to be a tremendous asset to the town with endless possibilities,” said Councilwoman Selonia Miles.
Councilman Brian Fields went so far as to caution people he called “naysayers” to mind their own business about the project.
“Most of these people do not live in the Town of Dumfries or even anywhere close to Dumfries,” Fields said of people who have expressed concerns.
“They’re on the other side of the county. So I will say this, and I’m probably going to make the papers for saying it, but let Dumfries handle Dumfries business. … If you’re on the other side of the county, take care of your business over there.”
Fields is right about one thing: Only the Dumfries Town Council has any say over whether the project is approved. The ballot referendum town voters passed in 2019 along with a law change approved by the Virginia General Assembly in 2020 paved the way for a gaming facility with as many as 1,800 historical betting machines in Dumfries.
The town council decided in early 2020 that it would require the project to receive a conditional use permit, a step that would allow the town council to have a say about issues such as traffic, lighting and security.
According to a timeline proposed by the company, the permit application could go before the Town of Dumfries Planning Commission in April and then before the town council in as early as May or June. Construction on the facility could then begin in August with an opening date slated for January 2023.
Town Councilman Tyrone Brown, who was recently elected last November, said he personally does not gamble but does not believe the town should stand in the way of allowing the gaming facility to come to Dumfries.
“We have to look at this from a bigger picture than our personal beliefs,” Brown said. “It’s what is good for our community.”
Vice Mayor Monae Nickerson asked Peninsula Pacific Entertainment executives about property values and crime. Nickerson said she believes the development would be a net positive for nearby residential properties especially if the project closes the landfill earlier than scheduled.
She asked the Peninsula Pacific Entertainment executives to address what she called the “myths and misnomers” around crime associated with gaming facilities. She also asked whether the nearby Tripoli Heights neighborhood could be buffered from the lights and noise of the gaming facility. The project aims to use its parking garage as a buffer between it and the nearby Grayson Village mobile home park.
Regarding crime, Jonathan Swain, president of Peninsula Pacific Entertainment, said the inclusion of gaming in a community has not been proven to lead to “a significant increase in any type of crime.” Although he did say the added visitors, estimated between 1 and 2 million a year, would result in additional traffic accidents, for example.
Swain also said the company is open to hearing the concerns of neighbors and could implement measures such as anti-light-pollution fixtures to cut down on outside light.
No one spoke for or against the project during public comment time, but that might have been because of confusion about doing so during a virtual meeting. The town council meeting was held remotely via a Zoom webinar.
Peninsula Pacific Entertainment will hold two public town halls, which will also be held remotely, on Wednesday, Feb. 24, and Thursday, March 18. Information about how the public can participate is forthcoming, according to Lisa Speller, vice president of government affairs and community relations for the Colonial Downs Group.
Reach Jill Palermo at firstname.lastname@example.org