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Aerial view of the Kline Farm property. By Roger Snyder

One of the county’s last remaining stretches of farmland along Prince William Parkway will remain green at least a little while longer as a result of the planning commission’s decision early Thursday to defer a vote on the latest iteration of a residential development planned for the 92-acre site known as the Kline property.

After a public hearing that stretched more than three hours, the Prince William County Planning  Commission voted unanimously about 12:30 a.m. Thursday, July 11, to send a plan for 310 homes – a mix of “two-over-two” condominiums, townhomes and single-family houses – back to developer Stanley Martin for further adjustments.

At the suggestion of Commissioner Austin Haynes, who represents the Coles District, the planning commission will take the matter up again on Wednesday, Oct. 2.

In the meantime, Haynes advised the developer to reduce by about one-third the 190 condominiums – or “stacked townhomes” – proposed for the site.

Haynes also asked Stanley Martin representatives to work directly with members of the Mid-County Civic Association to hammer out such changes, something the developer declined to do in recent in months in favor of using a Co-Urbanize-brand web portal to gather community input.

“That would be a pretty serious reduction,” Haynes said of slicing the development’s proposed density. “I think you’re going to see a lot of corrections made.”

The vote came after commissioners heard from dozens of residents, most of whom expressed their opposition to the residential development over concerns the plan would add people and traffic to already crowded public schools and roadways.

Many also said the plan to build a dense community of 190 condominiums surrounded by 84 townhomes and 38 single-family homes would be incompatible with the surrounding semi-rural residential area, where many homes are built on lots of two acres or more.

Even members of the planning commission questioned the wisdom of building what one called “a city” in the middle of still fairly rural area.

“So, what we’re building here is an urban mixed-use project,” said Commissioner Edgar Bruce Holley (Neabsco), who went on to call stacked townhomes “a pain in the butt.”

“We’re putting a city in a residential area and it just sticks in my craw. I can’t support it,” Holley said. 

Prince William County planners, however, recommended the commission approve the project with a handful of modifications. Planning staff members Scott Meyer and David McGettigan explained that the development’s denser design and accompanying 145,000 square feet of commercial space – anchored by a drive-thru CVS pharmacy – follows smart-growth principles.

The land, formerly the Kline family’s dairy farm, is currently zoned A-1 agricultural. The proposal sought a comprehensive plan amendment, a rezoning and a special-use permit to allow the planned CVS to have a drive-thru window. The plan is a revision of an earlier proposal for 392 homes and more than 400,000 square feet of commercial space that was rejected by the planning commission in November 2017.

The new plan eliminated a storage facility and gas station that were originally proposed for the site and added a 24-acre site for a new school and three playing fields that could be used by both the school division and the county parks and recreation department, said Sherman Patrick, an attorney for Stanley Martin.

The developers would also set aside funds and space for three bus stops within the development to ferry residents to the commuter train station in Manassas, Sherman said.

The Prince William County School Board issued a formal development impact statement stating its opposition to the development because it would add a projected 139 students to a school division that already overcrowded. Also, the site is not in a place where the school division needs a new school, at least in the near term, School Board members say.

School Board member Willie Deutsch (Coles) sought to clarify the school board’s position during the public hearing.

“This isn’t a development we’re in support of,” Deutsch said.

Residents who spoke in opposition to the plan expressed empathy for the Kline family members’ desire to sell their land, but many also recommended they do so under the current zoning.

Residents also spoke out against the development mostly on the grounds that it would exacerbate existing traffic woes on nearby roadways, including Liberia Avenue, Yates Ford Road and Va. 28. According to a traffic-impact analysis, the new development would add more than 9,000 vehicle trips a day to area roadways when fully developed.

Jen Gettys, a resident who was among those who opposed earlier versions of the plan, delivered a petition she said had amassed more than 6,000 signatures against the development.

Several expressed frustration of having to turn out to yet another late night meeting to oppose the plan.

“I’m disgusted. I’m disgusted that I’m back here once again,” said Cheryl Arnaiz, who noted that the Kline family could sell their 100-acre parcel to build nine or 10 homes under the existing zoning, which allows one home per 10 acres.

“He could do that right now and the neighbors wouldn’t be out here in force,” she said. “But because someone wants the maximum amount of money and could care less about the neighborhood, we’re here.”

Reach Jill Palermo at jpalermo@fauquier.com

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