Change is likely on the way for a stretch of farmland on the border of Prince William County and the City of Manassas that’s among the last remaining undeveloped parcels outside the rural crescent.
The Prince William County Planning Commission gave its blessing Wednesday to a new development that could bring as many as 250 new homes to the 92-acre Kline property, located near the corner of Liberia Avenue and Prince William Parkway.
The commission voted 5 to 3 during its Nov. 20 meeting to recommend approval of three measures to transform the former Kline farm, with its distinctive silos, white farmhouse and red barn, into what the county calls a “community employment center with a center-of-community overlay.”
The plan requires a comprehensive plan amendment, rezoning and special-use permit, all of which were approved by the planning commission. The plan, as presented by developer Stanley Martin, lays out an arrangement of 120 “two-over-two” condominiums, 74 townhouses and 56 single family homes surrounding a 145,000-square-foot commercial center.
The development will include a CVS pharmacy with a drive-thru window, which requires a special-use permit, but it’s not clear at this point what other commercial or office uses might ultimately end up there.
The development also pledges 24 acres for an elementary school site should the Prince William County school division decide to build a school there. If the school division opts not to take the site, the plan calls for the acreage to be turned into parkland.
Truett Young, Stanley Martin’s vice president for D.C. regional metro land acquisition, said the company would begin developing the fields around the school property for use even before the school opens.
The plan will now go to the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, which will consider the development for final approval during its final meeting of the year on Tuesday, Dec. 10.
The plan was three years in the making and sparked strong opposition from area residents, who flooded two earlier planning commission meetings -- in November 2017 and July 2019 -- to speak out against losing one of the area’s remaining large green spaces to yet more new homes.
Residents’ objections focused on school overcrowding and unrelenting traffic on area roadways, including Liberia Avenue, Va. 28 and Yates Ford Road, a popular cut-through to Fairfax County. Some also expressed concerns about the development’s affect on residents’ private drinking wells and whether paving over the land would diminish the rate at which the local aquifers recharge.
The Nov. 20 planning commission meeting was no different. About 30 people spoke against the project during citizens’ time. Many speculated the developer would point to the recently approved road bond referendum, which passed with the support of more than 73 percent of Prince William County voters on Nov. 5, as justification for the new development. The road bond pledges $200 million for improvements to Va. 28, either by building a bypass or widening the road, depending on the results of an as yet unfinished environmental assessment.
Mari-Jane Trombly, who said she lives in the area, said she voted in favor of the bond referendum to help deal with traffic that already exists – not to give a developer a green light to build new homes that would generate even more car trips.
The development is predicted to add about 9,400 daily trips to area roads, according to Stanley Martin’s Courbanize website to share information and gather community input about the project. That’s a reduction from the more than 15,000 daily trips that would have been generated by earlier versions of the plan.
“I voted for that road bond, but I voted for it because the roads are so bad now,” Trombly said.
“It’s not that I’m against development. I’m against senseless development,” added Manassas Park resident Sara Jens. “We’re beginning to be called ‘the new Springfield.’ That’s not what people came down here for, to have a quiet, slower way of life.”
But despite the residents’ objections, the planning commissioner approved the comprehensive plan amendment, rezoning and special-use permit in a 5-to-3 vote. Those voting in favor included Chairman William Milne (Occoquan) and Commissioners Rene Fry (Potomac), Austin Haynes (Coles), Cynthia Moses-Nedd (Woodbridge) and Don Taylor (at large). Those voting against the measures were Edgar Bruce Holley (Neabsco), Patty McKay (Brentsville) and Richard Berry (Gainesville).
Haynes noted that Stanley Martin had agreed to all the changes the commissioners asked of them during the last time the project was before the board in July.
Haynes also cited the developer’s 40 percent reduction in overall density and praised its promised $7 million in road improvements and its agreement to provide a shuttle service to the Manassas VRE station during morning and afternoon rush-hour periods. Moses-Nedd proposed the idea, and Haynes praised it as an innovative solution that might be copied for other developments. Stanley Martin agreed to provide the service until the local commuter bus system decides whether to service the new development with a bus stop.
Haynes did, however, express concern about residents’ wells and suggested that the board of supervisors require Stanley Martin to not only assess residents’ wells before construction but also follow up with a second round of testing post construction and mitigate any negative affects to residents.
“What really puts this over the edge for me are the $7 million in road improvements that have not changed” despite the reduction in overall density, Haynes said.
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