We believe . . . Prince William County does not have the processes nor the infrastructure necessary to manage this development through to build-out. -- LOCCA Planning Environment Land-Use and Transportation Committee, January 2001
Three sets of commitments are associated with the Cherry Hill/Southbridge/Harbor Station development. There are two proffered rezonings and one special use permit, which includes specific conditions that must be met. These are interrelated and cover the 1,700-acres approved for development in January 2001. Even without changes to the proffers, things are overly complicated and staff level changes to the proffers add to the confusion. This is especially true for transportation issues, where significant changes have been made to some road alignments and a new road was added.
Road Construction at Leesylvania State Park
In July 2003, KSI requested changes to proffered commitments, including significant changes to the transportation network. The changes to the transportation network include an additional full 4-lane divided section of Harbor Station Parkway east with a connection to existing Old Cherry Hill Road, realignment of a downgraded Cherry Hill Road and redirection of traffic to Paper Mill Road, which would be upgraded to accommodate the additional traffic generated by these changes.
These road changes increase the total number of impacts to streams and wetlands. The changes also increase the total amount of impervious surface for the development plan.
The golf course has also been relocated. According to the proffered commitments, the location of the golf course was contained is specific land bays but now spreads its way throughout the development. These changes have caused significant modifications to land bays and the proffered commitments associated with land bays and roads.
To date, no Proffer Amendment has been filed. Residents who would be affected by the changes have not been provided with information nor have they been provided with an opportunity to comment on the changes.
The approved proffers also included some protections for environmental resources. For example, the site plan is reqiored to show the proffered preservation areas accurately and confirm that all limits of construction are outside these protected areas. At this time, it appears that the current site plan shows considerable encroachments into preservation areas.
Moreover, KSI has submitted five applications that request approval for nine individual encroachments into environmentally sensitive areas protected as part of the approved development package. These requests contradict original commitments to protect environmental resources and fly in the face of Virginia's Chesapeake Bay goals.
Some of the exceptions request permission to put golf cart paths through the protected areas and others propose tree removal to increase the golf course viewshed. These exceptions to Virginia's Chesapeake Bay regulations require approval from the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Review Board. This Board, appointed by Prince William Supervisors, must hold a public hearing and has the authority to approve or deny the exceptions. The developer can appeal their decision only through Circuit Court.
One exception request involves impacts to protected areas caused by a road that doesn't appear on the proffered development plan. This encroachment can be approved administratively by staff.
The Chesapeake Bay Review Board met on November 22 2004. At that meeting, the Board approved 3 requests, impacting about 14.5 acres of land, and deferred action on one request until the third Thursday in February 2005.
How does the developer justify the need for these changes? Government documents state that: "During the preparation of the preliminary plan, KSI found that certain aspects of the Master Zoning Plan (MZP) and the proffered conditions were not the most efficient use of resources, were not consistent and hence hindered their marketing goals for the property . . . " July 9 2003 memo from Public Works Director Robert Wilson and Zoning Administrator Sherman Patrick to the Planning Commission
Does Prince William have the infrastructure to support this development? Information on anticipated development along the Route 1 corridor, compiled by the school system in December 2003, shows the number of approved homes currently slated for construction in the immediate future. A tally of the single family, multifamily and townhomes shows we can already count on more than 100,000 additional vehicle trips per day in the Route 1 area, where traffic congestion is already a noteworthy problem. Click here to find out how to calculate new vehicle trips yourself.
We learned about the proffer changes in October 2003 and asked questions about this unusual process. In this letter to the Board of Supervisors, we asked questions about the significant changes to the Master Zoning Plan and the absence of public notice. The changes to the MZP appeared significant and clearly did not neatly match the definition of “minor.” Historically, when questions on the interpretation of planning and other process arise, the County Attorney's office has provided a legal opinion defining the scope and legal use of the authorities in question. We asked if the County Attorney's office had provided a legal opinion regarding the authority to approve these changes through an administrative review process that excludes public input. Although our questions were submitted to the Board of Supervisors, we received minimal responses from the Planning Commission Chairman and Planning staff. Click here to read PWCA questions regarding changes to the proffers and the written responses sent via email.
Proffer Changes Diminish Economic Goals
- "The [Urban Land Institute] panel does not believe that this Town Center at Legend [Cherry Hill] is likely to be built. To succeed, retail centers need high visibility and accessibility, and this site has neither. It is a dead-end location, away from the arterial road junctions, with no market on its eastern side . . .
The Cherry Hill peninsula demands the urgent preparation of a new master plan that will optimize the strategic contribution this area can make to the Potomac Communities and that will enhance its linkages to the Potomac River." -- Urban Land Institute, Potomac Communities Report, February, 2002
We heard much about the need for economic development, high quality retail and office space, at the rezoning. Several Supervisors cited economic development and the need for additional office space in the Route 1 area as a primary reason to approve the development package.
This "new" Cherry Hill/Southbridge/Harbor Station development plan no longer looks like a snazzy Town Center on the Potomac, but rather appears to closely resemble Montclair. Which is not to say that Montclair isn't a lovely community, but it's a far cry from the mixed-use new urbanist concept touted at the rezoning, complete with 'guarantees' to attract high-quality businesses and destination retail to the Route 1 corridor.