manassas journal messenger 01/17/01



January 17, 2001




Hill project faces debate


Caryn Goebel




A proposal that would allow a developer to build a 2,500-home community

and town center on the Cherry Hill peninsula brought out more than 100 residents

Tuesday, all wanting to weigh in on the controversial plan.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors were still taking public

comments on the massive Southbridge at Cherry Hill project by press time

Tuesday, and county officials didn’t expect a final vote on the rezoning

application until early Wednesday morning.

By midnight, a mixed bag of support and opposition had been heard on

the project proposed by Legend Properties.

More than 125 people signed up to speak before the supervisors about

Legend’s plan, which has been in the works for more than eight years. In

recent months, as the application neared county approval, residents, activists

and environmental groups have become more vocal on the ill-effects development

of the peninsula might have.

Slow-growth and environmental advocates oppose developing the peninsula

for fear it will cause erosion and sediment problems in neighboring Powells

Creek and the Potomac River. Fears about the fate of two active bald eagle’s

nests have also been voiced by opponents.

Other issues at hand include the additional traffic the community would

create and whether the county can adequately monitor a project of this scale.

Groups such as the Sierra Club, the Piedmont Environmental Coalition,

Protect Prince William and even the town of Dumfries have joined the bandwagon

in fighting development of the peninsula.

“It took a plan as massive as this to attract the community,”

said Triangle resident Michael Ragland. “Those who support this have

been enticed by the developer.”

Legend has applied to rezone more than 1,700 acres from agricultural

and heavy industrial to planned mixed residential to build the second phase

of Southbridge.

The developer is also seeking approval from the supervisors for a special

use permit that would allow them to build a town center within 131 acres

of the peninsula.

The Prince William County Planning Commission voted 5-3 on Dec. 20 recommending

denial of the proposal.

This week, Legend agreed to abandon building Congressional Way, a connector

road from the development to Possum Point Road, and widening Possum Point

Road from two to four lanes in the next 10 years.

The changes pleased Dumfries Mayor Chris Brown.

“This is a welcome sign. We hope this is not a temporary ploy to

get the application through and then change it,” Brown said.

For nearly every resident objecting to Legend’s plan, there seems to

be one in favor. About 61 people were rallying against the plan while 56

signed up in support of the development.

“Have you ever seen an area appropriate for development?”

asked county resident Burt Nichols. “I haven’t. I don’t think we could

ask for a better environmental proposal than what Legend has offered. Legend’s

plan is a well thought-out planned community.”




pleads guilty


Patrick Wilson



MANASSAS – The former Manassas lawyer accused of embezzlement and money

laundering pleaded guilty to some of the charges in court Tuesday, and

prosecutors said they will recommend he serve two years in prison.

Thomas Eugene Burks, 48, entered guilty pleas in Prince William Circuit

Court to three charges of embezzlement and one charge of money laundering.

Under a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped three charges of money laundering.

Burks appeared before substitute Judge Barnard F. Jennings, who scheduled

sentencing for March 1. Prince William’s Circuit Court judges recused themselves

from the case.

Under state law, the judge could sentence Burks to 20 years on each

embezzlement charge and 40 years on the money-laundering charge.

Prosecutors recommend that Burks receive a net 40 years in prison with

38 years suspended, and be on probation for five years.

The money Burks embezzled should have gone to clients or medical service

providers, said John Notarianni, an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in

Prince William who is handling the case.

“Funds which should have been in trust for the clients were converted

or diverted into other forms,” he said.

The Virginia State Bar and Virginia State Police began investigating

Burks in May.

When the bar put a receivership in charge of Burks’ law practice accounts

on May 19, there should have been at least $105,000 in a trust fund, Notarianni

said. But the amount in the fund was $2,765.

Notarianni explained in court Tuesday what prosecutors would have presented

as evidence had the case gone to trial.

The first embezzlement count came from a November 1999 incident.

Burks settled a personal-injury case in November 1999 for a married couple

who were injured in an auto crash in Raleigh County, W. Va. But instead

of the delivering them the $51,000 they should have received, Burks kept

it and did not tell them about the settlement, Notarianni said.

The second charge came from June 1999, when Burks withheld $10,179 from

a personal-injury settlement that should have gone to medical service providers.

A third embezzlement charge came from an October 1999 incident in which

Burks paid a client nearly $7,000 less than he should have received in a


Then, between January 1998 and April 2000, Burks used the money for

other purposes, leading to the money-laundering charges, Notarianni said.

Burks sent $44,915 in checks to a girlfriend in Pittsburgh from January

to November 1999, Notarianni said. He also wired $13,319 in cash to a bank

in West Palm Beach, Fla., on March 1, 2000. Victims will submit statements

to the court about the losses, which Judge Jennings will consider before


The Virginia State Bar also has a Client Protection Fund to benefit

victims of lawyers who took money dishonestly. If a lawyer is disbarred,

financial claims can be filed against the fund, said Gifford Hampshire,

an attorney in Prince William who is a representative to the fund’s board.

Hampshire is investigating five claims made by former clients of Burks.

The board that administers the fund will review the claims at a Jan. 26

meeting in Richmond, and act on them, Hampshire said.

The Virginia State Bar revoked Burks law license in July. Burks received

his license in 1982, and practiced law on Peabody Street in Manassas near

the Prince William Judicial Center.

Burks will remain incarcerated at the Prince William-Manassas regional

jail until sentencing.

· Patrick Wilson is a staff writer for the Potomac News in Woodbridge.


rejects traffic changes


Chris Newman





Council backed off its attempt to lower speed limits on some narrow

residential streets and make certain lengthy roads one-way after residents

spoke against the changes at a council meeting Tuesday night.

The proposal would lower the speed limit from 25 to 15 mph on streets

less than 30 feet wide: Colfax Court, Courtney Drive from Manassas Drive

to Polk Drive, Kirby Street, Mace Street, Morton Court and Travis Street,

adding to three other streets with 15 mph limits.

Lengthier streets would be changed from two-way to one-way so vehicles

would not have to negotiate passage and visibility would be improved, city

staff said. Kent Drive from Manassas Drive to Cabbel Drive and Mosby Drive

from Cabbel Drive to Manassas Drive would become one-way.

The city has been reviewing how to improve safety on residential streets

since last September when residents on Baker Street came forward with complaints

about speeding. Residents Tuesday were opposed to the conversion of their

streets to one-way.

“It’s a hassle to live on a one-way street,” said Kent Drive

resident Mickey McCarthy, who presented a petition with 22 signatures against

a one-way Kent Drive.

She said a woman who just moved onto the street told her she would not

have bought her house had she known the street was going to change to one-way.

“I hope you’re prepared to lower our assessments because it will lower

our resale value.”

“The majority of the street wants to keep it two-way, but we are

concerned about safety in the street,” McCarthy said.

She and four other residents argued that converting a street to one-way

does not necessarily lead to slower traffic – it allows drivers to go faster

because they do not have to contend with oncoming traffic.

“Speed bumps would be the way to slow people down,” said Steve

Brady of Forrest Street. Brady, whose truck was recently sideswiped onto

the curb, said he doesn’t let his children play in the streets because drivers

regularly speed through the neighborhood.

McCarthy and other residents said they rarely see police presence on

the streets to enforce the speed limits. One man said he knows of only one

person who has been ticketed for speeding.

City Manager David Reynal said the city cannot install traditional speed

bumps on public roads because it is a liability. The state allows for “kinder,

gentler” speed humps that over an 8- to 10-foot span rise up to deter

speeding. Signs that read “Children at Play” are also a liability

because they can be seen as encouraging playing in the streets.

Residents said speed bump or hump – it’s needed.

The speed limit and road traffic ordinance was sent back to the city

code committee to take under consideration the citizen’s comments.

Council member Bill Wren said a $200 fine for speeders on problem streets

would be helpful. He said studies show that speeding is dramatically reduced

in areas where the $200 fines are enforced.

· Contact Chris Newman at [email protected].



hears comments, Human Rights Commission chairman becomes topic


Caryn Goebel




Words of support for the chairman of the Prince William Human Rights Commission

filled the board chambers Tuesday at the McCoart Administration Center as

the appointee of eight years fought to keep his position.

Curtis Porter, chairman of the commission, told the Prince William Board

of County Supervisors he felt “retaliated against” in not being

reconsidered for reappointment to the nine-member commission, which hears

discrimination cases.

Porter, whose term expired Monday, will lose the position if Board of

County Supervisors Chairman Sean Connaughton gets approval from the rest

of the board to place another volunteer appointee on the commission.

Porter said at issue was the commission’s decision this summer to co-sponsor

a table and provide literature at the June 11 Capitol Pride Festival, a

gay pride event held annually in Washington, D.C. To Porter and the commission,

who voted to co-sponsor a table at the event with an Alexandria counterpart,

the exposure at the event is part of their mission. But in a June 7 letter

to Porter, Connaughton said sponsoring the table could lead to conceptions

of support of the event.

“I support the missions of the Human Rights Commission of protecting

and enforcing human and civil rights for our Prince William citizens, but

participating in an event such as the Capitol Pride Festival does nothing

to promote those objectives,” Connaughton said in the letter.

Connaughton, R-at-large, asked in the same letter for the human rights

commission to reconsider co-sponsoring the table. Porter said the commission

did discuss the option but did not change its vote to take part in the event.

Connaughton has presented the board another nominee for appointment

– Chester Banks of Woodbridge. In the same meeting, Connaughton provided

written intent to the board for Banks’ nomination. It should be voted on

by the supervisors in the next few weeks.

But supporters of Porter urged the supervisors to keep him on the commission,

saying his experience with discrimination cases since the commission’s inception

in 1993 makes him invaluable.

The commission hears cases on discrimination allegations in areas of

the county’s human-rights ordinance.

“I’m extremely concerned about the appearance of the situation

surrounding Mr. Porter,” Woodbridge resident James Polk said. “I

don’t know of the intentions … but it has the appearance of political


The supervisors did not discuss the reappointment but only heard resident

input during citizen’s time on the agenda.

· Caryn Goebel is a staff writer for the Potomac News in Woodbridge.




our e-mail list

| Contact Us




Similar Posts