Developer contracts to buy Cherry Hill land

Vienna-based KSI Services Inc. has contracted to buy undeveloped land on the Cherry Hill peninsula from Legend Properties Inc., with the aim of building homes and a golf course.

Legend’s intention to sell rather than see the project through to completion has been a source of speculation for close to two years.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted in favor of rezoning the 1,700 acres last January, but the vote was split 5-3 because of concerns about the environment, Legend’s financial backing, and its willingness to stay in the deal for the long haul.

“From my research into the parties behind Legend, it became apparent that a possible motive would be to flip the land when it became profitable to do so. That was just one of several reasons I voted against the rezoning,” said board Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-At large.

He and supervisors Ruth T. Griggs, R-Occoquan, and Maureen S. Caddigan, R-Dumfries, opposed the plan.

“The issue is: will KSI do a better job than Legend?” Connaughton said. “From past experience, KSI will do the best job that can be done.”

But Connaughton said he still has concerns.

Legend has built hundreds of homes and town houses on the peninsula, and recently broke ground on a new commercial building. But the company is far short of the long-range goals of building a town center on the Potomac River with roads leading to a Virginia Railway Express station as promised.

All the county’s expectations for allowable development on the peninsula would now be turned over to KSI, unless it receives approval from the Board of County Supervisors to change the plan. Changes can be expected, county planning director Stephen Griffin said.

“KSI is doing their due diligence and homework now, and they are expecting to make their decision by the end of the year.” But the deal could still fall through. KSI is not the first to pore over the 70 pages of proffers that Legend signed up for. Miller & Smith, a builder at Southbridge at Cherry Hill, took a look earlier this year and passed.

Any company that buys the land must also agree to the conditions set up in Legend’s proffer agreements, and they are extensive. They include promises of roads, schools, jobs and open space, as well as a town center, VRE parking and cash fund to protect the environment.

Consistency is the key to protecting proffers, which are often hard to enforce when new developers take over, county attorneys have said.

Supervisor Hilda M. Barg, D-Woodbridge, who lives on the Cherry Hill peninsula, was an advocate of Legend’s proposal. She could not be reached for comment Wednesday. She, and supervisors John D. Jenkins, D-Neabsco, L. Ben Thompson, R-Brentsville, Mary Hill, R-Coles, and Edgar Wilbourn, R-Gainesville, voted for the Legend proposal.

Wilbourn said he is encouraged by KSI’s involvement, because of its proven track record of building quality communities in Prince William. It built the $600 million Piedmont golf course community in Gainesville, and is in the midst of constructing a planned town center and housing community across from the McCoart Administration Center off the Prince William Parkway.

KSI will do what it promises to do, Wilbourn said. “We won’t get more density, but we might get less,” he said. “We won’t get more square footage for retail, but we might get less.” Both have been concerns for the Board of County Supervisors. As for the proffers, he said the board would stick to the existing ones unless significantly more benefit can be proven from another plan.

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