Manassas passes growth plans

How much and how quickly should Manassas be allowed to grow?

It’s a question that caused Manassas City Council members Monday night to pass only part of a zoning ordinance allowing property owners to build apartments on top of businesses throughout the city. In the end, the measure only applied to Old Town.

Council members agreed to discuss expanding the ordinance at future meetings.

“The thought that comes to my mind is the impact to schools and (other services). So it would be something we should look at more thoroughly down the road,” said Councilman Ulysses X. White.

As the ordinance presently stands, prospective developers in Old Town will apply for special use permits to construct apartments, going through a process in which they will negotiate issues ranging from parking to trash collection with the Planning Commission and the City Council.

It’s a measure Lorene Payne, the city’s zoning administrator, says has been very much needed. Already, a number of business concerns have approached her office to express interest in expanding the number of apartments in Old Town.

Local businessman Creston Owen is preparing to expand the Center Street building housing RW Books. And J. Bren Compton, president of J.B.C. Developers Inc., is adding two stories to a one-story brick building in the area.

And much more is coming.

With a special-use permit now in place, the Planning Commission and City Council will have a greater say in how such developments will affect the economic health of the downtown, as well as the entire city, Payne says.

“Right now, there are no design requirements. We have no say about how (an apartment building) will affect parking, how it will affect trash collection,” she said.

City staff has been offering such special-use permits to owners of commercial buildings throughout the city. But Vice Mayor Harry J. (Hal) Parrish Jr. worried Monday night about the effects of such activity.

“This would bring a great deal of apartments into the city. That’s my understanding right now. So I’m voting against this,” he said.

In the end, Councilman Eugene R. Rainville proposed a compromise, to only allow the ordinance to apply to Old Town. The rest would be discussed at future meetings.

The council passed the measure unanimously.

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