Car dealership seeks supervisors’ blessing to build near Rural Crescent

A new upscale car dealership is planned for U.S. 29 in Gainesville, the result of research by Don Beyer indicating Prince William County is ready for some pricier cars.

Well-known Northern Virginia car dealer Don Beyer Automotive is planning to add another Volvo and Subaru showroom just west of the highway’s intersection with Carver Road.

The Planning Commission and staff are divided on whether it is a good idea, with opponents saying it may be the right concept but the wrong place. Staffers ultimately decided against it because the proposed development doesn’t agree with the county’s comprehensive plan. That plan governs how land is to be developed.

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors will decide today whether to approve a special-use permit.

“Mr. Beyer wants to be closer to where the market is,” said Woodbridge attorney Michael Lubeley, who represents him. “His studies reflect what we all know — that there is a lot of upper-income housing going on in western Prince William County.

“We’ve looked at the existing statistics and others down the road and concluded it makes a lot of sense to be there.”

Some nearby residents are also worried it will turn their high-end neighborhoods near the Rural Crescent into one long strip of car dealerships similar to Va. 7 outside Tysons Corner.

“It’s a land-use inconsistency,” said county planner Sid Rahnavard. The comprehensive plan calls for 75 percent of the site to be developed for office, research and development and lodging. Only 25 percent is supposed to be for retail, he said.

However, the current B-1 (business) zoning allows for 100 percent of it to be retail.

The only things holding Don Beyer back are the proffers, agreements of original developers, who promised specifically not to allow any car dealerships on that site.

If Don Beyer Inc.’s proposal goes through, 100 percent of the 4.5 acres would be used for retail, and the dealership would be allowed.

Lake Manassas resident Roland Bowers, a member of the former Gainesville sector plan committee, said he is not opposed to development but he wants it to be of high quality.

The Planning Commission, an elected body, recommended in favor of the development Dec. 5, before passing it on to supervisors.

Supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn III, R-Gainesville, said he will support the project. Wilbourn said he has talked to residents and has convinced them it won’t lead to rows of car dealerships.

“This is one or two parcels already zoned B-1 and that preempts others from coming in,” he said. “A lot of jurisdictions would like to have this dealership because Don Beyer has been successful and responsible and puts a lot back into the community.”

Even Bowers agrees Don Beyer, with dealerships in Alexandria, Falls Church and Loudoun County, has been a good neighbor. But Bowers is not convinced others won’t follow his lead.

“Other car dealers will say, ‘They changed the zoning for Don Beyer, why not change it for me?’ ” Bowers said.

“I will be in favor of it if they agree to limit the dealerships that can be placed there to Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover,” said supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connnaughton, R-at large. Jaguar, also owned by Ford Motor Co., is a part of the plan down the road, Lubeley said. “It’s a milestone for the county.”

The dealership is expected to employ up to 60 people, with annual salaries of approximately $60,000, Lubeley said.

Staff writer Diane Freda can be reached at (703) 878-4723.

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