In preparation of voters possibly giving the OK for an off-track betting facility to locate in Manassas Park, the City Council voted Tuesday to change a zoning ordinance.
The amended ordinance clearly defines “off-track wagering facility,” and limits it to certain city zones and creates restrictions for such a facility.
The New Kent County-based horse racing company, Colonial Downs, wants to open an OTB facility in the city, and has gathered more than the necessary 248 signatures, or 5 percent of registered voters, to place a referendum on the Nov. 2 ballot.
If approved, the company could locate at the proposed site, in a shopping center on Va. 28 and Manassas Drive, by right, or without any special restrictions or permits. The center is zoned B-2, or business.
“Amusement activities” can locate in the city’s B-2 and planned unit development zones without a special use permit. The OTB facility would classify as amusement, according to Manassas Park Planning Director Dan Painter.
“Staff and the governing body has had concern that as a use by right we would have very little control over what it would look like, hours…,” Painter said at last Tuesday’s public hearing on the issue.
No residents spoke at the public hearing on this usually controversial issue.
Now the OTB could only locate in B-2 and mixed use zones, not planned unit development zones. Any OTB would also need a special use permit, which requires rounds of public hearings and votes by the planning commission and the council. The council could add restrictions on parking, traffic, hours and other things.
The city owns the only mixed use zone in Manassas Park. The land across Manassas Drive from city hall falls under the mixed use category, but has been designated for Park Center, a planned luxury downtown with a mix of residential, office, retail and restaurant space.
The city has no interest in selling that land, Painter said.
A local family group, as well as the Prince William County and Manassas governing bodies have spoken out against the facility.
While the Manassas Park council has taken no official stance, some council members favor the OTB as private residents.
Manassas Park voters rejected a Colonial Downs OTB in 1996. Other Northern Virginia voters have also rejected OTB ballot initiatives in the past 12 years.