Manassas Journal Messenger | Supervisors approve Cherry Hill authority

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors has paved the way for KSI Services Inc. to pay for roadwork and a Virginia Railway Express station for Harbor Station by “taxing” property owners in the development planned for the Cherry Hill Peninsula.

County supervisors voted 7 to 1 on Tuesday to set up the Cherry Hill Community Development Authority, a legal entity that will issue $59 million in tax-exempt bonds to build a parkway from Va. 234/U.S. 1 into Harbor Station, improve the Va. 234/U.S. 1 intersection and construct a VRE station.

The bonds will be repaid with “use-based assessments” on properties in Harbor Station — a levy similar to real estate taxes. The rates for Harbor Station residential and commercial properties range from 12 to 52 cents per $100 of assessed value.

“The property owner is essentially asking us to be able to tax himself,” board chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-at large, said. “It is their property and they are asking to set up this district,” he added.

Commercial properties in Harbor Station will pay 52 cents per $100 of assessed value, covering more than half of the total assessments.

The rest of the authority’s bill will be paid by owners of single-family homes, town houses and multi-family homes, who will be asked to chip in 12, 14 and 22 cents respectively per $100 of assessed value.

KSI wants to transform the peninsula into an upscale community complete with a convention center and hotel, 18-hole golf course, VRE station and town center.

The proposed Harbor Station Parkway — funded by the development authority — is key to KSI’s plans since it would provide direct access to the Cherry Hill Peninsula, which overlooks the Potomac River.

Supervisor Corey A. Stewart, R-Occoquan, opposed the development authority, calling its assessments a “hidden tax” that would unduly benefit KSI.

Other supervisors disagreed.

Supervisor W.S. “Wally” Covington III, R-Brentsville, likened the added price of Harbor Station homes to the cost of joining a club.

“It keeps the taxpayers that are currently here from having to pick up some of the infrastructure costs that are there,” Covington added.

Supervisor Martin E. Nohe, R-Coles, said the development authority would act like a homeowners association.

“We’re telling people up front, ‘here’s what you’re paying for and here’s what you are going to get,’ ” Nohe said.

The county has set up development authorities at Virginia Gateway and Heritage Hunt in Gainesville, which are similar to the one approved for Harbor Station.

Edward Byrne of KSI said improvements to the Va. 234/U.S. 1 intersection will be started first, once county supervisors sign off on a memorandum of understanding for the bonds.

The upgrades will add lanes to Va. 234 and create an above-grade crossing at the intersection.

The intersection, parkway, VRE station, town center and golf course are all slated for completion by 2007, a date Byrne described as “the magic year” for Harbor Station.

Jim Riley, president of the neighboring Southbridge Homeowners Association, said he was strongly in favor of the plan, and especially the planned Harbor Station Parkway.

The new road would give Southbridge residents direct access to Interstate 95 and make it easier for them to get to a future VRE station in Harbor Station, Riley said.

“It will be very, very helpful. It will make things much more convenient,” Riley said.

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