Manassas City Council approved the site plan for the mixed-use retail/residential Hastings development to be constructed by developer Opus East during a regular meeting Monday.
If built, the Hastings development will be located on the corner of Wellington Road and Prince William Parkway extension and will have a mix of single-family homes, town houses, live/work units and lofts as well as grocery chain Harris Teeter.
The council also gave the go-ahead to pursue the possible acquisition and condemnation of an easement on the property of the Rappaport-owned Davis Ford Crossing shopping center, located directly across Wellington from the proposed Hastings development. City officials claimed that this easement will be necessary for sewer line upgrades, thus validating its acquisition of the property.
Opus East has agreed to pay the full cost of designing and building the sanitary sewer system from Hastings Drive and Lake Jackson to Richmond Avenue. The current sewer system on the Davis Ford Crossing property must be extended to the property line so the new development can tie in to existing city lines.
Rappaport and Opus East had been in discussions on what to do with the easement for the last year. On Monday, Rappaport attorney Mark Moorstein asked the council for a 90-day extension so negotiations could continue without city interference.
Instead, the council decided to hold a public hearing on the acquisition and condemnation of the property for Oct. 22.
Community Development director Elizabeth Via said the city felt compelled to move on the issue because the developers had not shown substantial progress in their negotiations. Opus East attorney John McBride said Rappaport broke off negotiations for a two-month period and that Opus East had nowhere else to turn.
“It was a last resort thing to where we owed the city an answer on whether we could acquire the easement,” McBride said.
But Moorstein believes that this should have stayed a private matter between Opus East and Rappaport.
“They [the city] want to move the project along, I understand that, ” Moorstein said. “But the question is, is that an adequate basis for governmental interference?”
During Monday’s meeting, city attorney Robert Bendall spoke about the city’s right to acquire and condemn property for public use. But Moorstein said that Bendall failed to mention that there has to be an existing use, not a speculative future use for the government to intervene in such a scenario.
Via said the city is within its legal rights to obtain and condemn the easement. According to Via, not only would part of the Hastings development benefit from this action but so will those who might develop property located on Hastings Drive adjacent to the proposed development.
“The vacant properties on the other side of Hastings Drive, if that were to develop, they have to be connected to Hastings and if that line doesn’t feed into Davis Ford Crossing, then w e have a problem,” Via said.
Moorstein also said there are underlying economic effects that may result from the city’s decision to acquire and condemn the easement. The Rappaport property that used to be a Weis Supermarket store is still vacant. Moorstein believes if the city would intervene on the behalf of Opus East for the easement acquisition, that would significantly affect Rappaport’s ability to attract a new grocery store to take Weis’ place.
“If all the sudden, the tenants in the area believe the city is going to step in and favor a Hastings in that issue, then it discourages the ability to get a tenant for Davis Ford,” Moorstein said.
McBride said he believes the city isn’t fast tracking or choosing sides by going the route they have chosen.
“A new shopping center down the street with the Wal-Mart, I am sure that impacted Davis Ford Crossing [businesses],” McBride said. “[Competition], that’s normal business practice.”
“We don’t see this as a move to sabotage another retailer,” added Via. “Our intention is to potentially condemn the easement for public use.”