Manassas Journal Messenger | Resident protests block rezoning

After receiving a petition from 105 residents concerned about overcrowding in their Haymarket neighborhood, the town council declined Monday to rezone a residential property.

The property bounded by Washington Street and Bleight Drive is zoned R-1, allowing four single-family homes per acre. Oak Ridge Builders of Leesburg had asked for the rezoning to allow them to build town houses as well as single-family homes on the property.

But many of the residents who signed the petition objected to the town houses. At a January public hearing, residents expressed concerns about additional traffic, fire safety and concerns the houses would become rental property.

“I liked the site plan and I liked the proffer agreement. The problem came down to the density itself. [It] was still too high and citizen concerns outweighed the builder,” said Councilman Jay Tobias, who voted against the re-zoning.

Oak Ridge Builders worked with the town’s architectural review board and planning commission, going through several versions of the site plan before the council voted on the project Monday.

Oak Ridge proffered that if the rezoning were approved, it would build 27 homes, including eight town houses, on slightly more than four acres. Additionally, the builder would have constructed the property’s sidewalk, curb and gutter improvements and paid for water and sewer hookups. Oak Ridge also agreed to pay proffers to the town including $2,700 for the Haymarket Historical Commission, $10,800 for town parks, $15,606 for town fire and rescue and $233,749 for town schools.

“All the town council did was [vote down] $233,000 in school money for the citizens of Haymarket,” Oak Ridge owner Michael J. Gorman said. “That’s a lot of fund-raisers the PTA will have to come up with.”

The town council voted against the re-zoning four to two. Before voting against the rezoning, Councilman Robert Weir noted the number of large developments in Haymarket and in the area, including 60 homes in Haymarket Station across Washington Street from Oak Ridge’s proposed development.

“It’s not in the residents’ interests,” Weir said afterwards. “You’re making a problem that is growing daily exponentially worse.”

Gorman noted that the town’s decision also turned down other proffers, including transportation improvements along Washington Street, additions to the town’s streetscape program of brick walkways, and a park.

Vice Mayor Pamela Stutz pointed out that Oak Ridge had reduced the number of homes from 36 to 27 at the town’s request. Stutz and Councilwoman Sheila Jarboe were the only yes votes Monday.

“What I see is a very nice design,” Stutz said.

Gorman’s firm presently owns just under an acre of land along Bleight Drive. In order to create the 4-acre parcel, Gorman’s firm had negotiated to purchase two adjacent parcels of land from longtime Haymarket resident Phillip Harrover. While Gorman’s property is zoned R-2, allowing for the town houses he wanted to build, Harrover’s property was zoned R-1, and wouldn’t allow town houses.

Following the council’s decision, Gorman said everything is up in the air, including the purchase of the Harrover property.

“We’re looking at all of the options,” Gorman said. “I want to do something with it.”

He said he might be forced to develop six town houses on his seven-tenths of an acre, since that would be the highest use of the property. Such usage would be by right, since no rezoning would be required to do so.

Staff writer Maria Hegstad can be reached at (703) 369-6594.

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