Manassas Journal Messenger | Gainesville moving closer to upscale shops

Another middle school, 475 homes and upscale shops are one step away from becoming the second phase of the Virginia Gateway shopping center in Gainesville.

Peterson Companies received a 4-2 recommendation for approval from Prince William County’s Planning Commission on Wednesday for Wentworth Green, a plan amassing 151 acres between Linton Hall and Wellington roads.

The Gainesville District Commissioner, Martha Hendley, expressed concern over the plan before casting the first of two votes against the plan.

In order to build the residential and commercial areas, Peterson required a change to the county’s comprehensive, or long-range, plan.

Henley noted that last year county staff had recommended not making changes to the comprehensive plan. The changes would remove 151 acres planned for offices and light industrial development and replace them with the residential designation.

With the most recent staff reports, planners recommended approval.

“We’re replacing good economic development opportunities,” Hendley said.

The company’s donation of 39 acres for a middle school and soccer stadium was a cause of support from Sharon McGregor, a Gainesville resident and substitute teacher at Marstellar Middle School.

Ideally people in the area would like to see the site undeveloped, but the developer’s promise of a middle school shouldn’t be swept aside, she said.

“We need middle school space as soon as possible,” McGregor said. “This end of the county can’t afford to put off finding another middle school site.”

Public school officials predict that middle schools in those areas are soon going to exceed their capacities by hundreds of students if Wentworth and its middle school are turned down.

George Pincence, Prince William Public School planner, said the school could open in the fall of 2007 if supervisors approve the project April 19.

Wentworth offers different amenities for different people, according to another Gainesville resident who said the area is in sore need of some fine dining.

For the past three years William Kuhlmann said he has driven to Fairfax three times a week for that kind of meal. And he’s familiar with Peterson’s Fairfax Corner, the type of pedestrian-friendly shopping center Wentworth is planned after.

“It’s a sense of community when you go there,” Kuhlmann said. “And I think it’s very exciting — the whole promenade concept.”

Ron Burgess, the Brentsville District commissioner, said he frequents Peterson’s Washingtonian Center in Gaithersburg.

“I found it to be an outstanding development,” Burgess said. “I personally believe this is the kind of development that I’d like to see in Prince William.”

However, Kim Hosen, the Occoquan District Commissioner, expressed concern over Peterson’s environmental permits to clear cut the property.

One of the developer’s environmental consultants said they could pursue ways to preserve more sensitive land there.

Traffic was another of Hosen’s concerns.

“Whether the community can handle this type of thing is, I think, the question we’re all thinking about,” she said.


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