Promises of substantial open space in a transit-oriented community couldn’t convince the Prince William County Planning Commission to approve a planned mixed residential development adjacent to Manassas Park.
The Planning Commission held public hearings on both a Comprehensive Plan Amendment and a rezoning application for Walker’s Station on Wednesday night.
The approximately 40-acre county parcel on the west side of Manassas Drive is designated as flexible employment center, in the county’s long-range land-use plan.
The Comprehensive Plan Amendment, initiated in March 2005 by the board, plans to re-designate the parcel as suburban residential high.
The property’s contract purchaser, Centex Homes, plans to develop 355 units, with 35 town houses and 320 multi-family condominiums.
Attorney Alice Haase representing Centex highlighted the development’s features, including nearly 22 acres of open space, proximity to the Manassas Park Virginia Railway Express station and a pedestrian-friendly environment.
Not all the commissioners agreed with Haase’s points, however.
Commissioner Kim Hosen said although the development is touted as transit-oriented, “there doesn’t appear to be an area for people to walk anywhere.”
Hosen pointed out that she didn’t think people from the far eastern end of the development would likely walk all the way across and beyond to the VRE station.
“There is really no sense of place,” she said. “It seems everyone will be getting in their car to go everywhere.”
Commissioner Rene Fry countered Hosen’s argument, noting that several times a week he visits Arlington, which is largely a walking community.
“I think when people think about walking, you got to be part of the urban flow of things to understand what the applicant’s really saying,” he said. “It’s just an example of what our ignorance is about transitioning from suburbanism and sprawl to urbanism and vertical living.”
Commissioners were also concerned about the units facing the Norfolk-Southern Railroad tracks dealing with train noise.
Haase assured the commission that the project’s sound engineers are certain vinyl and brick building materials will be sufficient.
She also pointed out the maximum interior noise level is proffered to be 45 decibels.
Commissioners also questioned the site’s single vehicle access from Manassas Drive.
But, all in all, Chairman Ron Burgess said he thought “that may be the very well best we can do.”
Commissioner Mike May said he “couldn’t get over the fact we’re trading employment uses for a neighborhood.”
Commissioners denied both the CPA and the rezoning application, both of which will proceed to the board March 21.