Developer’s Proffers Add Fields, Fix Road Curve in Gainesville

| April 17, 2014 | 0 Comments | News

Regency at Catharpin Creek is a planned 55-and-older community along Catharpin Road in the Gainesville District.

Excited by the promise of new fields, trails and the correction of a deadly road curve in Gainesville, neighbors rally behind new development.

Toll Brothers’ plans to change the long-range land use designation to build nearly 208 single-family homes within a 55-and-older community along Catharpin was approved by the majority of Prince William County Supervisors the evening of April 15.

The area in question, the Bell Property, is located east of the Piedmont community and directly across Catharpin Road from Heritage Hunt. It will be called the Regency at Catharpin Creek.

According to Toll Brothers representative Peter Dolan, the proposed designation Planned Mixed Residential (PMR) fits that of surrounding communities. However the county staff still had opposition involving density in the area.

Steve Donahoe from the Prince William Planning Office explained the proposals: “What you have before you is a two-part request. A comprehensive plan amendment and a zoning request.”

Toll Brothers first requested that Suburban Rural Residential (SRR) designation be changed to Suburban Residential Low (SRL) designation, and secondly, that Agricultural (A1) be changed to PMR. This would allow for large single-family homes on lots approximately 6,000 square feet.

Although the community would fit with surrounding communities in Gainesville, such as Parks of Piedmont and Heritage Hunt, it would differ from its rural neighbors to the north along Catharpin Road, where housing is less dense.

Donahoe said the planning office’s primary objection was not against the density, but the density in regards to public safety on the roads. While other communities do not require access to Catharpin Road, this one would. His office found that the two-lane road is not equipped to handle the increased traffic.

A representative from Toll Brothers disagreed, saying the studies they have done have shown that Catharpin Road does not need to be widened.

In a surprising twist, community members sided with Toll Brothers, saying that they wanted the senior living community to come into Gainesville.

Typically, when a development company wants to rezone an area, the developers will face some opposition from community members. In this case, Toll Brothers reached out to the community and offered beneficial proffers that the people wanted such as open land, fields, safety enhancements and trails. In doing so, they won the trust of their new neighbors, who went to bat for them at the April 15 BOCS meeting.

Toll Brothers’ Regency at Catharpin Creek has many positive aspects. First the developer initially proposed building 230 homes. While the previous land designation would only allow for 32 homes, the 208 homes are still fewer than community members had expected.

Catharpin Road has a dangerous curve that Toll Brothers proffered to fix for the county.

Secondly, Toll Brothers agreed to make their Regency at Catharpin Creek a 55-and-older community, which pleases current residents in other senior living communities. Thirdly, they agreed to building only single-family homes, no apartments or townhouses, which would bring in more tax revenue than smaller homes.

Those decisions helped to provide an excess $1.2 million annual net in county taxes from the new community. Because there are no children moving into these homes, the cost of services is low. Additionally no new schools would be required.

The community would feature 24 acres of permanent open space that the developer would yield back to the county. The development preserves almost 70 acres of land in total, and in fact, 55 percent of the overall property would be open space.

A representative from Toll Brothers said the design of the clubhouse reflects similar quality designs in the area. The developers also offered to provide landscaping even in areas that border Toll Brother’s new Regency Community and Heritage Hunt.

As part of a $4.8 million that the Toll Brothers are proffering to the county, it includes safety enhancements along Catharpin Road.

Toll Brothers proffered to correct the “S” curve on north Catharpin Road, which has been dangerous to drivers in the past. One resident described this as “dead man’s curve.” Another citizen explained how her husband was seriously injured driving on that curve.

“My husband was injured in an accident along that S curve, because the other driver took that curve wide, going too fast,” she said.

The accident resulted in 11 fractures for her husband.

Although most of the Regency traffic will be headed south, and the “S”curve is located north of the development, the proffered offer won favor with the current residents. The developer would also fund a traffic light at the corner of Catharpin Road and Route 234/Sudley Road.

Toll Brothers also proffered to build a 2.4-mile nature/asphalt pedestrian and bike trail connecting several local communities to each other.

In response to some Heritage Hunt community members saying they would be concerned about trespassers in the woods, Toll Brothers agreed to provide the landscaping or fences they require to protect their homes.

The rest of the community members said they were excited to have an opportunity to exercise and be outside in nature.

One resident from rural Oak Valley said he is not “a huge fan of development,” but he is “a huge fan of the safety the development can bring us.” Currently, he said the only safe way out of his neighborhood is by car, and “pedestrians and cyclists tempt fate.”

A representative from Heritage Hunt said residents were behind the new HOA community, mainly because they preferred to be near another 55-and-older community. But they were also happy that Toll Brothers had worked with them even with landscaping along their community.

Toll Brothers even offered something to young community members. The company proffered one football and one soccer/lacrosse field at Catharpin Park to accompany five baseball fields they had already built there.

A representative from the developer said those fields would be built “upfront or concurrently” with the age-restrictive community, to help to deliver the fields sooner.

Supervisor Pete Candland (R) from the Gainesville District was happy with the new development.

“This is actually the first new development that I’ve supported in the Gainesville District. I always look at how the development will affect the district overall. Overall this will dramatically benefit folks on the western end of the county.”

Frank Principi (D) said that the Catharpin Valley Home Owners Association located to the far north of the development, sent a letter saying they strongly object to the new community, but Candland said their concern was that S curve.

Marty Nohe (R) noted that Catharpin Road was almost zoned for a four-lane road, but it was downgraded in order to keep the rural nature of the area.

“I just have a feeling we are going to have to revisit the Catharpin Road at this point,” Chairman Corey Stewart (R) said.

“I can appreciate that,” said Candland. “This road has been a problem with this district for some time.”

However, Candland described the project as an opportunity to take a road that is “currently unsafe” and “make that safe.” He also thinks the Toll Brothers community could “significantly improve our community.”

The first motion that the SRR be changed to SRL was passed. Supervisors Michael May, Nohe and Principi opposed.

The second motion to change the A1 designation to PMR also passed, with May and Principi opposing.

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