Prince William Board of Supervisors Approve John Marshall Commons in Gainesville

| May 21, 2018 | 0 Comments | News

The Prince William Board of County Supervisors approved John Marshall Commons, last Tuesday; it is to be a mixed-use village development of residential townhouses and small retail shops along John Marshall Highway east of the Town of Haymarket.

The site is located on the north side of John Marshall Highway/Route 55 and south of Interstate 66, between the Town of Haymarket to the west and Tyler Elementary School to the east. 

John Marshall Commons will include 144 residential townhouses. One section will consist of 94 three-story townhouses; the other 50 two-story attached  “villas.” The villas are age restricted to residents 55-years and older. The adult-only portion should help to reduce the impact on the schools. Previous plans called for 205 residential units.

Three-story townhouses will be located near Tyler Elementary School; the villas near the old Pace West building. The development divides around Piedmont Center Plaza.

The 55 acres was originally zoned A-1 Agricultural and M-2 Light Industrial, and earmarked to become a Community Employment Center on the county’s comprehensive plan. It is now becoming Village Mixed Use, which includes medium density residential and light retail.

The new zoning better matches the surrounding area. Commercial retail on the property shall not include gas stations or drive-thru restaurants. 

The project was approved by a 4-3 vote of the Board of County Supervisors. Chairman At-Large Corey Stewart (R), Supervisors Marty Nohe (R-Coles), John Jenkins (D-Neabsco) and Maureen Caddigan (R-Potomac) approved the development. Supervisors Jeanine Lawson (R-Brentsville), Ruth Anderson (R-Occoquan) and Frank Principe (D-Woodbridge) opposed. 

Pete Candland, Supervisor of the Gainesville District, recused himself from voting, despite representing the area. Candland and his wife own an ice-cream shop adjacent to the proposed development. He admitted they stand to profit from influx of new families, and said he legally he would have to recuse himself. 

There was much that the supervisors liked about the new development, especially its proffers.

The applicant proffered $4.9 million, consistent with 2016 levels, before the Commonwealth severely restricted what jurisdictions could require from developers. Of the total, $1.7 million will go to the schools.

Townhouses to be built at John Marshall Commons, according to Prince William County Government documents.

Physical proffers include a roundabout on John Marshall Highway in front of Piedmont Center Plaza to help slow traffic before motorists enter the Town of Haymarket. They will also do  landscaping along John Marshall Highway. 

The Commons offer desirable features for residents such as two playgrounds, pool, clubhouse, gazebo, and connection to Alexander’s Keep. The development is close to shopping and retail, daycares, churches, the postoffice, the local elementary school and similar residential communities.

The project is not new. The application has been pending with the county since 2012. The applicant has modified plans several times to mitigate negative impacts on the community. Chairman Stewart said they should no longer keep the applicant waiting as the landowners continued to make accommodations, diminishing impact.

Supervisor Nohe said he would vote for the project because if they do not approve it, they would likely get stuck with another development that offers less to the community.

However opposition arose based upon belief that the impact on schools would exceed the applicant’s estimates.

The applicant estimate only new high school students in 2021, 14 middle school students and 28 elementary students, with elementary schools in the area best equipped to handle the influx of new students. 

Although Battlefield High School in Haymarket is extremely over capacity, the opening of the community coincides with the opening of the new high school along Limestone Drive in Gainesville. The applicant believes the redistribution of students after that school opens would help absorb the new John Marshall students. 

However, Supervisor Lawson had her doubts.

I don’t think it’s fair for us to presume that the 13th high school is automatically going to have additional capacity,” she said. “Everyone thought that Patriot (High School) was going to fix all of our overcapacity problems. Literally, within two years the school was open, we had 20 trailers in the back.” 

55 and over townhome villas at John Marshall Commons. Image courtesy of Prince William County Office of Planning.

The applicant said the school division has other projects in its capital improvement plan to help accommodate new students, including a middle school expansions, but  supervisors said they do not believe those plans have not been finalized. 

Another development that may come into the Haymarket area, would also increase student populations in the area.

More information about John Marshall Commons here.

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