More apartments in North Woodbridge? Supervisor Frank Principi says not so fast.
The Prince William County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote today on the proposed Rivergate Towers, which could bring another 720 multi-family units to the U.S. 1 corridor where Principi, D-Woodbridge, says 4,000 new apartments are already under construction.
In a recent email to his constituents, Principi said the Rivergate project, proposed for a 14-acre site on the Occoquan Reservoir near U.S. 1 and Annapolis Way, would add more traffic to area roadways and more students to neighborhood schools without sufficient proffer funds to offset the impacts.
Citing recent surveys his office conducted with Woodbridge residents, Principi said traffic and large class sizes are ongoing concerns that Rivergate Towers will only exacerbate.
“It’s clear, very clear, that the residents of Woodbridge don’t want more apartments,” Principi said during a recent Board of Supervisors meeting. “They’re sitting in traffic and their kids are sitting in classes that are just too big.”
The board will meet at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at the county’s McCoart Administration Center. Rivergate is listed for consideration during the evening session.
First proposed 10 years ago for a 14-acre site near U.S. 1 and Annapolis Way, Rivergate Towers was to be the first step in the redevelopment of North Woodbridge. It is being proposed by IDI Management, the developers of Washington’s first mixed-use development – Watergate – as well as both Leisure World of Virginia and Leisure World of Maryland, among several other multi-family projects in the area.
Original plans for Rivergate called for three 15-story towers housing 720 “high-end” condominiums, offering both the residential density and urban feel envisioned in the Potomac Communities Revitalization plan.
But like other proposed projects around the county, Rivergate was put on hold during the recession and its plans altered significantly for the post-recession economy. The project is now apartments – not condos --housed in two five- to six-story buildings – about one-third the height originally envisioned.
According to the current design, nicknamed a “Texas doughnut,” the apartments would be built around an interior parking garage, which allows residents to park on the same level as their units.
County staff is recommending approval of the project and its revised proffer statement, in part because the project will provide an updated “streetscape,” including sidewalks and street-side parking along Marina and Annapolis Way, as well as the construction of a portion of the Potomac Heritage Trail.
During a planning commission hearing on Rivergate last month, the project was praised by some speakers as a first step toward fulfilling the vision for a new gateway to Prince William County.
Occoquan resident Betty Dean called it an opportunity to turn an area of blight into “something that’s going to be the cover photo on Prince William marketing materials for years to come.”
“It truly will be the cornerstone of the new Woodbridge vision that really was developed by Supervisor Principi,” she added.
Principi, however, begs to differ.
He says the project no longer promises what it once did. He’s also objecting because the project slides in under the former proffer guidelines – permissible because plans were submitted before July 1 – and will deliver about $5.7 million less to Prince William County schools than the current guidelines suggest.
If approved, the towers would be zoned for Belmont Elementary, Fred M. Lynn Middle and Freedom High School. Lynn and Freedom are currently under capacity, but Belmont Elementary is beyond capacity, according to numbers submitted to the planning commission.
“The amount proffered by the developer to the school system is based on proffer guidelines written a decade ago,” Principi wrote in emails to Woodbridge residents last week. “I tried to encourage them to do more to mitigate the impact on area schools, but they refused. Why should taxpayers subsidize developers?”
IDI Management, and its controlling officer Guiseppe H. Cecchi, have been frequent and generous donors to Prince William supervisors.
According to records maintained by the Virginia Public Access Project, Board Chairman Corey Stewart, R-At Large, has benefitted most from the company’s largess. Stewart has collected a total of $16,000 from Cecchi or IDI since 2012.
But the developer also donated to Principi ($3,250 from 2008 to 2011) and Supervisor John Jenkins, D-Neabsco, ($3,000 between 2009 and 2011).
IDI has made $500 donations to Supervisors Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, Maureen Caddigan, R-Potomac, and Marty Nohe, R-Coles. Supervisor Mike May, R-Occoquan, received a $250 donation from IDI in 2012.