Dumfries planners are backing Colonial Downs Group Inc.’s proposed gaming resort, saying it could transform the town.
The Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the company’s rezoning and conditional-use permits during its meeting Monday night. The proposal will next go to the Town Council on Sept. 21.
“The project is, for sure, a great project for Dumfries,” said Commissioner Lawrence Nickerson.
Colonial Downs, which runs a Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Dumfries, announced in February plans for the $389 million gaming resort called The Rose.
The company wants to rezone 93.5 acres across 11 parcels at the Potomac Landfill from residential and neighborhood business to planned mixed-use development and obtain a conditional-use permit for the project. The company is also seeking a waiver to the 60-foot maximum building height to allow a 200-foot hotel.
The development would include a 50,000-square-foot gaming space, a 250-seat sports bar, eight other bars and restaurants, 7,000 square feet of event space, 200 hotel rooms and a 1,500-seat theater. Colonial Downs also said it would have 79 acres of public recreation space, which could include sports fields and an outdoor amphitheater.
Jill Parks, a land-use attorney representing Colonial Downs, said the park would be a “significant amenity” for the town. The company would work with community stakeholders on design and would maintain the park for 10 years before gifting it to the town.
The landfill is at the southeast corner of the Interstate 95 and Va. 234 interchange. In February, the landfill announced it had an option agreement to sell 100 acres to Colonial Downs for the project.
The proposal for the facility came after the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation last year that allows Colonial Downs to have up to 1,800 historic horse racing machines at its Dumfries location. The Rosie's site that opened in January has 150 machines.
The company wants to have the first phase of the project open in 2023.
The park and offsite traffic improvements must be completed before The Rose can be granted a certificate of occupancy on phase one. Traffic improvements include intersection work at U.S. 1 and Va. 234 and a traffic signal at the intersection of Colonial and Main streets.
Parks said the project will create 1,490 jobs and provide $10.9 million in annual tax revenue to the town, more than doubling its budget. The town spending plan for fiscal 2022, which started July 1, was $5.8 million.
The project would also provide $6.78 million in annual tax revenue to Prince William County.
Eleven people spoke at a public hearing before the vote, with seven in support and four against the project. Supporters said it would provide much-needed economic development, while opponents felt the plan was too vague and raised the alarm over the traffic it would generate.
Helen Ellis-Brown, who works for the existing gaming emporium, said the company is a benefit to the town, as it has employed people with disabilities like herself. She said traffic concerns are being overblown.
“We all know there’s traffic in Northern Virginia,” she said. “I personally don’t think it’ll be any different.”
Another supporter, Pete Singh, said Colonial Downs can help transform the town. “This is a company that has the background and expertise to nurture a town like Dumfries.”
Opponents were mainly concerned about traffic and potential crime, although the project includes space for a dedicated town police outpost. Opponents also felt the design was lacking in detail and urged the town to more thoroughly vet the project.
“Overall, where are the checks and balances?” O’Kelly Russell said. “This application and this design is incomplete and needs to be corrected.”
Ebony Lofton said Dumfries was selected for the project only because it wouldn’t face the same public scrutiny as it would in other localities.
“There’s a reason why this project isn’t being proposed in Alexandria,” she said. “There’s a reason this isn’t being proposed in Falls Church or Fairfax County.”
Commissioner Diana Knez urged the company to continue working with residents opposed to the proposal to address as many of their concerns as possible.
Commissioner Lawrence Nickerson said the site plan presented was vague because, in construction, detailed plans aren’t created until a project receives approval to avoid unnecessary expense.
“Yes, some people don’t want this project. But if you look north of us and you look south of us, everything around us has developed,” he said. “What do you think will happen if we don’t develop? Dumfries will be surrounded.”
Nickerson said The Rose was an opportunity the town cannot pass up.
“We don’t have people knocking down our door trying to give us an opportunity to grow,” he added. “We have not one fine dining establishment in the town of Dumfries. You don’t like to gamble? Fine. I don’t like to gamble. But I like to eat.”