Oaks III Development on Hold
– August 31, 2012 9:00 am
LAKE RIDGE, Va. – An unpopular plan to expand an office park is on hold, and the lot on which it was to be built is marked by a “for sale” sign.
The planned Oaks III office park was to be built on a portion of 18 acres of land at the intersection of Tanyard Hill and Old Bridge roads in Lake Ridge.
A rezoning request approved by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors in January cleared the way for construction of a 32,500 square foot office building located next to the Oaks I and Oaks II office parks.
But county officials were met much opposition from residents from the nearby Town of Occoquan because of traffic and storm water runoff concerns. Despite that opposition, the rezoning was approved with a majority vote from Prince William Board Chairman Corey Stewart, and supervisors Wally Covington, Maureen Caddigan, John Jenkins and Peter Candland.
With the approval came the condition that 13 of the 18 acres for the office park would be placed in a conservation zone and would not be developed.
So, why is the development of Oaks III at a standstill?
Many are questioning the motive behind rezoning the land which is owned by developer Ken Thompson, who could not be reached for comment.
“Despite his representations to the BOCS to the contrary, a number of opponents of the project predicted this was what he was really planning to do from the beginning,” Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta said. “[Thompson’s] contractual arrangement with the owner at the time of the rezoning has never been public, so we do not know if it is him, or that entity, that is offering the property for sale.”
When county officials approved the rezoning in January, the land was owned by the National Rifle Association.
The Occoquan Town Council, separate from the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, passed a resolution in February requiring Thompson to fix water runoff issues at his adjacent Oaks I and II developments before beginning construction on Oaks III. Town officials say water runoff from his properties contributed to flooding in the town last fall.
“[Thompson] has thus far not provided any update to the town,” said Porta.
Prince William County Occoquan District Supervisor Mike May had concerns about the project from the start. May said much of the support from the County Board stemmed from the supervisors’ interactions with Thompson in the past, versus the actual merits and benefits the community could potentially attain from the Oaks III development.
“The question is: Would those folks have been supportive knowing, at the time, that [Thompson] wasn’t the one who was going to be implementing [the construction plan],” said May.
While the property is up for sale this does not mean that a new owner or developer would a clean slate to work with.
“The proffers run with the land so if somebody else decides to buy it and build the project, they’ll have to honor the commitments that were made,” May said.
Whoever decides to develop the Oaks III land will have to address the transportation proffers, which include improving the intersection at Tanyard Hill and Old Bridge roads, address water runoff issues, and keep 13 of the 18 acres of land in a conservation easement.
One potential scenario may be a new owner will addressed the Board to make modifications to these conditions. For nearby residents, any of the benefits that may have been derived from this development are at an indefinite standstill.
“The end result should remain the same, as what was promised to the community,” May said.
For many community members who opposed the rezoning, including May, this newest development is bittersweet.
“It’s kind of nice that they’re not constructing it at this point but I remain frustrated that the project was approved in the first place and I always thought it was odd that [Thompson] wanted to move forward with an office building project down the street from Oaks I and II when there are vacancy signs at Oaks II presently. It seemed like this was a project that wasn’t likely to proceed in any event and to the extent that it is, I have real concerns about the transportation impact and storm water runoff,” said May.