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Salinas Opening Gainesville Insurance Office

GAINESVILLE, Va. — What do you get when you mix the fourth day of the fourth month with 4 o’clock? In Gainesville, it means a new insurance agent is opening her new office.

Carola Salinas has invited area residents for an open house at her new office on Thursday, April 4, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

More in a press release:

The new office is located at 7915 Lake Manassas Drive, Suite 202. The public is welcome to attend the free event by calling 703-753-7766 to reserve a spot.

“I am thrilled to be opening my new office in Gainesville. I have enjoyed such a warm welcome from everyone I have met,” said Carola.

Salinas has been working in the insurance and mortgage industry since 2005.

Salinas, originally from Bolivia, has been married to her husband for 24 years and together, they are proud parents to three children. She is currently residing in Loudoun County.

State Farm asked Salinas to open her office in Gainesville due to her bi-lingual background to better serve the region’s diverse population, according to a spokeswoman.

State Farm is one of the nation’s largest providers of automobile insurance in the U.S., with more than 17,000 agents, 65,000 employees, serving 81 million accounts.

News
Business Incubator Closing at End of Week

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — The effort by George Mason University to provide start-up companies with office space in the Woodbridge area will come to an end on Sunday.

The Mason Enterprise Center located in the I-95 Business Park off Golansky Boulevard and Prince William Parkway is shutting its doors. All six people who had offices at the business incubator have been relocated by the owner of the office complex.

Open in Woodbridge for more than two years, the hope was to attract small companies that would utilize the center to grow their operations until the need for larger accommodations arose. But the center’s location in an area that lacks a downtown appears to have hampered its success.

“We find that a location centered in a city tends to lend itself people who are looking for things that are within walking distance of the office. Our location in Woodbridge was not city centered, and that’s something that worked against us,” said Renne Younes, with the Mason Enterprise Center.

Younes said the closure of the Woodbridge center was a planned one, and it will give Younes and staff more time to focus on their next project – solidifying an agreement with Manassas to relocate their Mason Enterprise Center incubator currently on the Prince William Campus of George Mason University, near the Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center, to a location in Old Town Manassas. Younes could not say where in Old Town Mason might put down roots, and added the announced departure of City Manager John Budesky will undoubtedly have an impact on negotiations for the project. An agreement on the center could be reached within the next 60 days, added Younes.

In addition to Woodbridge, the Mason Enterprise Center in Spotsylvania County will also close at the end of the month. It had competition from another business incubator on the Fredericksburg campus of Mary Washington University.

After both centers close, the remaining Mason Enterprise Centers will be located on the Prince William Campus of George Mason University in Manassas, on George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus, in Leesburg, and in Springfield.

 

News
Neville Named to Top 10 Under 40

DUMFRIES, Va. — The woman who plans and oversees community events in Dumfries is one of Virginia’s top 10 under 40.

Cydny Neville is the Driector of Community Services in Dumfries and is fresh off planning and executing the town’s Easter Egg Hunt, and is planning for other events in the town including the 4th Annual Multicultural Festival on May 4. But this month she’s been recocnized by the Virginia Leadership Institute, an organization charged with increasing the number of black elected officials in the state.

More in a press release:

“The Virginia Leadership Institute is proud to honor young African-Americans in Northern Virginia who are raising the bar in their professions and in the community,” said Virginia Leadership Institute founder and CEO Krysta Jones. “Our honorees are entrepreneurs, elected officials, military veterans, executives and community leaders. Not too long ago some Blacks avoided moving to Virginia because of the long-held stereotypes associated with Virginia’s role as a slave state. These honorees prove that young African Americans are actively working to make the commonwealth a better place for all Virginians to live and work.”

Since its inception, VLI staff and volunteers have trained over 200 future candidates and campaign professionals in skills ranging from fundraising, communications, field operations and constituent research.

In addition to being director of community services, Neville is a mother and entrepreneur who has her own company, Spirit Catcher Productions. A former secondary education teacher, Neville holds degrees from Virginia State University and University of Phoenix.

VLI’s 2013 Top 10 Under 40 are:

John Chapman- educator and Alexandria City Council member (Alexandria City)

Howard A. Foard, III-Army veteran and community leader (Fairfax County)

Erica Jeffries-Army veteran and senior executive (Fairfax County)

Monte Johnson –corporate executive and candidate for VA House District 10 (Loudoun County)

Cydny Neville-entrepreneur and community leader (Town of Dumfries)

Ryane LeCesne- program director and philanthropist (Alexandria City)

Rahman Parker- Non Governmental Organization founder and professor (Fairfax County)

Joshua Porter-entrepreneur and public servant (Prince William County)

Terron Sims, II- Iraq war veteran and author (Arlington County)

Dana Taylor- entrepreneur and organizational leader (Arlington County)

The VLI Top 10 Under 40 will be held from 6:30pm to 8 p.m. at Kora Restaurant (2250 Crystal Drive, Arlington, Virginia). Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online at virginialead.org. Email info@virginialead.org or call 703-969-9647 for more information.

News
Welcome to Potomac, Va.?

DUMFRIES, Va. – And you thought there was no such place as Potomac, Va.? Well, think again.

A new effort underway by Prince William Potomac District (formerly Dumfries District) Supervisor Maureen Caddigan could mean the areas around the Town of Dumrfries, like the adjoining Southbridge and Triangle neighborhoods, could be called Potomac, Va.

Caddigan this month said she’s working with Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Fairfax, Prince William, for congressional approval for the name change. It comes as a new development, Potomac Shores, is being built on 2,000 acres of land behind Southbridge along the Potomac River. The new neighborhood will boast 4,000 new homes, three million square feet of office space, and there’s hopes for a new hotel and commuter rail station. Owned by California developer SunCal, once it’s built there will be a need to market the neighborhood.

“The developer wanted the area to be known as Potomac Shores, Va., but considering the history of the area, I didn’t think that would be the best plan,” said Caddigan. “So we opted for the name Potomac.”

If it’s approved, those who live in zip code 22026 and outside the Town of Dumfries and Town of Quantico would live in Potomac, Va. The new area would also be located about 45 miles from Potomac, Md.

More to the Story: Residents in the following zip codes would have the option of claiming Potomac, Va. as their residence under the plan, which would need approval from the U.S. Postal Service:

22026 (excludes Dumfries)

22172 Triangle

22025 Montclair

20112 Ashland

The move would further solidify a name change approved by the County Board of Supervisors in 2011 effectively changing the Dumfries Magisterial District to the Potomac District. Caddigan said the change removed confusion for many people who lived in the district, which is solely in Prince William County, but would call or go to Dumfries Town Hall for government services.

Dumfries Councilman Derrick Wood has been clear about his dislike of the name change, noting the magisterial district should still be named after Virginia’s oldest continuously chartered town. Caddigan said calling the area Potomac, Va. Is ideal because the area sits along the Potomac River, and would help the image of Dumfries.

“At first I thought about and thought the name would snub the town, because [SunCal] didn’t know the history of [Dumfries], but I think the name change gives Dumfries independence and allows you to continue with your marketing of being Virginia’s oldest continuously chartered town…that’s branding right there,” said Caddigan.

Construction of the Potomac Shores neighborhood is already underway, and developers think it would be a ripe location for a new FBI Headquarters, as the agency is looking to leave Washington, D.C. and it’s J. Edgar Hoover office building.

Both Prince William County officials and SunCal submitted a proposal to the FBI naming Potomac Shores as an ideal location for a new FBI headquarters.

News
Prince William / Manassas Tourism Agency Launches New Website

MANASSAS, Va. — Prince William County hopes to lure more visitors to the region with a new website at its convention and visitor’s bureau, Discover Prince William and Manassas.

The site, discoverPWM.com, is billed as a one-stop destination for visiting the county and the historic city at its core, Manassas.

More in a press release:

The website boasts several brand new features including an online booking engine that allows visitors to make lodging arrangements directly through the website and avoid any additional fees. Other new features include an events calendar where people can sign up for event alerts and specific pages dedicated to group tours, reunions, weddings, sporting events and the press.

Through the website, visitors can download a copy of the newly released 2013-2014 Visitor Guide and also sign up for monthly e-newsletters that highlight events, unique travel itineraries and information about the area.

For the first time, all tourism partners in Prince William and Manassas will also be able to continuously contribute to the website content, ensuring visitors get the most up-to-date information on events, hotel accommodations and attractions.

Tourism is a booming industry.  In 2011, visitors to Prince William generated $487 million in revenue, up almost 10 percent from 2010. In Manassas and Manassas Park, visitors generated about $61 million, up 11 percent from 2010.

Tourists are also turning to the Internet more and more to book vacations, which is why it was essential to have a fresh, new and informative website, Maher said. According to a report published by Destination Marketing Association International, 83 percent of leisure travelers use the internet to plan their travel. 

Discover Prince William and Manassas was instrumental in planning and organizing the reenactment of the First Battle of Manassas for the Civil War’s 150th Anniversary in 2011. The agency said it will continue to maintain a separate site for all things Civil War through the end of its 150th commemoration in 2015.

Discover Prince William & Manassas will maintain its second website, ManassasBullRun.com, which is solely dedicated to the area’s rich Civil War history. The tourism agency will also continue to enhance and add new features to DiscoverPWM.com including videos and rotating stories.

 

News
Baylor’s Soft Serve Opens, Replaces Familiar Ice Cream Stand

DUMFRIES, Va. — Virginia’s first town has a new sweet spot, and it opened in a familiar roadside location.

Baylor’s Original Soft Serve opened for the first time Sunday on Main Street in the heart of Dumfries’ growing business district, joining a newly built McDonalds restaurant in nearby Triangle Plaza.

It replaces JoJo’s Original Soft Serve which closed last fall after owner Joseph Ruhren became embroiled in a legal battle that has him charged with forcible sodomy and sexual battery of a minor. Ruhren will stand trail on those charges in September, according to court records. But the owner of Baylor’s, Penni Graves-Rodriguez, wanted to do something to bring the community back together.

“I’m excited about bringing the community back to the gathering place. I was a customer of JoJo’s back in the day as well, and the kids would want to run around eating ice cream and play with their dogs, and it was just a fantastic spot,” said Graves-Rodriguez.

The renamed ice cream stand takes its name from Graves-Rodriguez’s father. His middle name was Baylor, and he died in June 2011.

As for the ice cream, Baylor’s opened for the season on Sunday to long lines with customers ready to try out the newest restaurant in town. Graves-Rodriguez said her ice cream is still the same as it was when it was JoJo’s, and the same faces will continue to greet customers from behind the counter.

“I’m looking for a few things that we can make better, but going with the flow and getting handle on business while get the hang of things before we change anything,” said Graves-Rodriguez.

The small ice cream stand is valued at $139,000, according to Prince William County property records, and spent only a short time on the market following the closure of JoJo’s last year.

News
Great Wraps Coming to Potomac Mills

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — A fast-food chain more than 10-years-old will soon open in Woodbridge.

Great Wraps, a quick serve restaurant specializing in wrapped sandwiches, salads, and curly fries, will soon open in Potomac Mills mall’s food court. It’ll join several other decidedly more upscale restaurants like Cheesecake Factory and Bahama Breeze that have opened their doors in outparcel locations in the mall’s front parking area.

The Georgia-based Great Wraps chain has grown to have 20 locations in the U.S. In Virginia, the sandwich chain has locations on the campus of Virginia Commonweath University in Richmond, in Harrisonburg, and at Tysons Corner Center mall.

The new Woodbridge location will be Great Wrap’s fourth location in the state.

News
Homeowners Stay Put, Rent Costs Rising

By URIAH KISER

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — The price of housing is up and inventory is low, making for a developing sellers market that has had an impact on local home sales and rent costs.

Nationally, the number of homes sold was up about a half of a percent in January over the previous month, but prices are 12% higher than they were one year ago, with the median cost of a home in the U.S. resting at $173,000, according to Realtor.com.

Total housing inventory at the end of January fell 4.9 percent to 1.74 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.2-month supply2 at the current sales pace, down from 4.5 months in December, and is the lowest housing supply since April 2005 when it was also 4.2 months.

Listed inventory is 25.3 percent below a year ago when there was a 6.2-month supply. Raw unsold inventory is at the lowest level since December 1999 when there were 1.71 million homes on the market.

“We expect a seasonal rise of inventory this spring, but it may be insufficient to avoid more frequent incidences of multiple bidding and faster-than-normal price growth,” National Association of Realtor’s Chief Economist Howard Yun explained.

Locally, lots of homeowners have refinanced to new lower interest rates, and fears of job loses have encouraged sellers to stay put.

“Real sellers are waiting for prices to be what they were in 2005, and they will be that way again but it’s going to take another 10 years before it happens,” said Peggy Burke, a Realtor in Prince William County with nearly 30 years experience.

Following the financial meltdown of 2008, lenders are under increased government scrutiny, too. And where many housing appraisers used to be independently operating firms, they’re now watched ever more closely by the federal government, and  that has slowed the lending process. 

Another issue facing Realtors is a lack of “comps,” which is a listing of recent sales prices of comparable homes in a similar neighborhood. These figures help set home prices, and with low inventory and fewer sales, it’s harder to set new prices for homes coming onto the market, said Realtor Mike Stalter.

Foreclosures and short sales still accounted for nearly a quarter of all home sales last month, according to Realtor.com:

Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales – accounted for 23 percent of January sales, down from 24 percent in December and 35 percent in January 2012. Fourteen percent of January sales were foreclosures and 9 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 20 percent below market value in January, while short sales were discounted 12 percent.

Many who foreclosed have cannot buy again anytime in the near future, and that has helped to drive up rent costs for those forced into apartments and condos.

On Feb. 12, Prince William County Executive Melissa Peacor exclaimed the county of 412,000 residents is recovering well from the recession, and said apartment values – originally projected to increase by 5% — have increased by 12% in the past year.

She made the comments during a proposal to raise the property tax rate in the county to 4% in 2014, though elected officials opted to advertise a lower tax rate of 3.6% per $100 of assessed value. The rate cannot go up but can be lowered, and will be decided upon in April after a public hearing April 9 at the Prince William County Government Center. 

Homeowners choosing to stay put has helped to put a squeeze on local renters.

“I’ve never had a market like this,” said Realtor Cindy Stackhouse, who has 36 years of real estate experience in Prince William. “We’re seeing a lack of consumer confidence and a lack of people wanting to buy, and it comes at a time when interest rates have never been better.”

News
Mick’s Restaurant & Sports Lounge Revamping Menu, Staff

By URIAH KISER

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — It’s not a full on make over as much as it will be a new way of doing things.

Mick’s Restaurant and Sports Lounge plans to revamp its menu, build a more female-friendly atmosphere, and improve the quality of the service inside the restaurant now known for Tex-Mex and American food.

On the new menu, you’ll find things like flatbread pizza, seafood, and new healthier salads and wraps. They’ll be more consistency behind the bar so made-to-order drinks are poured according to their recipes. And servers waiting on guests will be taught to trade phrases like “sure, no problem,” for “absolutely.”

It’s a new plan to help redirect a 4-year-old restaurant that needs some sprucing up.

“We want people to come in to the restaurant with their families and say ‘this is our bar’ where we love to go out to eat,” said manager Lexi McDaniel.

Mick’s as we know it today will be closed for lunch on Thursday so servers will get new training from everything from new menu items to clearing tables.

“No one wants to go into their next course with a reminder of what they just had to eat, and we recognize that,” said McDaniel.

The restaurant will reopen Thursday at 4 p.m. with a re-launch party where customers have been invited to come in and try new menu items.

The restaurant sits on a hill in North Stafford where U.S. 1, Interstate 95, and Va. 610 all come together near bustling Aquia Harbour. While the residential neighborhood stays busy, the nearby shopping center in which Mick’s sits – Town Center at Aquia – has been slow to redevelop five years after many businesses were boarded up and were demolished to make way for newer ones.

While the restaurant wants to bring in families by day, Mick’s has found success in turning down the lights at night to become one of the area’s only nightclubs. Most recently in January, the restaurant hosted its “Anything But Clothes” party where revelers were encouraged to dress in anything, well, but clothes, and were told to be sure to have their vital areas covered up.

These afterhours events, which also include more common attractions like open mic nights and live music, are something McDaniel says Mick’s can continue to do all while redefining itself as a family brand.

“We are a family restaurant during the day, and our customers respect the fact that we have a bar and often hold events at night. It really shows both sides of what Mick’s is,” said McDaniel.

The restaurant’s staff, some of which are new hires, will begin a dry run of the new menu and concept starting tomorrow, and they’ll don new uniforms and start a new concept called team service – where everyone pitches in to make sure guests are comfortable and full – when the restaurant re-launches on Thursday.

Annual Business Recycling Reports Due February 28

Submitted News

Businesses in Prince William County are reminded to complete and file an annual recycling report with the Department of Public Works by February 28, 2013. The report is in the form of a survey and should only take about 5-10 minutes to complete. A link to the survey is available at www.pwcgov.org/trashandrecycling. The survey should be completed by the property manager or the person most familiar with trash and recycling services for the property.

Section 22-169 of the Prince William County Code requires all businesses and other non-residential properties that produce trash within the county to report recycling activities to the Department of Public Works by February 15 for the previous calendar year. This year the filing deadline has been extended to February 28, 2013. Home-based businesses and businesses located within the cities of Manassas, or Manassas Park, or the incorporated towns of Dumfries, Haymarket, Occoquan, or Quantico are exempt from filing this report.

Business recycling information for 2012 is needed in order for the County to comply with recycling reporting requirements established by the Commonwealth of Virginia under Code of Virginia, Section 10.1-1411 and 15.1 – 11.5.2.
For calendar year 2011 (the most recent year for which data is available), Prince William County achieved a recycling rate of 37.5 percent, the goal is to reach 40 percent. All businesses and residents are encouraged to do more to reduce, reuse and recycle waste to help preserve both our natural resources and landfill capacity for future generations.

For more information on the annual business recycling report or to learn more about ways to reduce, reuse and recycle waste in Prince William County, please visit www.pwcgov.org/trashandrecycle or call the Solid Waste Division of Public Works at 703-792-4670.

News
Ellington Leaving Post at Leadership Prince William

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — The woman described as the “heart and soul” of Leadership Prince William is moving on.

Kathy Elllington, who served as Executive Director for the nine-month program that aims to develop civic-minded leaders in both business and government, will head to Arlington.

More in a message from Bennett C. Whitlock, who serves on the Executive Committee of Leadership Prince William:

As all of you know who have worked with her over the past six years, Kathy has been the heart and soul of Leadership Prince William, from its infancy through six exceptional classes and a time of incredible growth. She has been our Executive Director, our friend and, in many cases, our mentor.

Although we are sad to see her leave Leadership Prince William, we are excited for Kathy as she embarks on a new chapter in her professional life. We support her decision and know we are all better for her leadership of our program during its first six years. Be assured, Kathy will continue to be a resource for us as we walk through this transition process.

Kathy told us: “It has been the highlight of my professional career to be a part of and help develop the model that Leadership Prince William uses to grow and sustain a new generation of leaders in our community. This has been my passion.”

On behalf of the Executive Committee, I also want to ensure all of you—our current class, alumni, sponsors and friends–that Leadership Prince William will continue to be a thriving, successful organization as we move into our next phase. The Board of Regents will take on some additional tasks during this interim period, and we will immediately create a search committee. As leaders, we will step up and ensure Leadership Prince William continues to fulfill our mission.

Ellington is the wife of the recently ousted Jay Ellington, who resigned last month after serving as the Director of Prince William County’s Parks and Recreation Department.

That department was formed after the Prince William County Park Authority merged with county government in 2012.

News
Milde Wants Action on Idle Aquia Town Center Project

By KEITH WALKER
For Potomac Local News

Stafford Aquia Supervisor Paul Milde

Stafford Aquia Supervisor Paul Milde

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — The big pile of rubble that has been sitting at Town Center at Aquia for six or seven years now is beginning to get on peoples’ nerves.

Stafford County Supervisor Paul Milde III, R-Aquia, said he’s been working all along with owner Ramco-Gershenson Properties in efforts to keep mixed-use development project on track, but nothing has worked.

Milde thinks maybe it’s time for the county to break a little bad on the company and resort to imposing county ordinances and enforcing code violations.

“The residents of Aquia Harbour are not going to stand for looking at that any longer as they drive in and out,” Milde said of the fenced property where weeds grow through the cracked blacktop of a vacant parking lot. “There’s no excuse for the way Ramco-Gershenson has left that site. That needs to be corrected now.”

Ramco-Gershenson’s could not be reached for this story, but their website states that the company’s primary business is “the ownership and management of multi-anchor shopping centers in strategic, quality of life markets throughout the Eastern, Midwestern and Central United States.”

The company, based in Farmington Hills, Michigan, has developed property in Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Georgia, Missouri, Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Tennessee.

According to county records, the Stafford County Board of Supervisors rezoned the property to Planned-Traditional Neighborhood Development so Ramco-Gershenson could build 750,000 square feet of commercial units, 287 small residential units and a new movie theater in a

The company completed some of the commercial development after the rezoning, but ultimately left a substantial portion of the property vacant.

Milde said the work stalled because of “issues with the economy” when the Great Recession hit.

“The economy just wouldn’t support this type of development. Ever since about 2009, they’ve been saying, ‘Look, we’re almost there,’” he said.

Milde also said he’s had 30 to 40 unproductive meetings with the company, its lenders and potential tenants since the project began.

“The latest story is a financing story where they’re just a little bit shy on what the lenders will lend and what they need to move forward,” Milde said.

Milde went on to say that the Board of Supervisors approved loaning the company money for improvements to roads, parking and sewer in exchange for future incremental tax increases.

“Some of it can come back and pay down local debt service on an infrastructure loan to the tune of several million dollars,” Milde said

According to Milde, company representative have recently asked county officials if it could start development on the residential units.

Milde said he wouldn’t support that.

“I do not want the apartments built separately,” he said. “That’s just not the deal that we made.”

Milde said Ramco-Gershenson planned to model the development after Monument Place in Arlington and Oyster Point City Center in Newport News.

Milde said he doesn’t know why the company can’t proceed with the project which he thinks would be successful.

“Frankly, I’m baffled that they can’t make the numbers come together on this,” he said.

At any rate, Milde said he’s finished with the delay.

“We think we’ve been more than patient, he said. “It’s my intention, if I don’t see movement very quickly on this, in the right direction, to bring something to the board.”

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[Photo: Mary Davidson / Potomac Local News]

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Prince William Region Leaders Plan Business Session

MANASSAS, Va. — Elected and business leaders plan a panel discussion on the state of business in Prince William County.

The presentation scheduled to take place this month in Manassas is hosted by the Prince William Chamber of Commerce and lunch will be provided for those who register.

More in a press release:

Online registration is open for the February 20 Prince William Chamber of Commerce’s “State of Prince William,” in the events section of pwchamber.org. The luncheon takes place at 11:30 am at Continental Event Center, 9705 Liberia Avenue in Manassas. This informative annual event brings together representatives from Prince William County and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park for a big-picture look at the state of business, government and education in the region.

The panel discussion will be moderated by Bernie Neimeir, President & Publisher, Virginia Business Magazine. Invited panelists include Corey Stewart, Chairman-At-Large, Prince William Board of County Supervisors; Hal Parrish, Mayor, City of Manassas; Frank Jones, Mayor, City of Manassas Park and Milt Johns, Chairman, Prince William County School Board.

Officials with the chamber of commerce said last year’s event sold out.

News
Stafford Rethinking Where Development Will Go

STAFFORD, Va. — Planners in Stafford County don’t like to use the word “urban” in their comprehensive development plan, and instead want to replace it with “targeted.”

Planning officials have been asked to rethink seven Urban Development Areas — places that will define where new commercial, industrial, and residential development will go over the next 20 years. The areas could be renamed “targeted growth areas.”

The UDAs were set during a series of public meetings in 2010 and 2011, shortly after the state’s General Assembly made UDAs mandatory through legislation aimed at planning for and controlling growth. But legislators overturned that legislation a year later and made UDAs optional.

Planning officials said the locations of the UDAs  in Stafford County need to be reconsidered, but while no new UDA areas have been named, those on the original list approved in 2011 have been given a recommended priority on what areas should develop first:

Most-favored development areas

Courthouse area

-Close to Interstate 95 / new 95 Express Lanes

-Courthouse Road / I-95 interchange to be reconstructed

-Close to hospital

-Close to courthouse / county government center

Warrenton Road – “Southern Gateway” area

-Busy corridor linking I-95 with U.S. 29

Northern portion of George Washington Village UDA — Embrey Mill

-Planned neighborhood linking Courthouse Road with Va. 610 in North Stafford

-Existing public facilities

Other areas identified in the years-old UDA process remain on the list but have been given a lower priority, such as Boswell’s Corner along U.S. 1 at Quantico Corporate Center, the area along Centreport Parkway near Stafford Regional Airport, and infill development along the Va. 610 corridor in North Stafford.

Any change to the mandatory UDA plans would require an amendment to the county’s Comprehensive Plan — a document county officials worked tirelessly on in 2010 to chart the future growth of the county.

“This comprehensive plan was extremely painful to complete, and we don’t want to have to start all over again,” said Aquia District Supervisor Paul Milde.

If the UDA zoning were to go away, Stafford Director of Planning and Zoning Jeff Harvey said the land would default to it’s previous zoning designation prior to implementing UDAs.

“If we remove UDAs, we still need a strong guide on where to put growth in the county,” said Garrisonville District Supervisor Ty Schieber.

Prince William Chamber Members Meet Richmond Legislators

MANASSAS, Va. — The Prince William Chamber of Commerce invited its members to join them this month on a trip to Richmond to meet with state policymakers and see government in action. The group included members of the Chamber’s Prince William Veteran Council.

“General Assembly members were excited to see that we have an active, engaged council that both supports veterans and taps into the expertise and energy that they bring to the community,” said Nancy Hiteshue, Chamber Vice President of Public Policy and Communications.

The day started with a briefing from Hiteshue, where attendees prepared for the legislative visits and learned about grassroots advocacy. They were then joined by Governor Bob McDonnell and Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton.

“We had a productive discussion on the Governor’s proposed transportation funding package, sharing thoughts on how the business community could be involved in the process of solving Virginia’s transportation crisis,” said Chamber President & CEO Rob Clapper. “It is vital that a transportation bill is passed this year. We can not afford to allow further decline of our transportation system.”

Clapper also noted that the Prince William region has a number of key projects that have been in a holding pattern for years, and that will not be possible without significant, new, dedicated trasnportation funding. These include widening of Route 28, the extension of Rt. 234 bypass to Dulles Airport (the “Bi-County Parkway”) and improvments along the Route 1 corridor.

Chamber members watched as the House Finance Committee voted on the house version of the funding bill. They also witnessed Hiteshue in action, as she testified in favor of HB 1336, the Telework Tax Credit bill. It would help to offset some of the costs incurred by individuals who telework.

“Telework incentives lay the foundation for Virginia to be the workforce of the future. It means that our talented and well-educated citizens could reside here while working for companies around the world, diversifying our economic base and increasing opportunity,” said Hiteshue. The Chamber hosted a Northern Virginia Telework Summit in November.

Said Chamber member Cliff Glier of SenCura of Chamber Day, “The Prince William Chamber’s efforts to help our group were fantastic and the opportunity to see our state government in action was much appreciated.”

That evening, the Chamber members were joined for dinner by members of the Prince William Delegation to the General Assembly and their aides. Clapper explained that this part of the Chamber Day allows for business leaders to get to know policymakers one-on-one.

“The Prince William delegates and senators are committed to keeping Virginia a top location for doing business. Our Chamber Day in Richmond is an opportunity for them to hear from the front lines, to talk to the job creators and gain insight from small business owners,” said Clapper.

To learn more about the advocacy efforts of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, the largest chamber in Virginia and the DC Metro area, visit pwchamber.org or call 703.368.6600.

-Submitted 

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Prince William Chamber members meet with Richmond lawmakers. [Submitted photo]

News
Fredericksburg’s Free Lance-Star Erects Paywall on Websites

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — Starting today, Fredericksburg’s Free Lance-Star will start charging for its web products – Fredericksburg.com and a new, just launched magazine tablet application.

In a statement from publisher Nicholas J. Cadwallender, all of the newspaper’s websites will now include a meter that will monitor how many pages users visit. More “frequent users” of the site will see a subscription page asking them to purchase a subscription to read more content.

In addition to the website paywall, the company has also developed a new website, freelancestar.com, which will deliver content optimized for iPads and other mobile devices. It, too, will operate on a paywall structure.

More from Free Lance-Star Publisher Nicholas J. Cadwallender:

We know this is a big step for us to take when we’ve offered free access to Fredericksburg.com for so many years. But we’re committed to offering the best products we can, and we’ll work tirelessly to earn your business.

As we watch the world of journalism and local news shift, we have to constantly change to keep pace. We still don’t know what our online business will look like five or 10 years down the road, but we think these changes will keep us on the right track. We hope you’re along for the ride.

Cadwallender has served as publisher since 2010, following the retirement of his father-in-law, Josiah P. Rowe III.

The newspaper this month also rolled out a newly redesigned Fredericksburg.com.

Reaction to the news of a paywall for the Fredericksburg.com site has been increasingly negative, however, industry experts around the world say readers should prepare for more and more content providers to begin charging for online access.

 

News
Virginia Commerce Bank Acquired

A locally-owned Virginia bank will be purchased by United Bankshares, Inc. of Charleston, W.Va.

United Bankshares this week announced it would purchase Virginia Commerce Bank and its 28 banking locations across Northern Virginia, including banking centers in Prince William County and Frederickburg.

The company will purchase Virginia Commerce for $28 million, and this is the latest in a series of 28 acquisitions for United Bankshares, stated a press release.

More from that press release from United Bank on the acquisition of Virginia Commerce (VCBI):

United will acquire 100% of the outstanding shares of VCBI in exchange for common shares of United. The exchange ratio will be fixed at 0.5442 of United’s shares for each share of VCBI which equates to a deal value of $14.00 per share, or approximately $490.6 million in the aggregate, based on United’s ten-day average closing price of $25.73 as of January 29, 2013. The transaction, which has been unanimously approved by both United’s and VCBI’s Boards of Directors, is expected to close in the third quarter of 2013, pending regulatory approvals and the approval of United’s and VCBI’s shareholders.

The aggregate consideration of the transaction is approximately $490.6 million based on VCBI’s common shares outstanding, plus outstanding options and warrants. The announced price represents a premium of 15% over VCBI’s closing price on January 29, 2013, and 1.82 times VCBI’s tangible book value at December 31, 2012.

[United Bankshares Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Richard M.] Adams stated, “We are very excited about our merger with VCBI, which creates the leading independent community bank operating throughout the most attractive markets in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. VCBI is a well-run banking franchise and will be a great partner for United.”

News
Stafford Luring Larger Retailers

By URIAH KISER

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va . — Stafford is going shopping for more places to shop.

Following an 2012 economic study that stated the county was losing $656 million per year in retail dollars spent elsewhere in places like Fredericksburg and Prince William County, Stafford’s economic development team aims to reclaim some of that cash.

The team that’s already been successful in helping to lure several high-profile technology firms to the Quantico Corporate Center will head to the International Council of Shopping Center’s Mid-Atlantic Conference at National Harbor. They already have meetings lined up with some of the area’s largest retailers.

“This is Stafford’s first time at this conference and we know we have to make an impression, and we know it’s important to be seen at this event,” said Stafford County Economic Development Business Retention Manager Bethany J. Miller.

Face-to-face meetings are arranged with the likes of Wegmans grocers, Aldi, Shop Co., a media publishing company, and several other brokers and developers who will have the opportunity to learn more about the burgeoning county of 132,000 people.

“We have to be proactive in telling retailers about the spending ability in Stafford,” said Miller. “From the report last year, the one thing that really stuck out to me is the $656 million each year that’s going out of the county – we need to work to make sure more of that stays here.”

The county’s economic development office has found an ally in Kimco Realty, known for their shopping centers like Stafford Market Place and Doc Stone Commons on Va. 610 in North Stafford, and for Smoketown Stations on Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge. The developer has worked with Stafford to help set the meetings with businesses, said Miller.

While Stafford has the spending power, it lacks the density many retailers like to see when setting up shop. The county remains widely rural with the exception of two major development centers on Va. 610 in the north and along busy U.S. 17 in the south. Many other roads in Stafford County are antiquated two-lane thoroughfares that don’t easily lend themselves to high-capacity traffic.

Last year’s report also stated the county’s lack of a downtown, an arts and culture class, and a perception that the jurisdiction is made up of only blue collar workers has kept out stores like Trader Joes and restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory.

Officials hope their success in luring tech firms, and the opening of a new technology and research park at Quantico Corporate Center, and the county’s low cost of living, will help peak the interest of potential investors.

News
Stafford Ponders Boat Tax Elimination

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — One thing is clear: Stafford County officials no longer want to tax pleasure boaters.

The county’s Board of Supervisors recently passed a non-binding resolution letting residents know Stafford – like Prince William, Fairfax, Alexandria, and other jurisdictions in Virginia – wants do away with its $5.49 per $100 assessed value personal property boat tax.

The challenge for Stafford County Commissioner of the Revenue Scott Mayausky: how to make it all work. The Board directed his office to conduct a study on what the county’s coffers will look like if the tax goes away. Mayausky said the tax must be eliminated by April to be effective this year.

It’s no secret that many boat owners store their boats outside of Stafford County during the winter months so they won’t be taxed, choosing instead to store them in places like Prince William County, which for years has had such a low boat tax it simply isn’t enough to generate a tax bill.

But, if the tax is eliminated, just what will happen in Stafford?

“When you try to predict the behavior of individuals, things get tricky, but we know if the tax goes away there would be no reason for a boater to take their boat out of Stafford County” said Mayausky. “Some fear the loss of the revenue, while others say more boats will come, marinas here could grow and build restaurants which means more meal taxes, and then you could also have more boat repair work being done, and more revenue in fuels tax as boaters fill up their tanks.”

Stafford’s boat tax generates $500,000 for the county annually. Its money that goes directly into the general fund, meaning it’s not earmarked for any special projects that would benefit marinas or pleasure boaters. On average, the owner of a boat that’s between 16 and 25-feet long pays a $123 tax bill. Boats 26 to 40 feet long generate a tax bill of $595, and owners with boats over 40-feet long pay $2,000 annually in boat taxes, said Mayausky.

Eliminating, or drastically reducing a tax, is something Stafford did before when they the county’s aircraft tax was reduced three times before it was finally eliminated. With the tax gone, more planes were stored at the growing Stafford Regional Airport, and the tax elimination came at the right time – before the county became dependent on aircraft taxes as a steady stream of revenue, said Mayausky.

Carlton Phillips owns Prince William Marina near Occoquan, one the busiest in the nation. It’s grown to include the Electric Palm Restaurant, boat storage, sales and service, a swimming pool, and a bath house. Boating is a competitive industry, said Phillips, and he feels confident he’ll be able to retain his customers even if Stafford does away with its boat tax.

“We’re big on customer service,” said Phillips. “The families that come here are forced to make tough decisions and choices on how to spend their hard-earned money: ‘do we want to boat on the river to take a family vacation at Disney World this year?’”

News
Prince William County Expanding Online Communication Efforts

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Are you an effective communicator? Prince William County may soon want to hear from you.

The county’s communications office is hiring and will place a greater focus on how it communicates to county residents via the web. The move comes as officials on the Board of Supervisors aim to make to make it easier to obtain information pertaining to everything from local government issues, taxes, to where to obtain a dog license.

As the county rebrands its communication efforts with a web focus, its Prince William County Reports newsletters printed on glossy paper and mailed to residents four times per year will now be produced and mailed just two times per year, said Communications Director Jason Grant. They’ll be distributed in January and will feature a end-of-year wrap up, and another will go out in May and will feature an update of the finalized county normally approved each spring.

With the $100,000 per year savings expected with the printing cuts, a portion of that money will go to fund a $20,000 increase in the salary range of a previously unfilled position to pay a new full-time employee who will create and implement new applications and new ways of communicating with residents via the county’s website.

“With the rebranding of our office, we will focus on what our office has and does not have when it comes to making communicating with citizens easier and effectively, to improve the customer experience, and put more focus and emphasis on our website,” said Grant.

The new Senior Online Communications Manager job is one of two positions in Grant’s office that have previously gone unfilled. A move Tuesday by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, in part, means he’ll be able to reclassify one open position to higher pay grade, bringing it more in line to a starting salary range of $64,000 per year.

The new hire will focus solely on the web and developing new communications processes. Though the county has an internal IT department, they are not capable of producing or maintaining the type of new communication product sought by the office, and outsourcing the position isn’t favored as web contractors often maintain several different websites for multiple clients at once, said Grant.

A candidate for a second open position that has gone unfilled, Public Information Officer I, will also be hired. This person will create content for the web — producing text stories and taking photos — as well as responding to questions from residents.

Job descriptions for the postions are expected to be posted within the next two to three weeks, said Grant. Once filled, the new hires will be tasked with a holistic review of Prince William’s website and to look for ways to improve it. Websites for individual Supervisors on the Board will continue to be maintained by staff in their respective offices and not by Prince William County’s central communications office.

The reorganization comes as a daily newspaper that served Prince William County for more than 140 years, News & Messenger, ceased publication last month.

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