WE ARE LOCAL News in Prince William, Virginia




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.

Milde Wants Action on Idle Aquia Town Center Project

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]

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.

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.


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

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.


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.”

Stafford Luring Larger Retailers


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.

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?’”

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.

Virginia Wines Taking Place on Global Stage

Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. – Gov. Bob McDonnell has good reason to break open a bottle of Virginia wine and celebrate: Wine produced by the state’s vineyards posted record sales last year.

Virginia wineries sold about 485,000 cases of wine during the 2012 fiscal year, which ended June 30. That was up about 2 percent from the previous record of 477,000 cases in 2011. And wine exports, to both other states and other countries, jumped a combined 39 percent.

“More sales provide more economic development and job creation opportunities, especially for the vineyards, wineries and the many businesses supporting them, like restaurants and bed-and-breakfast establishments, all across the commonwealth,” McDonnell said this week in announcing the sales figures.

The biggest increase was in the export of Virginia wines to other countries, especially the United Kingdom and China. The state wine industry’s international exports quadrupled – from about 700 cases in 2011 to more than 3,300 cases last year.

“Virginia wines continue to be rising stars in the global wine industry,” said Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore. He noted that Wine Enthusiast magazine named Virginia as one of the top ten wine destinations in the world.

Katie Hellebush, executive director of the Virginia Wine Council, says the governor and first lady Maureen McDonnell have been “our greatest cheerleaders” in promoting wines from the state’s vineyards.

Sales of Virginia wines to other U.S. states increased 24 percent last year – to more than 14,000 cases.

Virginia is fifth in the country in the number of wineries; there are more than 230 in the Old Dominion. The industry provides jobs for more than 4,700 Virginians and pumps almost $750 million into the state’s economy.

Hellebush said the wine industry could get even bigger with help from the General Assembly.

“We have put forth legislation in the past to create tax credits to be able to provide for growth in the industry,” she said.

“A lot of the equipment people are using is very expensive. And so that is just kind of one more tool in the toolbox for people to be able to use to have some funding to help them grow their business.”

ALDI Opening New Stafford County Store

STAFFORD COUNTY, Va. — National grocer ADLI will open an new store in Stafford County, adding it to the chain’s collection of others stores in the region.

ALDI will hold a ribbon cutting for the new store at 1030 Warrenton Road at 9 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 31. The company said this will be their fourth location near Fredericksburg, as the company also has stores on Va. 610 in North Stafford, as well as locations in Manassas and Woodbridge.

More in a press release:

“As ALDI continues to grow in the Fredericksburg area, we are pleased to open this new location to help more customers stretch their dollars even further,” said Jeff Baehr, Frederick division vice president for ALDI. “As important as price is, there’s only one way to attract and keep shoppers: You have to have quality products. When people try our ALDI exclusive brands, they are surprised by the savings and impressed by the quality.”

To celebrate the opening of the new Fredericksburg store, ALDI will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31, to which the public is invited to attend, tour the new store, and enter an on-site sweepstakes. Additionally, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., guests are invited to sample ALDI exclusive brands while shopping for their favorite grocery items.

The Fredericksburg [area] store showcases the “new look” of ALDI. With higher ceilings, improved natural lighting and environmentally friendly building materials – such as recycled materials and energy-saving refrigeration and light bulbs – the store will offer customers a simple and easy-to-navigate shopping experience.

Known for its low prices, ALDI charges for plastic or paper bags as well as 25 cents use of their shopping carts, which is returned to the user once the cart is returned to the store. The measures help to keep costs down, the company stated.

The new store will be open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.

Fans to Get Closer Look at Plans for New Potomac Nationals Stadium

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Area baseball fans have been promised that a new stadium for the Potomac Nationals will be a hot venue.

Now, fans will have their first, up close look at rendering of the ballpark planned for Potomac Town Center in Woodbridge later this month at the team’s annual Hot Stove Banquet.

Team owner Art Silber is expected to show new renderings of the planned 6,000 seat, three-level ballpark. The stadium will also include 12 box suites, restaurants, a lounge that will be open to the public every day of the year, and it is expected to open in 2015.

More in a press release from the Potomac Nationals:

100112-New-stadiumSilber plans to elaborate upon the many unique hallmarks that will be featured within the landscape of the P-Nats’ new ballpark, including staples that will pay homage to Griffith Stadium, former home of the Washington Senators.

“We’re going to take the opportunity at our annual Hot Stove Banquet for the first time, to publicly show the detailed renderings of our new Potomac Town Center ballpark. The ballpark is incredibly exciting and its design and features will make it the finest sports venue in the greater Washington area,” explains Silber.

“Our stadium will have features that will remind fans of old Griffith Stadium. It will have three decks with a huge wraparound party deck on top with views of the Potomac River, as well as Club and suite levels. The Club will be a great year-round sports bar with views of the ballpark, river, and the Potomac Town Center.”

“We’ll have a crab shack in center field for steamed crabs and a beer garden, broad plazas, playground for the kids, and the most comfortable seats you’ll ever sit in with perfect sight lines.”

The 18th annual Hot Stove Banquet, where Silber will make the announcement, will be held Sunday, Jan. 20, at 5 p.m. at the Hyatt Fairfax in Fair Lakes. A silent auction to benefit Prince William County Public Schools S.P.A.R.K. program is planned. Tickets for the event are $45 per person, $20 for those 12-years-old and younger and can be purchased by calling 703-590-2311..

A new stadium for the Potomac Nationals would be a step up from their current home at G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium behind the Prince William County Government Center in Woodbridge.

Woodbridge residents who came to a public meeting about the planned stadium voiced excitement about the ballpark, but also said they were concerned about possible traffic problems.

The new stadium will sit in a now vacant plot of land between Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center and a Wegman’s grocery store along Interstate 95.

Marlin & Rays Closes after Just 8 Months in Business

11:30 a.m. Thursday 

Ruby Tuesday CEO and President James “JJ” Buettgen said he’s proud lead the restaurant chain, but times are tough and that’s why the company decided to shed all 13 Marlin and Rays seafood restaurants.

Employees got word last night the eateries were closing. Two former Ruby Tuesday restaurants – one in North Stafford and the other in Manassas – are closed because of the decision, and it’s unclear at this time what will happen with the properties.

Overall, the company lost $15 million on the decision to changeover those restaurants and others like them from the American fare served at Ruby Tuesday to the seafood served at Marlin and Rays. Other restaurants that were apart of the Ruby Tuesday expansion announced last year are also being jettisoned, including a Wok Hay restaurant and two Lime Fresh restaurants. A buyer for a fourth brand, Truffles Grill, is being sought.

“As we make these difficult decisions, we want to let the team members of these closed restaurants know that we appreciate their passion and commitment and we are working to ensure affected by these planned closures are given opportunities at other Ruby Tuesday or Lime Fresh restaurants,” said Buettgen in a press statement.

Ruby Tuesday will, for now, put plans for expansion aside and instead focus on growing same-store sales, according to a press release.

8:30 p.m. Wednesday 

NORTH STAFFORD, Va. — The final ship has come in for a chain of seafood restaurants in the area.

Marlin and Rays closed its doors this evening at it’s location in North Stafford. Employees came to the locally-owned Mainstreet Bar and Grill across from the chain restaurant said they were called into work at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday and were told the restaurant was closing for good.

A spokesperson for the restaurant chain could not immediately be reached.

A second source told Potomac Local News all 13 Marlin and Rays restaurants in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, and Tennessee will close their doors.

Many Marlin and Rays locations were converted from Ruby Tuesday restaurants that specialize in American dining fare. Many Marlin and Rays employees could opt to transfer to Ruby Tuesday locations if positions are available, according to our source.

Marlin and Rays in North Stafford was open just eight months before closing its doors. Its closure comes as another area restaurant, The Otter House in Fredericksburg, announced it will close this weekend.

The North Stafford location was one of two Marlin and Rays restaurants in Virginia. The second is in the Manassas area on Sudley Road. 


First Town Center Project Halts After Homeowners Back Out


DUMFRIES, Va. – The plans for Dumfries’ first town center has skidded to a halt while developer Pete Singh works to get all the landowners on board with the project.

Plans for the town center were first submitted to the town in June 2011 and have changed several times since.

“Conceptual drawings and final construction can be ages apart,” said Town Manager Dan Taber. “It was a pretty good plan that he came forward with, and the town was excited about it… But it required some amendments to existing allowances because he wanted to have the height of some of the buildings above what the current zoning [ordinances] allow.”

According to the plans, the buildings will range from four to seven stories and mostly be residences over retail shops and other businesses. The parking lot for one of them is slated to be located inside the parameter of the structure instead of outside as it typically is for most buildings. And the seven-story tall building, if allowed, would be the town’s tallest. Singh’s plan needs a zoning text amendment in order to build a building that tall.

In November, the town received notice from two of the landowners that the agreement they had with Singh to use or purchase their land had expired and that they had pulled out of the project. According to a memo from Taber, the parcels of land are needed for the completion of the town center project but “the landowners do not want their parcels included in any future plan submissions or approvals.”

Taber said that he cannot dedicate any more staff or hours to the project until the matter is resolved. He met with Singh about the issue and said Singh is working on getting a new agreement with those landowners.

When asked about how he planned to move the project forward, Singh said by telephone that the matter was “tedious” for the media to report on and declined to comment further.

If it moves forward, the town center will be located on land that runs from the rear of the ACTS building up to the two-story building next to Town Hall.

Internet Sales Could be Used as a Possible Road Funding Fix

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Business leaders had the opportunity to gain insight on key issues for the 2013 General Assembly session during the Prince William Chamber of Commerce’s “Legislative Kick-off.”

The event, which was held at Old Hickory Golf Club Wednesday, featured members of the Prince William delegation to the Virginia General Assembly. Senators Charles Colgan (D-29), Linda S. (Toddy) Puller (D-36), George L. Barker (D-39), Richard Stuart (R-28), and Delegates Robert G. Marshall (R-13), Tim Hugo (R-40), Jackson Miller (R-50), Richard Anderson (R-51), and Ramadan (R-87) each had an opportunity to talk about where their efforts will be focused in the coming session, which begins January 9, 2013.

The delegation also received copies of the Chamber’s 2013 Public Policy Priorities.

“The first priority of the Prince William Chamber remains economic development. We support those policies which foster a business-friendly environment, creating jobs and building wealth for area residents,” said Brian Gordon, chair of the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee and is the Virginia Vice President for Government Affairs at AOBA.

He noted that the full agenda can be found at pwchamberadvocate.org, where site visitors can also view legislation tracked by the Chamber, provide input on issues via online surveys and contact their representatives.

Senator Colgan began his statements by acknowledging that, “What we do here depends in large measure on what is done in Washington, DC.” The senator also noted that he is working with the Prince William campuses of Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University to secure funding for a number of expansion projects.

From there, transportation was the hot topic of the day, with Senator Barker calling it the “number one priority” for the legislative session. “We…can get the conversation started,” he said, adding that Virginia Transportation Secretary Connaughton warns that the state will go over a “transportation cliff” in 2017 if sustainable, secure funding for road and transit maintenance and construction is not addressed.

Senator Stuart joked that his nearly two-hour commute from Stafford to the event left him motivated to end gridlock. On a more serious note, he said that finding solutions “is going to be tough, going to take strong leadership from Governor, and I think he is up to the task.”

Delegate Hugo said, “The gas tax is a dying proposition,” as cars become more fuel efficient. He said that it is time to think outside the box. In one example, he said that if the federal government passes an internet sales tax, it would raise $267 million a year in Virginia, which could be allocated to transportation funding.

The delegation also discussed efforts to support business growth, such as the Small Business Mandate Commission, which brings together businesses and legislators to reduce regulatory burdens that stifle growth.

Senator Stuart outlined the commission’s three-pronged approach:

1) Review any proposed mandates or regulations

2) Determine the most business-friendly way to implement any new mandates or regulations

3) Review existing regulations

Delegate Ramadan talked about the Business Development Caucus, of which he is a founding member. He said the group will be introducing 18 bills that came out of town hall meetings with business leaders throughout the state. These include transitioning SCC into part of the Virginia one-stop program and the Fair Commercial Credit Act, which would give businesses many of the same rights and protections provided to individuals, such as the ability to view and contest errors in their credit reports. He is also championing a Telework Tax Credit for individuals.

Delegate Hugo noted that torte reform will also be a big issue in 2013.

“That debate is coming,” he said.

Delegate Richard Anderson also spoke.

“I ask that you stay in touch with us…on specific bills. We value your input,” said Delegate Anderson, who also described Prince William as “the heart of the Commonwealth.”

“This event is an opportunity to see how the priorities of the business community and those of the Prince William delegation align,” said Nancy Hiteshue, Chamber Vice President of Public Policy & Communications, “We look forward to working together with our legislators to enhance economic development and the quality of life in the Prince William region.” The Chamber will host its second annual “Prince William Chamber Trip to Richmond” on January 30, taking business leaders to the state capital to meet with policymakers.

To learn more about the trip, visit the “Events” tab on pwchamber.org or call 703.368.6600. Kick-off sponsors include Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, PC, RE Daffan, Inc. and Dominion Virginia Power. Transurban is the Chamber’s Advocacy Vision Partner.



New Ethanol Facility Near Dumfries to Use Trains

DUMFRIES, Va. — A new ethanol distribution center will be built just outside the Dumfries town limits.

Eco-Energy announced a partnership with NuStar on Tuesday that will bring an unloading, storage and outbound truck center to the area. The center will sit at Cockpit Point on railroad tracks owned by CSX and used by Virginia Railway Express trains.  NuStar Energy already has a facility on Cockpit Point Road that is accessible from Possum Point Road. 

Trains will deliver materials to the new facility, which is expected to store up to 155,000 barrels of ethanol and distribute 400,000 barrels of ethanol per month.

A final agreement on the terminal deal is expected in the second quarter of 2013. The facility is expected to bring 10 to 15 jobs to the area.

Ethanol is mostly used in fuels and can be a volatile, flammable substance.

“As we considered the right location for this project Prince William County quickly emerged as the front runner,” said Eco-Energy spokesman Pete McKinney in a press release. “With access to multiple rail providers and interstates, Prince William County is an ideal location from which to serve Mid-Atlantic markets.”

Eco-Energy was given a rail access grant from Virginia taxpayer funds allotted to spur industrial growth along the state’s rail lines.


Cajun Comes to Woodbridge

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Its backwoods Cajun feel sets it apart from other restaurants, and this place promises to offer a little something extra every time you come – it’s practically in the name.

Lagniappe (Lan-Yap) opened for the first time Tuesday to loves of down home Cajun cooking with recipes from the bayous of Louisiana. The restaurant’s name might be uncommon to those in Virginia, but it’s a familiar term in Louisiana that means a gift given to a customer at the time of purchase – think of it like when someone orders dozen doughnuts but they actually get 13.

Restaurant owner Angela Guiddry has lived in the Woodbridge area since 1995 and has always wanted to open a restaurant like this. Lagniappe is not a chain, but expanding is something she has considered if this restaurant succeeds at pleasing the area’s Cajun appetite.

“We are hopeful it will do well,” she said.

The restaurant at 12635 Galveston Court near Prince William Parkway and Hoadly Road offers a full menu, and Kitchen Manager Christopher Stewart said they are trying out new dishes to see what customers like. There’s fried Boudin Balls (boo-dan) with Cajun sausage blended with rice and then fried up. There’s Crawfish E’toulfee, Cajun red beans and rice, and Mumsie’s Crab Meat Au Gratin. There’s also Po’ Boys sandwiches that come with shrimp, crawfish, or roast beef to name a few.

“This area doesn’t have a Cajun restaurant. We have Chinese buffets, Mexican restaurants, and American ones to choose from. But this one is going to be a fun, family restaurant that has something different,” said Erica Reid, 24, as she rung up orders behind a lunch counter.

Those who dine in Manassas are familiar with Okra’s Louisiana Bistro, but owners here say their feel is less Creole and more country food. By the look of the camouflage t-shirts and pants worn by the cooks and servers, they would be right.

Lagniappe hired 10 employees to help open the eatery. Once a liquor and beer license is approved, they will also offer alcoholic drinks.

The restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 8 p.m. Sundays. Appetizers range between $6 and $13, and Po’ Boys and other entrees range between $6 and $14.


Woodbridge’s Witherell Promoted to Partner at PR Firm


Seigenthaler Public Relations, Inc. (SPR), an award-winning communications firm with offices in Nashville, New York and Chicago, has named Ryan J. Witherell as a new partner with the firm.

Ryan Witherell, formerly Vice President of Client Services and New Media, provides strategic communications, marketing and branding counsel to corporate clients across a variety of industries including technology, environment, real estate development, healthcare, financial services, law and consumer products. Witherell, who joined SPR in 2002, specializes in planning and executing integrated communications campaigns that include branding, media relations and social media. He also leads SPR’s new media team, which counsels clients and provides services in online communications and social media, and has shaped multi-tiered online strategies for a diverse group of businesses.

Witherell was a 2012 “Nashville Emerging Leaders Award” finalist in the Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing category. He also was selected to the Nashville Emerging Leaders (NEL) class of 2008, and chaired NEL’s marketing and recruiting committee in 2009. Ryan has been a member of Public Relations Society of America and the Nashville chapter of the American Marketing Association (NAMA). A native of Woodbridge, Virginia and a graduate of Virginia Tech, Ryan is a board member of Matthew 25, a Nashville-based transitional housing program for homeless men and US Veterans.

Hospital Posting New Signs

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — First a new name for Woodbridge’s hospital, and now new signs to mark the medical center.

Prince William County officials this month approved a request to place new signs on Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center (formerly Potomac Hospital).

The new signs are designed to help drivers better locate the hospital, find their way around campus, and to help better brand the Sentara name in the area.

Sentara purchased Potomac Hospital in 2009 and since then has opened a healthcare facility in Lake Ridge. Last year, Potomac Hospital became Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center – a name it had since opening in 1973.

When the new signs were approved at a meeting of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, officials joked the hospital would always be known to many as Potomac Hospital.

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