Delaying Decision on Redevelopment

Delaying Decision on Redevelopment

Town Council defers decision on downtown redevelopment for another two weeks.

Town Council members deferred a decision for two weeks on the downtown redevelopment proposals during a Feb. 14 public hearing.

This deferral will give the council time to determine which company, Clark Ventures LLC or Herndon Station LLC, should move forward into the next stage of the development process. Council could also decide not to move forward with either company.

Council deferred the item because it needed more time to review the proposals in light of a recent change of events. Submitted last year, council has not had a chance to focus on the proposals because of recent land acquisition and negotiation meetings.

While the town was able to acquire land at Vine and Center streets from Dominion Virginia Power, land negotiations between one resident and the town for the purchase of his land at Elden and Center Street, did not go as planned. That land is currently occupied by the Paul Brothers car dealership.

Known as the Ashwell properties, council has conducted numerous meetings over the past few months with Bob Ashwell and his attorney about the purchase of the land. The parcel is essential to the redevelopment proposals; both have buildings proposed for that corner lot.

During the Feb. 14 public hearing, Mayor Michael O'Reilly indicated the negotiations had reached a "log jam." Based on previous negotiations it was clear the land would not be acquired because an agreement could not be made between Ashwell and the town, he said.

"It does not appear that the town will be able to complete the assemblage necessary to complete both proposals," he said during the hearing. "We're not going to own the land, so we don't want to design it."

AFTER INDICATING council had limited choices to move forward with the proposals because the land would not be acquired, representatives from both companies spoke.

Mike Scott, representing Herndon Station LLC, comprised of multiple developers including Norton-Scott, encouraged council to defer the item for six months. During this time a negotiation might be reached with the land owner, he said. In that time, each company could also make changes in their proposals, reflecting the recent change of land available for redevelopment. One way to do that would be to construct the redevelopment in phases, he said.

"For us, this process has been a dream of creating a project we can be proud of 50 years from now," Scott said. "A six month deferral of evaluation is the best alternative. It doesn't cost the town anything, but it preserves the efforts of our year-long process."

Representing Clark Ventures, LLC, Bill Sawicki urged council to move forward with one developer, reminding council the "longer your redevelopment is delayed, the more it will cost."

If council moves forward with one developer, further land negotiations could be discussed between Ashwell and the development company, he said. Currently, neither company can discuss purchase agreements for the land because of requirements surrounding the submission of proposals.

"We believe very strongly that proceeding with both teams at this point does nothing to help in the land assemblage in the future," he said.

The first company to propose a redevelopment plan, Clark Ventures representatives submitted their application at the end of July 2005. By the end of September 2005, Herndon Station LLC had submitted its application.

The submitted plans are drastically different, but include a cultural arts center, residential units, commercial office spaces and public parking, among other things.

Council is set to discuss the item during its Feb. 21 work session.