The City of Manassas in Virginia has always prided itself on being a quaint little town with a historic past. But lately it’s lost a lot of that charm. Sure there’s Old Town with the First Fridays, Farmers Markets, and Holiday Parades, but all you have to do is drive twenty seconds north on Centreville Road and the picture dramatically changes.
|Excessive Development in the City of Manassas|
Two of those developments are the dual office buildings currently being built across from the NEC building on Gateway Blvd., and one of the largest land developments in the history of Manassas right next to the DMV called the Gateway Project. The City is selling this precious nature reserve, parcel by parcel, to Buchanan Partners to build yet more office buildings, retail shops, and expensive townhouses.
|Construction site with bald eagle nest on park edge|
Though they are no longer listed as endangered species, bald eagles are still protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. This means that any disturbances that result in a variation of their normal nesting patterns could be harmful and would be a violation.
In the past the adult eagles have returned to the nest throughout the day, even after their young have fledged. Now they fly off to the pond behind the DMV as soon as construction begins each morning and don’t come back to the nest until the last worker is gone. Sometimes, they don’t return at all.
|The Gateway Project by the Manassas DMV|
There are three incumbents seeking to hold on to their council seats this November: Ian Lovejoy, Mark Wolfe, and Jon Way.
Mark Wolfe, on the other hand, not only brought the vote to the table and voted to approve the Gateway Project, he also implied that he would financially benefit from the development a week later during a Comcast Newsmakers interview. He did this as well with a Manassas Ballet funding vote years prior in which he and his wife, the ballet’s artistic director, both benefited. He also attended the groundbreaking ceremony in front of the bald eagles’ nest. We strongly believe that Mark Wolfe needs to be removed from council.
Jon Way currently serves as both Vice Mayor and Council, and he also attended the groundbreaking ceremony in front of the eagles’ nest. On his website he states: “Several new, upscale, convenient residential developments, shopping centers and specialty businesses have been created with the active, supportive involvement of City Council, including myself. More are coming.” As you can imagine, we believe he needs to be replaced as well.
There are four new candidates running for Manassas City Council to take the available three seats. We wish incumbent Lovejoy to keep his, and so we asked all four newcomers about their opinions on the Gateway Project and the eagles.
Rex Parr responded: “I'm afraid that my opinion on Gateway won't change anything. That said, after trying to market that property for 20 years or more, I can understand the desire to jumpstart development. I expect the developer to protect those eagles.” We don’t believe Rex is carefully evaluating the future of the City, nor paying that close attention to what has been happening with the eagles.
Theresa Coates Ellis responded that "This mixed-use project will add more students to our school system and increase traffic.” However, through further correspondence we feel she isn't up to speed with what's been going on at the nest, even though it’s been in the papers and on several news and radio stations.
|Photo of Bald Eagle Pair by Ann McIntyre|
Even if bald eagles aren’t as important to you as they may be to others, certainly stopping the unnecessary overdevelopment of our town and surrounding areas should take priority. We can’t afford to have our representatives jump into land deals just to line their pockets in office. And no more personal favors. We need to preserve what remains of our natural environment soon, or the only greenery left will be those small trees within the medians of cement parking lots.
When you vote on November 8th, consider voting for Independent Michael Youlen, Democrat Pam Sebesky, and Republican Ian Lovejoy to get our town back on the right track. Mayor Hal Parrish, who also attended the groundbreaking ceremony in front of the eagles’ nest, is running unchallenged…but you can always Write In any other name to send him a message about what is more important. We suggest typing “Eagles” for mayor on your ballot.