Back in 1995, when a developer conceived of a Gainesville community of 254 homes, Prince William County officials pushed builders to do something to provide recreation for area children.
The result was a $1.1 million “proffer” — a voluntary contribution that helped ensure the development’s passage — for three soccer fields in the Oak Valley neighborhood, which appeased officials and provided a place to play.
But the county never developed the fields, and most residents didn’t push the issue. Many didn’t want the additional traffic and headache that might come from a large public park.
But in a move that rankled residents who spoke to the Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday, the board allocated $65,000 to develop the fields and said they could be ready as early as fall.
Space for athletic fields in Prince William is at a premium. Although residents in the neighborhood are opposed to the fields, youth sports groups praised the move.
Scott Thoden, president of the Virginia Soccer Association, which caters to children in the area, told the board that enrollment in his programs has tripled and he has to turn people away.
“The need is urgent,” Thoden said.
Mac Haddow, president of the neighborhood homeowners association, said he has fought the fields for years. The situation is somewhat rare, he and officials agreed, because the fields are on land owned by the association.
“You don’t own that land, and you don’t have any legal right to it,” Haddow told the board. “It’s not going to be railroaded to us.”
County Executive Melissa S. Peacor said officials are bound by the development’s legal agreements and that they would work to smooth over opposition.
Supervisor Peter K. Candland (R-Gainesville) voted against allocating the money for the new fields and other projects, saying the community doesn’t support them and officials should have advised residents of their plans sooner.
The board also heard from many who are a part of a Haymarket charity called Rainbow Riding Center, a nonprofit that leases county land for therapeutic horseback riding.
The board allocated $178,398 for its improvements including paving a parking lot that must accommodate wheelchairs.
Terri Glotfelty of Bristow said she has seen a huge difference in her 9-year-old daughter since she started riding horses. Her daughter, Mary Catherine, has physical and mental developmental disabilities.
“She [normally] can’t communicate,” Glotfelty said in an interview. “But there’s something about that horse.”
The discussion came as the board allocated about $51 million in general funds and capital projects. Most of those funds were approved without much debate.
A measure proposed by Candland that would have placed stricter conflict-of-interest rules on supervisors was expected to be taken up late Tuesday night.