[image: Manassas Park Shopping Center furniture store, proposed gambling site] The 2004 referendum in Manassas Park on an Off-Track Betting Facility was presented to the voters as an opportunity to gain some additional tax revenue with the only change to the center of the city’s business district being a change of occupants at one space in Manassas Park Shopping Center. Citizens were told that the plan was for a furniture store at the mall to be replaced by a betting parlor.
It appears that was a deliberate and intentional lie by the Manassas Park City Council and Colonial Downs.
[picture: proposed development, as presented to the voters] I had the opportunity to speak with former member of the planning commission Gene Crabill this weekend, who sat on the board for eleven years. He told me that he was shown a set of blueprints before the 2004 referendum showing the complete demolition of the mall and the construction of a parking deck and expanded facility that encompassed a much larger area than the current mall. An audio recording of the president of Colonial Downs confirms this story. Interestingly enough, Gene Crabill happens to live just behind that mall on Scott Drive, and related a story where a representative of Colonial Downs visited him and offered him $900,000 for his house — about three times it’s value at the time — if the referendum passed. This sort of offer was also extended to other residents on Scott Drive as well as part of a plan to expand the size of the parcel and provide the opportunity to entirely transform the center of the city. The full development plan added several development phases to the current mall, culminating in a huge facility entirely devoted to gambling, complete with parking structures and several hundred thousand square feet for food service and entertainment, as well as gambling.
The real development plan, not the one shared with the voters, appears to have made it’s way to members of the planning commission and certainly to members of the city council who must have been fully briefed on the Phase 3 development plan which would have transformed Manassas Park into a locality centered on a huge gambling facility. The entire character of the city would have been changed had the referendum passed, but in order to not frighten the voters it’s pretty clear that a lie was presented which made the off-track gambling facility a relatively innocuous renovation of a furniture store into a small betting parlor. A small change in the character of the city might have been tolerable, whereas a complete transformation of the city into a Northern Virginia version of Las Vegas on the cheap certainly would have not. ‘When you can’t possibly win on the truth, try to win on a lie’ appears to have been the plan.
The deliberate misrepresentation of material facts involving a referendum by public officials is an enormous breach of the public trust. It is not only unethical to lie to voters about the results of referendum being approved, but it may well be illegal for public officials to present a set of false “facts” surrounding a ballot initiative knowing full well that those “facts” are false. Opponents of the 2004 referendum noted that much of the evidence presented by Colonial Downs and city officials in support of the referendum — issues like parking requirements, tax revenues, and business revenues — didn’t make complete statistical or financial sense. But if we consider the whole-scale redevelopment of the center of Manassas Park as a component of this project, some of these inconsistencies do start actually making sense. The evidence seems to support a conclusion that a different reality was intended for the city, and this different, secretly held reality dovetails with the statistics and information that referendum supporters have provided. That city officials and representatives of Colonial Downs appear to have deliberately lied to voters about the scope of the planned off-track betting facility planned for Manassas Park is the only conclusion that appears to fit the facts.
And those of you out there talking about slots in Virginia? Take heed of the results of even proposing gambling in Manassas Park. You tread a very dangerous path.
UPDATE: The name of the parcel has been corrected.
The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.
You can follow the discussion through the Comments feed.