I spent some time in the older section of Manassas Park today, and while I was there talking to residents I was stunned at the number of what are essentially houses transformed into apartment buildings. One of those on Lomond Drive in Prince William County has generated an enormous amount of discussion here and the ire of a number of area residents, as well as six different zoning complaints. Of the no fewer than ten of these that I saw on streets near Costello Park, there has been little public comment. Almost all of them are in the final stages of completion, cover at least 80% of the lots on which they are situated, and are monstrosities that deeply concern their neighbors.
Residents can’t imagine how the city’s planning commission could have ever approved these, but never felt that it would be worth their time to voice their concerns to the Manassas Park government. They seem to be so used to the idea that the city government will never be responsive to their concerns that they’ve stopped trying to even ask how these decisions were made. For someone like me whose mental picture of what government is and should be includes active participation by citizens in their government, hearing over and over again that it’s useless to try to ask questions is beyond frustrating.
At one point a police officer stopped me while I was walking between houses and signing up residents for Help Save Manassas, and asked what we were doing. When I explained to him what this was all about, he expressed surprise that we’d be signing up residents in Manassas Park. “You know where you are, don’t you?” he asked, amazed that anyone would either be dumb enough, or bold enough to encourage citizens to be active in the political process. This kind of hopelessness in Manassas Park is depressing.
But the average resident does seem to be fed up, wants to see major changes, and if given some glimmer of hope that citizens who come together in order to demand change might, just possibly might be successful, they’re all for it. The reception I get knocking on doors in Manassas Park is stunning. They want change, but don’t see how to make change happen.
It appears that the best way to deliver on that hope is to start tackling the issue of these houses transformed into apartment buildings. Somewhere along the path of finding out just what in the heck is going on there is bound to be some means of demanding accountability for these incomprehensible decisions, and perhaps even a way can be found to revert these structures into what they’re supposed to be — single family homes. Any success on this front might just inspire a groundswell of residents who may then believe that there’s something they can do to restore the city of Manassas Park into what it used to be, and fend off it’s headlong rush to become a third world country.
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