By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: November 2, 2018 | 12:30 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – Nearly three months after the county approved its lease with an adventure park operator who wishes to set up shop in Prince George County, supervisors will hear from residents on an updated version of that lease during an early November public hearing.
In their late October meeting, supervisors unanimously approved advertising a November 14 public hearing to seek local comment on the multi-year lease agreement between Prince George County and Tree Time Adventures and its operator John Bogue.
This action comes after supervisors voted to table a vote on a special exception request by the park’s operators for a third time, deferring it until that same November 14 meeting. During their meeting on October 9, supervisors confirmed the delay was due to ongoing negotiations between the county and Bogue, with Supervisor Floyd Brown, Jr. remarking, “It would be unfair for us to make a final decision” until that lease is worked out to the satisfaction of both parties.
Two weeks later, the lease would be revealed as part of the request for a public hearing and, while much of the lengthy document remains unaltered, there were some notable changes to the agreement from the version approved by the county, including the size of the area that would be used within the undeveloped portions of Scott Park being eyed by Bogue and Tree Time Adventures.
In the version of the lease that was approved by the county over the summer, Tree Time Adventures would get access to “an approximately 30-acre portion of the 130-acre area” that was identified by Bogue and the county to start the park. In order to expand, the county lease would have allowed Tree Time Adventures to “[amend] the lease to add acreage from the County within the 130 [acre] tract of land if business results support such expansion.”
The proposed lease that is the subject of the November 14 public hearing all but removes the condition that would provide only a portion of the total land Bogue and Tree Time Adventures are requesting.
In this new lease provided by the county, no mention of a 30-acre starting plot is present, nor is the requirement that calls for Tree Time Adventures to return to the county to get approval before expanding within the approved 130-acre footprint based on business performance. Instead, the proposed lease explains that the entire 130-acre plot of land would see some form of improvement or development.
At the heart of the development would be Tree Time Adventures, a paid admission experience that would feature tree-top adventures, made up of obstacle courses that would make their way through the trees, along with other activities, including tightropes, jungle bridges, zip lines, and other experiences.
The paid admission venue would also feature “Junior Adventures,” which are, as described by Bogue, targeted at younger patrons or those wishing to have a less challenging experience and would be lower to the ground than the flagship tree-top attractions.
Tree Time Adventures would also utilize the ground below and around the experiences within the paid admission area, featuring ground courses, including military-style fitness trails.
This new lease for which the public will be able to comment on during November 6’s hearing explains, in addition to the paid experience at Tree Time Adventures, the surrounding acreage around the park but within the 130 acres would also see developments that would be free for the community and not require admission to the park to partake in.
Within the document, it states, “Nature and fitness trails and disc golf course shall remain admission free except when special events and/or tournament play has been scheduled.”
According to the lease, the trails that would run beyond the Tree Time Adventures paid experience would be free, along with disc golf but disc rental or sales would be done by Tree Time Adventures.
The county will still have a say in the development of the 130 acres where Bogue’s adventure park will be, with the new agreement stating the county “must approve a ‘phasing’ schedule for any construction after the initial 12 months” where the park is being developed.
During the July 2018 public hearing on the county’s version of the lease agreement, some residents said they wanted to see portions of the park developed in such a way that visitors would be able to take advantage of trails and paths for walking and biking, but without having the pay admission to Tree Time Adventures, noting there are few options for such free trails locally, pointing to areas north of the county, such as Chesterfield where those recreation options exist.
Another tweak was made in the hours of operations portion of the new agreement shown during last week’s meeting. While the core tenets of the lease remain to allow the park to operate anywhere between the time of dawn to dusk – which county officials stressed does not mean the park will be open from sunrise to sunset, only that the park can set its window of operating hours between that time frame – language in the county’s lease from the summer has been removed that required “any modification of the hours of operation or seasonal ‘shutdown’ periods or closure for inclement weather” to be approved by the county.
The venue would remain subject to the terms of the county’s noise ordinance as part of its operations as both the hours of operation and noise were two of the primary concerns of residents living in the Branchester Lakes subdivision that adjoins Scott Park.
Tree Time Adventures would still be allowed to serve alcohol for private special events within the guidelines of the state alcohol beverage control special event regulations.
Bogue and the park would also still be required to construct, at their own expense, an access road that is consistent with Virginia Department of Transportation standards and parking area within the first 12 months of the lease, along with a modular facility where park staff will work out of for Tree Time Adventures.
One of the last changes between the newly presented lease and the version approved on the county’s end over the summer regards lease termination. In the county’s version, Prince George could terminate the lease “with 90-days notice to Tree Time Adventures for failure to comply with the material terms” of the lease.
In the version presented last week, the time period has been bumped up from 90 days to 120 days, with the addition that the Tree Time Adventures’ “failure to comply with the material terms of the lease” had to have continued “for ten days after written notice from the county” before the lease can be terminated.
Within both versions, Bogue would still be required to perform a “de-installation” of the equipment and return the land “to as similar condition as existed before the property was leased as is reasonably practical.” Additionally, the leases state, should the lease be terminated by the county within the first five-year term, which would run from Dec. 1, 2018, until Dec. 31, 2023, Prince George would have to refund Tree Time Adventures “50 percent of the cost of constructing the access road and parking area.”
Following next week’s public hearing, supervisors will have a decision on their hands, to either approve or not approve both the proposed lease and the special exception request, with the latter having been delayed three times due to ongoing negotiations.
According to county officials, should the board decide not to approve either the special exception request or lease agreement, the project would be unable to move forward, noting it is possible to have one without the other.
Residents will be able to weigh in on the proposal during next week’s public hearing, which is scheduled during the board of supervisors’ regular meeting on Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. The public hearing will be heard at 7:30 p.m.