Amid a rising public backlash, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors Tuesday decided against rearranging their schedule to allow the lame-duck board to vote on two high-profile land-use cases: the expansion of Dar Al Noor mosque in the Coles District and a proposed 551-home development in Brentsville District.
Public hearings for the two projects, which had already been formally advertised for the board's upcoming Dec. 3 meeting, have not yet been scheduled.
Chairman Corey Stewart, R-At Large, introduced a resolution Nov. 19 to add the public hearings to the board's Dec. 3 meeting, when the supervisors were originally scheduled to meet with the county's state senators and delegates.
County staff were directed to post signs advertising Dec. 3 public hearings for both projects, drawing criticism from several board members.
“I didn’t learn about the Devlin rezoning in the Brentsville District until the planning staff called our office on Thursday afternoon to say that the chairman had ordered the planning department to advertise the hearing for Dec. 3,” said Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville.
Stewart said in an emailed statement it was not his role to order the posting of signs advertising public hearings, and that it was an administrative process.
Lawson questioned whether it was legal to advertise the hearings before the board voted to schedule them, adding that the move “reeked of poor governing.”
Supervisor Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, called Stewart's actions “extremely irresponsible.”
Supervisor Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, said it was “unusual” to post notification signs prior to the board agreeing to a public hearing and also asked whether it was legal to do so.
The board went into closed session to discuss the proposed resolution, and ultimately voted not to hold the public hearings Dec. 3.
The proposed hearings were advertised "in compliance with the law," which requires public hearings for board actions to be advertised publicly "a certain number of days" in advance, according to county spokesman Jason Grant.
The board could still vote to schedule the public hearings before its last meeting of the year on Tuesday, Dec. 10. The board must only give seven days notice before holding such public hearings, Grant said.
Because the supervisors declined to change their schedule, they will go through with a previously scheduled legislative reception, which will include the current supervisors as well as those who were elected Nov. 5, Grant said.
Prince William’s Planning Commission recommended approving a special-use permit earlier this month for the Muslim Association of Virginia to expand its Dar Al Noor mosque and community center from 12,000 square feet to 88,276 square feet. The expansion is planned to accommodate a new K-8 school, a banquet hall and a possible medical clinic.
The expansion requires a special-use permit that still needs to be approved by the board of supervisors.
The Devlin Road residential development, approved by the planning commission over a year ago, would add 551 new homes in the Brentsville District.
The project is planned to include only single-family homes offered at a price of $600,000 or more. The community is being developed by Stanley Martin Homes on 269 acres in the area of Linton Hall Road, Devlin Road and University Boulevard.
Supervisor Marty Nohe, R-Coles, said at the Nov. 19 meeting that he wanted to vote on the development before the new board takes over in January. Nohe lost his primary bid for board chairman in May and will not return to the county board in 2020.
“This is a project I’ve been working on with this applicant for a long time and I wanted to see it get to its conclusion,” Nohe said. “My fear is that if it waits until next year until a new board is seated, it could end up being delayed a very long time.”
This story has been updated to include information from county spokesman Jason Grant and Board Chairman Corey Stewart. Reach Daniel Berti at email@example.com