Prince William’s Board of Supervisors moved this week to consider a plan to rezone 300 acres in the county’s rural crescent, a change that could allow a developer to add 100 more new homes than is allowed under current zoning policy.
The board voted 5-3 in favor of a comprehensive plan amendment tied to the proposed Mid-County Parks & Estate Homes development. Supervisors Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge; Pete Candland, R-Gainesville; and Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, voted against the measure.
The amendment now heads to the planning commission for further consideration before it will return to the board of supervisors for a final review.
If passed, the amendment will rezone 300 acres zoned “agricultural and estate” and “environmental resource” to “semi-rural residential” and “parks and open space.” The parcel is located in the mid-county area, west of Va. 234 near where Classic Springs Drive, Honeysuckle an Counselor roads dead-end.
The amendment would allow developer Mark Granville Smith to construct up to 100 more homes than is currently permitted under the county’s rural preservation policy, which allows only one home per 10 acres on agricultural land and doesn’t permit connections to public sewer.
By contrast, semi-rural residential zoned land allows one home per 1 to 5 acres and allows connections to the public sewer line. The amendment proposes adding 120 acres of semi-rural residential land to the property in addition to 20 acres of existing semi-rural residential land.
The amendment was first proposed in 2012 but has been delayed while the planning commission and supervisors consider proposed changes to the rural chapter of the Prince William County Comprehensive Plan. In 2018, county staff recommended the proposed amendment be approved, but the board voted against the idea.
“We simply wish to have our case heard and have our day in court,” Granville Smith said during the board’s Dec. 3 meeting. “We shouldn’t have to wait for a new board.”
About 10 county residents spoke against the proposed comprehensive plan amendment during the meeting’s citizens’ time. Several residents expressed concerns that additional homes would contribute to the county’s already congested roads and schools.
“It would triple the density and bring sewer into the rural area,” said Kim Hosen, director of the Prince William Conservation Alliance. “I would urge you not to issue any CPAs that would change the rules of the rural area.”
Supervisor Marty Nohe, R-Coles, said approving the comprehensive plan amendment would open up the process for public input from county residents. The proposed development is located in the Coles District.
“I know this is a controversial issue,” Nohe said. “We’re not voting on whether the boundaries of the rural crescent should be changed. We’re not voting on whether houses should be built. We’re just voting on whether or not the applicant should be able to move forward to bring the project to an up-or-down vote.”
Nohe emphasized that the project wouldn’t come up for a vote until after the new board takes over in 2020. The new board will have five new faces and will be the first board in decades to have more Democrats than Republicans.
Candland, who voted against the measure, said the board should wait until after the rural preservation study is complete before initiating a comprehensive plan amendment.
“We should be following our land-use policies when it comes to the rural crescent,” Candland said. “This would be in violation, or contrary, to what our policies are. This should wait until the rural preservation study is done.”
The rural preservation study, which included recommendations for altering the county’s current rural crescent zoning policy, was completed in 2014 but was never implemented into the county’s comprehensive plan.
In 2018, the board requested county staff provide plans to incorporate the 2014 study into the updated comprehensive plan, a move that has provoked strong reactions from county residents who say the proposed changes would allow for unfettered development in the rural crescent.
A public hearing on the proposed changes to the policy isn’t expected until sometime in 2020.
Principi said he opposed the comprehensive plan amendment because the board hadn’t yet taken action on the proposed changes to the rural crescent policy.
“I think we’re getting the cart before the horse,” Principi said.
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