The just-released 2019 build-out analysis and population projections for 2040 reveal that Prince William County is already over-planned for excessive development.
Worse, county officials are considering authorizing even more housing beyond needs projected for the next 20 years. Authorizing more houses, especially at inappropriate locations such as The Preserve at Long Branch, is called "dumb growth" for a solid reason.
The numbers are important, and they are clear. The county’s existing comprehensive plan authorizes the construction of over 35,000 additional residential dwelling units in addition to over 156,000 units already built. Those 35,000 new houses, apartments and condos could accommodate 115,5000 more residents based on today's average of 3.22 people per household.
However, Prince William only needs to allow 31,500 more housing units to accommodate the 101,400 more residents that county demographers expect in 2040.
Bottom Line: No new housing needs to be added to the existing county plans to meet 2040 population growth projections. There is no "need" for new housing.
Still, it would be smart to plan for new development at a few selected spots within the part of the county termed the “development area,” which lies east and south of what is known as the “rural crescent.” For years, the county’s strategic plan has said we want to create walkable live-work-play communities.
Prince William defined six “activity centers” as places to grow back in 2013. Dumfries/Triangle and Yorkshire would also qualify if high-capacity transit (i.e., bus rapid transit) was planned there.
County staff's initial budget for fiscal years 2021-22 proposes funding to revitalize commercial areas. That is a positive start, but revitalizing an area is like raising children; years of steady effort are required. Supervisors need to select just a few areas, define them in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, and then start the process of making the strategic plan come true in Prince William.
It will take more than words in a bureaucratic plan or a politician's campaign speech to revitalize areas.
County supervisors could incentivize public-private partnerships to create walkable live-work-play communities at the six to eight “activity centers.” Directing the majority of new transportation and other infrastructure funding in the capital improvement program to a few specific areas will also protect the existing neighborhoods in the rest of the development area (and the rural area) from disruption.
Follow the money; follow the votes. The last board of county supervisors stuck to the outdated dumb growth approach used since 1949. The new board has the opportunity to show that they didn't just change the faces, they are changing the direction.