Prince William County is considering easing regulations in certain areas to encourage distribution and fulfillment centers.
County staff provided an update on an overlay district that would remove regulatory hurdles for the businesses during a Planning Commission work session earlier this month, with commissioners concerned about costs.
An overlay district allows certain land-uses on top of base zoning designations in targeted areas.
The Board of Supervisors initiated a zoning text amendment for such a district in 2017 and it reached a hearing in 2018, according to county planner Alex Stanley. At the time, county staff deferred action to further hammer out the proposal.
Stanley said the county’s current zoning code doesn’t define distribution and fulfillment centers or neighborhood retail and fulfillment centers.
Stanley said the district would create by-right uses to reduce regulatory hurdles. The regulations would be different for large facilities like an Amazon warehouse compared to a UPS Store.
Commissioners pointed out that by-right uses wouldn’t come with contributions from developers that can be associated with rezonings or special-use permits and are used to mitigate impact on traffic or county services. The panel said the county needs to consider if the tax revenue would offset the lost revenue from those investments.
Stanley said it’s difficult to nail down a number, but staff would try to run the figures.
“I think we need to have some real numbers attached to this even if they’re based on a bunch of assumptions so we know the tradeoffs,” said Coles Commissioner Joseph Fontanella Jr.
Tom Flynn, the county’s director of business development and investment, said the businesses are part of advanced logistics, which is an industry the county has targeted. He said targeted industries receive reduced site plan fees and are eligible for cash grants through an opportunity fund.
Flynn said that in 2017, 5,470 county residents were working in advanced logistics across 441 businesses at an average salary of $65,685. He said the industry was expected to grow 11% between 2017 and 2022.
Many of the county’s distribution centers are in the Balls Ford Road area. Flynn highlighted two last-mile delivery stations Amazon opened in Gainesville and Manassas in 2020.