Prince William County Board chambers

Prince William County planners have released a new draft of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

The draft is largely in line with a July presentation at a Board of County Supervisors work session and reflects minor changes in response to that meeting.

The Comprehensive Plan is a guiding document for county land-use policies. While not committing the Board of County Supervisors to any decisions, it declares the county’s vision for future development.

The most substantial change in the draft is an appendix focused on guidelines for developers to include affordable housing in their projects.

County planner David McGettigan said officials are working on an affordable housing ordinance, but the appendix would be the first guidelines for developers. 

The document says about 20% of proposed developments should include affordable housing, as well as a variety of regulations about income limits and locations.

“We are looking that all residential projects should have an affordable component,” McGettigan said.

McGettigan said developers have offered affordable units on their own recently, so “it’s something that the development community is willing to do.”

One of the controversial elements of an initial proposal was to increase density in what’s known as the “rural crescent” – roughly 117,000 acres restricted to no more than one home for every 10 acres with strict prohibitions on the expansion of public sewer lines.

The draft plan called for increasing that density to one home per five acres, but planners have reverted the area to allowing one house per 10 acres.

While density proposals were reduced, the planned changes to allow expansion of public sewer throughout the county continued to move forward.

The plan avoids inclusion of the PW Digital Gateway, a proposal for data centers on 2,100 acres along Pageland Lane. It provides options for some office and retail uses in the area if the digital gateway is not approved.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the plan Sept 28 at 7 p.m. at 1 County Complex Court, Woodbridge.

 

Nolan Stout covers Prince William County. Reach him at nstout@insidenova.com or @TheNolanStout on Facebook and Twitter.

(1) comment

Bill Wright

Chair Ann Wheeler belatedly acknowledged that the Prince William Digital Gateway CPA review was “confusing” and announced a delay in bringing it to the Board of County Supervisors for a vote. Despite the obviously compromised nature of the September 14th Planning Commission public hearing, there was no mention of invalidating its recommendation or conducting a new hearing under more trustworthy conditions. So, you can expect the pause is merely designed to give weary citizens time to forget.

Now we must pivot almost immediately to another public hearing on updates to the county’s comprehensive plan this Wednesday evening.

The comprehensive plan is an exhaustive document that the average citizen cannot possibly digest and review in a single evening. We would normally rely on professional government staff and our elected officials to look out for our best interests. Unfortunately, we have very recently been reminded that they cannot be trusted to do so. It is far more likely that they intend to sneak sweetheart deals for their developer cronies past us, literally in the dark of night. Watch for developer gold mines and citizen land mines.

Unless you have the time and expertise to interpret the myriad changes, you won’t notice subtle alterations with significant impacts. Watch also for subtle zoning recharacterizations that sidestep contentious CPA reviews and surreptitiously authorize data centers where public outcry would have created obstacles. I would specifically watch for this to happen in the areas where Devlin Technology Park and John Marshall Commons were contested.

The Comprehensive Plan update is too important and sweeping to be relegated to a late-night railroading. If the Supervisors are confident of their vision for the future of this county, they should exhibit the transparency to explain it to the citizens and the courage to debate it during the upcoming 2023 election cycle.

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