Prince William County’s small-area plan for U.S. 29 is going back to the drawing board.
During its meeting Tuesday, the Board of County Supervisors unanimously voted to send the plan back to the planning department.
The plan, which has been in the works since 2017, covers about 865 acres between U.S. 15 and Va. 55, near Interstate 66 and U.S. 29. The area is largely undeveloped. It includes the Shady Inn Dance Hall, the Buckland Mills Battlefield Retreat Corridor, the Shops at Stonewall and Buckland Elementary School.
The plan primarily calls for neighborhood, low-density residential development. Planning Director Parag Agrawal said it allows one to four units per acre.
In September, Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, unsuccessfully tried to stop the process for crafting the plan over concern about potential overdevelopment near the historic Black settlement around Carver Road.
Lawson successfully directed staff to reduce the density of the proposal to protect historic areas. But that change concerned a majority of landowners who spoke at a public hearing before Tuesday’s vote because they said it would limit potential uses for their land and would reduce property values.
Those changes were the main reason the board deferred a final vote.
“I don’t like this plan,” said Supervisor Victor Angry, D-Neabsco. “This is not the direction to go; there’s another way to go.”
Much of the board’s discussion also focused on the historic nature of the settlement area. The settlement dates to the aftermath of the Civil War, when a local farmer went bankrupt and sold a portion of his land to freed African Americans who had worked or been enslaved there. The freed African Americans bought the land along Carver Road, Old Carolina Road and U.S. 29 in the Gainesville area.
Mount Pleasant Baptist Church was one of the cornerstones of the settlement.
The plan proposes designating Thoroughfare, Old Carolina and Carver roads as two-lane roads and prohibiting McGraws Corner Drive from extending west of Somerset Crossing Drive.
The plan would also include a history of the settlement area, including primary research and oral history. Staff wanted to change it to Settlement Small Area Plan to recognize the history of the community.
Lawson supported the plan as presented because it helps protect the historic area but voted to defer approval to try to find compromise. “It was neglected for far too long,” she said. “Moving forward, we have the opportunity to capture and preserve what is left.”