Planning staff suggest new rules for Rural Crescent in Prince William County

Residents review proposals from the Prince William County planning staff for changes to zoning requirements in the Rural Crescent during a Sept. 24 public meeting.

Three Prince William County supervisors are looking to stop any proposed changes to the county’s Rural Crescent. 

County planning staff have been considering potential changes to the strict zoning on the western edge of the county, with the goal of creating preservation standards that go beyond simply limiting development.

The staff has forwarded options to the planning commission, which could recommend changes to the Board of County Supervisors. But that will probably be weeks after the Nov. 5 election, which is guaranteed to seat at least four new members on the eight-member county board.

Three current board members, Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, and Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, introduced a resolution Oct. 8 that would end any talk of changes. 

The resolution will be up for consideration at a meeting Oct. 15, Lawson said. She and Candland are seeking re-election Nov. 5, while Principi will not be returning to the board after losing in a Democratic primary this spring. 

Extending across southern and western parts of Prince William from Marine Corps Base Quantico and Nokesville to Bull Run Mountain and communities northwest of Manassas, the Rural Crescent was created in 1998 to preserve open space by limiting development to just one home per 10 acres.

In updating the county’s development guidelines, planners are proposing to put proactive steps in the code that would allow development on the edges of the Rural Crescent, while offering incentives for conservation easements inside the region.

The three supervisors said they do not support the proposed changes to the rural area.

“The direction of this runaway train is not good for anyone in the county,” Principi said.

Candland said they want to stop the process, claiming it will benefit only a few while affecting everyone. 

Lawson said she doesn’t support the proposed changes because they don’t live up to the promise of preserving the county’s rural area. She said developers want to extend sewer to the rural area and increase the number of permitted homes. 

The only proposed change she supports is implementing a program for the county to buy development rights on properties of at least 20 acres that would place the sites in a permanent conservation easement.

County staff has also recommended an option for property owners to transfer development rights to another site. Under this program, property owners could place their property under a permanent conservation easement, paid for by a developer who would then be able to increase the size and scope of an unrelated development beyond what is allowed by county zoning.

Staff said developers could transfer rights to limited areas in the Rural Crescent or to other locations in the county outside the Rural Crescent or even outside of the county. If rights are transferred within the Rural Crescent, a development would be limited to single-family homes on a single acre with 60% of the land dedicated in a conservation easement.

Staff also recommend creating an Arts and Agritourism Overlay District, which would allow for “arts and agritourism activities to occur in a more flexible policy environment,” according to planners.

And staff recommend the creation of a new zoning classification called Conservation Residential, which would allow for public sewer if 60% of the property is dedicated in a permanent conservation easement.

In the Nov. 5 election, Lawson is being challenged by Democrat Maggie Hansford, a speech language pathologist in Prince William Public Schools. Candland is running against Democrat Danny Funderburk, who works in learning and development for a construction firm.

After defeating Principi in June, Democrat Margaret Franklin is running unopposed for Woodbridge District supervisor on the November ballot. She is the legislative director for U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, D-Florida, and an alternate commissioner for the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission.

(5) comments


Stopping the change is impossible unless you want to make the free market a little less free.


The Democrats very badly want to develop (destroy) the rural crescent so they can turn the Western half of the county blue like they have done to the rest of the county.


Principi is a Democrat. I'm happy to see these three supervisors delaying this vote, and hopefully blocking any changes to the rural crescent, other than permanent conservation efforts.

Stop making everything red vs blue, it isn't.


Well I don't and I have not heard from the democrat for chairperson what she thinks on the subject. With 2 independents in play, she needs to explain her position.


Do you really believe, that are you just stating one of those "alternative facts"?

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