New development could come to Prince William County’s Rural Crescent as part of a broader refresh of development rules — and the final decision will probably be up to the new board of supervisors elected in November.

Extending across southern and western parts of Prince William from Quantico Marine Corps Base to Nokesville to Bull Run Mountain and communities northwest of Manassas — the Rural Crescent was created in 1998 to preserve open space and environmental and cultural resources, respect the rights of landowners, and promote available farmland through easements and agritourism, according to county planning staff . Development is currently limited to one unit per 10 acres.

As part of the scheduled review of the county’s comprehensive plan for zoning and development guidelines, planners were tasked with a review of the Rural Crescent guidelines. Choices laid out by planning officials offer a mix of targeted development, either in clusters or on the edges of the region; the purchase of development rights; and no change at all to the county’s policies.

“The range of alternatives that we brought forward represented comments and feedback we received during public meetings, including property owners in the rural area,” said Rebecca Horner, the county’s planning director.

The planning department will make a formal proposal on the future of the Rural Crescent at a community meeting on Sept. 24, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Hylton Performing Arts Center.

The planning commission would then host a public hearing on the plan before the end of the year, Horner said, and would eventually forward a recommended plan to the board of county supervisors for approval.

Prince William County planners are weeding through a few options for development in the Rural Crescent. 
Making no changes8,869 2,783 0
Clustering development 8,873-16,149 2,784-5,067  8,145-13,759
Trading development rights 8,423-33,115 2,643-10,390 23,889+

Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, said the proposed changes would stretch limited money for roads and schools, requiring new investment in the Rural Crescent.

“It makes no sense to develop the rural area to preserve the area,” Lawson said. “This is essentially a rural development plan, not a preservation plan.”

The Rural Crescent currently has 7,827 homes, and it could potentially see an additional 2,783 homes without any changes to the county’s rules, according to staff. Clustering development could mean up to an additional 5,067 new housing units.

The crescent covers about 117,000 acres, including 42,111 acres of protected land and the Marine Corps Base Quantico, according to a planning staff presentation made July 30.

That restriction on development contrasts with other areas in the county, such as Woodbridge, where depending on zoning, density ranges from 1 to 4 homes per acre to 30 to 60 homes per acre, Horner said.


Options include clustering subdivisions, which would keep residential units together while dedicating part of the land as a conservation easement so it cannot be developed in the future.

One of the “rural cluster” options would bring 2,784 additional residential units and 8,145 acres of open space, and the other could bring 5,067 additional residential units and 13,749 acres of open space.

Those plans would mean the Prince William County Public Schools could see anywhere from 1,815 to 3,303 new students.

Also, county staff are considering an option that would allow landowners to sell development rights to developers looking to build on the edges of the Rural Crescent. The landowner’s property would be preserved, while the builder’s site would be open to more development than currently allowed.

That would add 2,643 to 10,390 possible additional residential units, but staff say open space could increase by 23,176 to 23,889 acres.

Finally, another option would allow landowners to sell their development rights to the county in exchange for agreeing to place the land in a permanent conservation easement for farming or open space.

Staff estimate the value of agricultural land per acre in the rural area is $13,000, Horner said, adding the county could apply for limited conservation grants to help with the purchase of land in the rural area.

“My understanding is there is a few hundred thousand dollars per year that could be split between all jurisdictions in Virginia,” Horner said.

Reactions to the possible changes have been varied. The Rural Crescent Preservation Coalition, which reportedly is comprised of 300 landowners and other county residents, supports some of the proposed changes, purchasing development rights, transferring rights to the Rural Crescent border, and keeping the one unit per 10 acres currently allowed, while providing access to public sewer, among other options, according to a letter from the coalition to county officials.

Mark Granville-Smith, a coalition member and home builder, said the options can preserve agriculture in the county and encourage agritourism.

“This is an opportunity to preserve open space,” he said.

Granville-Smith owns property in the rural crescent that includes a working farm. He said he would like to cluster development on a portion of his property so he can preserve a majority of the land for the farm.

“We’re willing to dedicate space in exchange for [access to public] sewer,” he said.

In a letter to county supervisors, the Prince William Conservation Alliance, the Nokesville Civic Association, the Mid-County Civic Association and the Coalition to Protect Prince William County state their support for the purchase of development rights program, while saying the other proposed changes do not meet the goals of preserving the rural crescent. The groups said they are against allowing increased density in the rural crescent and allowing access to public sewer.

Keeping development limited in the rural crescent means the county’s funding for infrastructure can be spent in the county’s developed areas, like Woodbridge, said Kim Hosen, Prince William Conservation Alliance’s executive director. “It’s our opportunity to play catch up with infrastructure in the east.”

(8) comments


"Here's an idea. We've got overcrowded schools, clogged roads, and an unsustainable skew toward residential taxes. Let's ... wait for it .... wait for it ..... change our zoning to add more kids to those schools, more cars to those roads, and create even more tax-neutral and tax-negative housing. So we get worse. Faster." Seriously, folks, we live in Hazzard County, just with higher-priced consultants.


Just for fun...wanna see a developer froth at the mouth and get totally giddy? Tell him the rural crescent may finally be open for his destruction! Our leaders do such a crummy job with allocating funds and obtaining funds for roads schools and essiential services, but they sure take care of themselves. Their new tool is to insist that votes go their way or alternative plans get dropped...opoose them at your own perial (example: Candland buked the powers that be and his road work from key intetesections got dropped...shocking) So with this growth and more cars on the roads we'll have more kids in over crowded schools, more water being sucked out of the ground affecting wells, more cars on the roads that cant be fixed, more needs for fire and police and of course the dire need for more 7-11's! Opening up the crescent is a dumb and expensive idea. BUT in true bureaucrat fashion, the tax increases are not discussed just like the pending parks plan we will vote on soon...there is NO MONEY for those plans so guess what your taxes must rise. But wait there's more good development news...a Hazel Development employee is running against Candland...I am sure he want to preserve the crescent. PWC, a county where good living comes to die!


There are some critical key points that must be addressed.

First and foremost. The Rural Crescent was created as a land use tool to control out of control sprawl. The Rural Crescent is an urban growth boundary that not only ensures protecting green space, but more importantly, ensures that critical infrastructure dollars are invested in the areas with the highest population nodes, like Woodbridge. That is the meaning of smart growth.

Second, there is NO credible plan to actually save any open space in either the cluster plan or TDR plan that would not be developed later. Enforceable Conservation Easements require a third party land trust and the county provided no actual plan or even identified what recognized Conservation organization would be willing to hold property as small as 12 acres! All these proposals do is save the space to be developed some time down the road, and that is probably a very short road!

These Rural Cluster Plans and TDR's are, at their core, the worst kind of sprawl. Not only will open space be lost, tax dollars wasted on building the infrastructure in the rural area to support all this growth, but areas further east in our County will go neglected.

Prince William County's Board of Supervisors and Planning Director were truly prescient when they adopted the Rural Crescent in 1998. Given our financial challenges with infrastructure and our growing environmental challenges, never before has the Rural Crescent been more relevant.

These proposals by staff do NOT serve the best interest of all Prince William County residents, they only server the few looking to cash out at everyone else's expense.

It's time for this county to embrace the Rural Crescent! Adopt a robust PDR program, promote 21st century agro tourism, support a robust farming initiative and be the County in Northern Virginia that is able to showcase our diversity, on every level. There is no other county as beautiful and as diverse. From our Potomac Shore to our Bull Run Mountains...from our more urban communities to our rural countryside.


“The range of alternatives that we brought forward represented comments and feedback we received during public meetings, including property owners in the rural area,” said Rebecca Horner, the county’s planning director.

Approximate translation: We spoke with Mark Granville-Smith, a handful of farmers and Don Taylor, asked them what they wanted, pretended to solicit public input and then crafted a plan to fulfill Mike and Don's desires. As a side note, we had Chris Price personally shred the hundreds of "sticky notes" left on our presentations at public meetings last year and forward the thousands of emails we received opposing our plans to a dead email address.

marie gilvey

what about adding a nice park where family can walk and enjoy the nature and can do some run that it is very good for your health, I did move to prince william because it was quiet, nice and not so busy, if I know 25 years that it will be crazy maybe I will not have move here

marie gilvey

It look like some people has to much time on there end that they want to destroy forest, nature and build more and more that we involve more traffic and not only adding more problem to global warming


Keep the rural crescent rural. Politicians talk about smoothing traffic woes on Rte. 28 yet they increase the number of solo occupant vehicles jamming the roads by building the outer fringe of the suburbs with more homes.


U.S. population was 140 million in 1945...will be 335 million in 2020...will be 400 million in 2045. No one in any decision making position cares about the food supply in 25 years, never mind the food supply in 50 years. They just want to pack more of everything into already packed cities, towns, and counties.

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