Prince William County’s economic recovery task force is looking to revive the controversial Bi-County Parkway among its recommendations to address the economic impact of COVID-19.
That proposal and others are expected to be presented to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday afternoon.
The proposed parkway, extending the Prince William Parkway north to connect to U.S. 50 in Loudoun County, faced strong opposition from community members in the rural area.
In March 2016, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted 4-3 to shelve the project. Only two members from that period remain on the board: Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, and Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville. Both voted in support of ending the parkway effort.
The economic recovery task force is a group of 40 individuals created in April by the county’s economic development department to help with recommendations for the county's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Deputy County Executive Rebecca Horner said the recommendations are from the task force, not staff.
“Planning office and transportation department staff maintain that this policy issue should be addressed as part of the Mobility Plan update with the Comprehensive Plan update, which is projected to move forward later this year,” Horner said in an email.
The economic recovery task force is making several other recommendations for policies or programs that would require board action, according to the staff report:
-add proposed Fast Ferry project to the county’s comprehensive plan;
-eliminate penalty and set 0% interest for real estate taxes due July 15, which would apply to commercial and residential real estate taxes, The board is recommended to reinstate penalty and interest on Sept. 15;
-offer a credit for business taxpayers who use PayPal to encourage its use;
-improve development approval process;
-expand data center opportunity zone overlay district to attract future data center development;
-create childcare services office that could partner with a vendor to offer childcare and/or can coordinate services for families;
-expand internet access to rural and underserved areas in the county; and more.
SPENDING TO SUPPORT RECOVERY
At its meeting Tuesday, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors is set to consider allocating $6 million for economic recovery efforts based on recommendations made by the task force, a group formed in April by the economic development department that includes 40 people.
Staff’s proposal is for the board to dedicate $5 million of the county’s funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, to be used for economic recovery programs, and to dedicate $1 million from the county’s economic development opportunity fund for real estate development incentives and new business start up and pivot grants, according to a staff report.
The economic recovery task force’s recommendations to spend the $5 million included $1 million to $2.5 million for infrastructure and innovation grants for small businesses; $500,000 to $1.5 million for workforce reskilling and transition services; less than $250,000 for small business technical assistance; less than $500,000 for “Be Safe, Work Safe, Shop Safe” and $50,000 to $250,000 for an ambassador program, according to the report authored by Christina Winn, the county’s economic development director.
The county was allocated $41 million in CARES Act funding on May 12, according to the staff report. The funding covers “expenses associated with the provision of economic support in relation to the COVID-19 public health emergency and specifically mentions grants to small businesses,” according to the county. The board has allocated $11 million in total for economic recovery, including $5 million for a small business micro grant program which is on-going; $5 million for to be determined recommendations from the economic recovery task force; and another $1 million from the economic development opportunity fund for to be determined task force recommendations, according to the staff report.