by Jill Palermo,

3 September 2014

“After about two years of discussion and debate, the Prince William County Planning Commission will hold its first public hearing tonight on the controversial large-scale residential development known as Stone Haven.

“The planned neighborhood, which would span more than 860 acres in an area just south of Jiffy Lube Live, could bring as many as 1,650 new single-family and townhomes to the already crowded Linton Hall corridor.

“But the developer has also promised to reserve more than 300 acres of property for public use – including about 90 acres for the county’s13th county high school, 30 acres for a new middle school and nine neighborhood parks featuring rectangular playing fields and walking trails.

“The commission meets tonight at 6:45 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors chambers at the county’s McCoart Administration Building.

“Stone Haven initially came before the board back in March 2012, when the developer first asked for change in the county’s long-range plan to accommodate the mixed-use residential development.

“Supervisors voted down the request but directed county planning staff to meet with area residents and study the comprehensive plan amendment required for the new neighborhood, which would change the area’s designated use from agriculture and industrial business to residential and office use.

“County Planning Director Chris Price said his staff held several meetings with area residents and homeowner associations since 2012 and is recommending approval.

” ‘We think the plan is better for having the community input and we think the applicant has addressed the desires of the community,’ Price said, which include donating sites for schools, saving trees for a buffer along major roadways and providing open space for parks and environmental assets.

“Traffic concerns were also addressed, Price said. The developer agreed to connect University Boulevard and Rollins Ford Road through the new neighborhood and will limit access to congested Linton Hall Road.

” ‘They’ll have to build that infrastructure before they build those homes,’ Price added.

“But proposed plan is likely to attract its share of detractors. Members of Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth were circulating emails in recent days encouraging like-minded residents to speak out against the development, which they say will increase traffic and crowding in local schools and drain county resources.

“Jeanine Lawson, a Republican candidate running to represent the Brentsville Magisterial District on the County Board of Supervisors — either in 2015 or before if current Brentsville Supervisor Wally Covington (R) is appointed to a district judgeship – used her Facebook page to argue that a decision should be deferred because of bad timing. Because the hearing comes during a holiday week and the first week back to school, many residents might not have had time to read the 120-plus page proposal, she wrote.

“Beyond that, Lawson said she has questions about school projections and land set aside for parks.

” ‘The majority of parkland dedicated to the county appears to be land which is not usable for development – wetlands, streams and adjacent to high-voltage power lines,’ she wrote.

“Supervisor Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, also weighed in with his doubts this week.

“Candland said he doesn’t like that the plan was drawn with the old, lower proffer guidelines — permissible because it was submitted before the new, more expensive proffer rules took effect July 1 – and doesn’t think existing roadways can handle the extra traffic generated by thousands of new residents.

“Candland said he understands the school division needs the promised site for the 13th middle school but questions whether a new school would relieve overcrowding at nearby west-end high schools or just provide enough space to accommodate new students living in Stone Haven.

” ‘We keep getting ourselves behind the eight-ball. I mean, yes, we’re getting a site for the high school but we’re also adding all of those new kids,’ Candland said.

“The Board of Supervisors will have the final say on the Stone Haven comprehensive plan amendment and rezoning. The Planning Commission, which is appointed by the board, serves only an advisory role.”