by Nikita Stewart, The Washington Post

17 March 2005, p. T1

“The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted Tuesday to allow plans for two major developments on both ends of the county to go forward, despite county planners’ advice to reject them.

“The votes simply allow the county’s Office of Planning and Zoning to continue reviewing the proposals, which could alter Prince William’s long-range Comprehensive Plan. The board could still reject the projects.

“The projects include more than 6,000 houses in Brentsville, dubbed the Brentswood Community, and a high-end retail mall and luxury apartments in Woodbridge, proposed by the owners of outlet mecca Potomac Mills Mall. In addition, the board approved two other residential projects in Brentsville and a third in Coles.

“Voting 4 to 4, the board rejected a plan to build 365 houses in Brentsville despite the developer’s offer to realign Vint Hill Road, a project that the county might have to take on. Supervisors Maureen S. Caddigan (R-Dumfries), Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles), Corey A. Stewart (R-Occoquan) and John T. Stirrup Jr. (R-Gainesville) rejected the project.

“The board never even considered a property owner’s request to build 10 houses on 15 acres in the Rural Crescent, although county planners urged supervisors to approve the application because the property is surrounded by dense development.

“Stirrup, who represents the area, refused to sponsor the measure, and no other supervisor took up the request. Stirrup said he had to protect the Rural Crescent, the 80,000-acre swath that is supposed to preserve open space through sparse development and no sewer lines.

“He said a friend calls the rural area the ‘rural croissant — it’s just being eaten away bit by bit.’

“The afternoon meeting, usually attended by just a few county employees, drew defenders of the Rural Crescent and residents who support development. They duked it out on the microphone with three-minute speeches to supervisors.

“Elena Schlossberg-Kunkel of Advocates for the Rural Crescent said that amendments to the Comprehensive Plan threaten the rural area’s boundary, and that the board has not had enough public discussion about the amendments.

” ‘There either is a Rural Crescent line or there isn’t,’ Schlossberg-Kunkel said.  ‘Let’s be upfront about it.’

“Dick Schneider, 69, who lives in Heritage Hunt in Brentsville, said he favored the proposed Brentswood Community because it offers ‘an unparalleled opportunity’ to resolve the area’s transportation woes.

“Voting 5 to 3 for the Brentswood Community project in Brentsville, the board was swayed by developer Brookfield Homes’ promise to provide more than $100 million in road improvements before it completes the 20-year project. Brookfield Homes has said it would extend carpool lanes on Interstate 66 by nearly two miles, widen the interchange at I-66 and Route 29, and build an overpass that would get rid of a railroad grade crossing on Route 29 that ties up traffic and is often the scene of crashes.

“Nohe, who voted for the project, said smart growth advocates are continually saying that roads, schools and other infrastructure should come before development. ‘This developer is calling our bluff,’ he said.

“Stirrup, who said publicly last week that the project should be considered, said it was a ‘difficult decision’ but voted against it Tuesday because of the impact 6,000 houses could have.

“County planners predicted that the number of vehicle trips on roads in the area would triple.

“Stirrup was joined by Caddigan and Stewart. Stewart has opposed every project except the proposed Potomac Center, which could bring upscale shopping and 433 apartments just across from Potomac Mills.

“Supervisor Hilda M. Barg (D-Woodbridge) said she received numerous calls and e-mails of support for the Potomac Center project from residents who are tired of driving out of the county for ‘a decent outfit.’

“County planners had opposed the project because the Comprehensive Plan calls for the land to be used for office space.

“Barg said Mills Corp. of Arlington is in talks with Hecht’s to be one of the stores but could not reveal others that are part of negotiations.

“Caddigan said the board should define ‘high end.’  She noted that May Department Stores Co., which owns Hecht’s, is merging with Federated Department Stores Inc., the owner of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Caddigan said one of Potomac Center’s anchor stores might be Macy’s.

” ‘I don’t really consider that upscale,’ she said.

“Barg said discussions will continue with Mills.”