by Cheryl Chumley, PW Pulse

2 October 2008, pp. A12, A16

“Substantial land-use changes are in the works for Prince William County, as committee appointees, staff, and Planning Commission members prepare to send some Smart Growth strategies to the supervisors for consideration later this year.

“Smart Growth, according to the county’s proposal, is an Environmental Protection Agency schematic for development and conservation that is based on 10 major principles. Taken together, the concepts result in communities that offer plenty of open space, sidewalks for walking, environmentally-friendly building designs, mixed-use shopping and residential developments and options for transportation.

“Or, in the words of the county’s proposal: ‘Smart Growth is town-centered, is transit and pedestrain oriented and has a mix of housing, office and retail uses. It also creates open space and preserves environmental amenities and cultural resources. Additionally, because of quality architecture and site planning, these communities are generally attractive and desirable.’

“The draft recommendations will come before the Planning Commission for public hearing in October, and to the Board of County Supervisors within the weeks that follow, according to Ray Utz, chief of long range planning for the county. Of especial note, the plan calls for the creation of two overlay districts — Centers of Commerce and Centers of Community.

” ‘The Land Use Advisory Committee [LUAC] identified six centers of commerce,’ chosen largely because of their proximity to the major highways, Interstate 95 and Interstate 66, Utz said.

“And so far, 19 Centers of Community have been mapped.

” ‘It’s huge,’ he continued, in reference to the sixe of land involved. ‘Each dot on the map has about a half mile radius, and if you do the math, do the whole Pi-R squared, there’s a lot of acreage. The idea was to create opportunities for creative projects for both development and redevelopment, so what the LUAC did was try to establish these dots in areas of opportunity for change.’

“The identified areas of Centers of Commerce include spots in Gainesville, Wellington, Caton Hill, North Woodbridge and Potomac Mills. The sixth proposed area, Quantico Creek, is likely to change in scope, Utz said.

“The land areas are supposed to promote ‘high density, mixed-use development near existing and planned multi-modal transit centers that will facilitate greater use of mass transit by county residents,’ as well as provide local job opportunities, the proposal reads.

“The 19 Centers of Community, meanwhile, will provide ‘an appropriate mix of uses that meet the needs of the community,’ and developments that ‘complement the mix — at the density and intensity needed to support local transit,’ the proposal continues.

“The definitions are still somewhat nebulous. But what is clear is the process starts with the county’s adoption of a transfer of development rights [TDR] program, giving developers the ability to ‘trade’ building rights among certain parcels of land. Developers, in turn, can maximize their densities to a level that would attract mass transportation opportunities. The greater the residential and business populations, the easier it is to justify the need and costs for mass transit, in other words.

“‘The difference between the two centers is scale,’ Utz said. ‘Centers of Commerce might be multifamily, multistory, apartments only. Centers of Community are lower scale, your town houses, garden apartments. The Centers of Community is a more community-based overlay.’

“The Centers of Commerce on the other hand, are ‘neighborhood services,’ he said.

“Upon adoption, the Centers’ concepts would bring further land use regulations — via the likes of zoning and construction standards manual amendments, for example — dealing with parking, bulding architecture and design, lot sizes, trail requirements and so forth, according to the proposal.”