by Rose Murphy,Bull Run Observer

12 February 2010, pp. 47-48

“Amid a confusing flurry of last-minute changes, Prince William Board of County Supervisors Feb. 2 voted to approve the land use chapter of the county’s comprehensive plan.

“Mike May, who represents, Occoquan District on the panel, cast the only nay vote. He said he favored a vote on each of the alterations, adding he couldn’t back some of the amendments, so he would vote against the proposal.

“The update to the transportation chapter received unanimous board approval. The panel agreed to May’s change, limiting Old Bridge Road to four lanes from Colby Drive to Prince William County Parkway. The county’s department of transportation wanted it six lanes.

“Corey Stewart, board chairman, commented, ‘Old Bridge is a residential road. If it were expanded to six lanes, it would become a highway. Traffic should be on Prince William Parkway.’

“The chairman noted work on the land use and transportation chapters has been going on since Feb. 7, 2007. Virginia code requires the comprehensive plan be reviewed every five years to see if updating is needed. The county met the deadline for a technical update two years ago.

“During the past three years, the Land Use Advisory Committee (LUAC), a citizen group appointed by supervisors, presented its version of the land use chapter. This was followed by separate versions of the chapter from the county’s planning commission and planning staff.

“LUAC recommended setting up 19 centers of community and six centers of commerce throughout the county. The change accepted by supervisors Feb. 2 has three centers of commerce and one center of community, according to David McGettigan of the planning department. Centers of Commerce will be at Innovation, north Woodridge and Potomac Town Center. The center of community will be in Triangle.

“The board also agreed to two study areas, Yorkshire and the Wellington Road area.  The Wellington Road area, zoned heavy industry, could become a town center.

“The new changes to the land use chapter provide for lighted ballfields throughout the county without a public facilities review (PFR). Lights will have to be turned off within a half hour of the end of a game, McGettigan explained.

“At the February 2 meeting, supervisors approved unanimously a resolution that no property in the Linton Hall area may be rezoned for residential uses until two new elementary schools and a high school are built and open for use, and sites for another elementary school and another middle school have been acquired.

“Stewart’s land use amendments approved by the board say that buffers and setbacks along the parkway from Hoadly Road to Liberia Avenue and along Davis Ford Road must be established as part of any rezoning or special use permit (SUP) in order to protect the semirural appearance of both corridors.

“Marty Nohe, Coles District representative, was not successful with his amendments altering the semirural residential (SRR) classification in the land use chapter. He represents Coles District, home of most of the county’s SRR land.

“Supervisors voted to keep requirements for SRR the same as the 2008 comprehensive plan, which dictates one home per 2.5 acres. The SRR classification is meant to provide areas of large lot development as transition between the rural crescent and the development area.

“Nohe’s changes, first introduced at the January 19 board meeting, included single-family homes with individual single lots of a gross acre or greater. If more than one home were constructed, the average density would not exceed one unit per 2.5 acres, less the ER areas, unless the homes were clustered. With clustered homes, density would be calculated on the gross density of the project.

“Clustered development would result in density of one dwelling per 2.5 acres, and minimum lot sizes of one acre, but lots could range from a half acre to one acre to allow public natural resource facilities, Nohe contended.

“Stewart said February 3 he did not want to alter the existing SRR rules because he didn’t know how Nohe’s changes ‘would be interpreted in the future.’  He added, “the concepts of clustering could mean cut-and-fill” construction in the SRR, which the county has been able to avoid thus far.

” ‘With clustering, someone has sold the county a bill of goods,’ Steward opined.

“Nohe also wanted to see lot sizes limited to a minimum of five acres within 500 feet of the Occoquan Reservoir. His proposal for an Occoquan Reservoir protection area is better suited for inclusion in the comp plan’s environmental chapter, Stewart contended. The environmental chapter will be considered next by the board.

“The board also decided to approve out-of-turn comprehensive plan amendments (CPA) with concurrent rezoning applications. Existing policy provided that CPAs could be submitted only once a year in January.

“The chairman also had changes approved for the community employment center (CEC), regional employment center (REC), and regional commercial center (RCC) classifications. He added to each classification, ‘development shall also occur according to a phasing plan that must ensure that office, employment and lodging uses are always the primary uses within the area rezoned.’  In each category, drive-in and drive-through uses are discouraged, and residential uses are limited to no more than 25 percent of the total gross floor area of the project.

“Purpose of the CEC classification is to provide areas of low- to mid-rise offices, including government offices and especially county offices, ‘research and development, lodging and mixed use projects planned and developed in a comprehensive and coordinated way.’

“CEC projects would be at or near intersections of principal arterials or major collector roads or commercial rail stations. Residential uses will be secondary uses.

“In CEC areas, single-family attached or multi-family housing, including housing for the elderly, is allowed. Density will be six to 12 units a gross acre, minus any environmental resource (ER) areas.

“REC areas will be near and have good access to interstate highways. Main REC uses are mid-rise and/or high-rise office, including government and county offices, research and development uses and lodging or mixed-use projects.

“In REC areas, there will be multi-family housing at a density of 16 to 30 dwelling units per acre, less the ER.

“RCC areas will be near interstate highways and will be large-scale retail projects serving regional rather than a local market. Included will be regional malls, mixed-use projects and large single-user retail buildings.

“In RCC, shared or structured parking is encouraged. Housing will be multifamily with a density of 16 to 30 units per gross acre, less ER.

“Stewart explained February 3 that in mixed-use areas, the development community wanted the mix to change from 75 percent commercial and 25 percent residential to 60 percent commercial and 40 percent residential. That proposal did not pass.

“The chairman said the comp plan revisions encourage more development like Stonebridge, where Wegmans is in eastern Prince William County.

” ‘This is a mixture of retail, office and residential, and we want more of that,’ Stewart indicated.

“The developmental community also failed to get its proposal for no phasing, which would mean that, in a mixed-use project, all the residential or retail could be built first. With phasing, commercial must be the dominant use, Stewart remarked.

“The chairman added the land use chapter revisions ‘do not increase the number of residences by one house, maintain the SRR, add buffers along the parkway and Davis Ford Road and keep the Rural Crescent. We’ve made some good changes, and limited residential density.’ “