by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

28 October 2011, p. 47

“After Jan. 1 [2012], each magisterial district in Prince William County will have its own planning department person to handle cases, Chris Price, planning director, told those at the Mid-County Civic Association (MIDCO) meeting Oct. 20 at the Prince William County government’s development services building.

“He said each planner is working on 30 to 50 cases, scattered throughout the county.

” ‘We can’t expect them to know the players and the communities,’ the planning chief said.  Assigning planners by magisterial district will allow the planner to become ‘the go-to person,’ he added.

“Price also discussed the new consolidated public hearing process he introduced to the county Board of Supervisors’ meeting Oct. 4.  Under this process, cases that have staff and Planning Commission approval, with no community issues and with approval of the district’s supervisor, are fast-tracked through the public hearing.

“The planning director noted no staff presentation nor any presentation by the applicant or his attorney would be needed at the consolidated public hearing.

“Staff and the applicant or his attorney would be in attendance to answer questions, or to make a presentation, if the case were asked to be pulled from consolidated agenda.

“Members of the public could address the hearing if the case is on the consolidated agenda or the regular agenda.

” ‘If there are questions, the case can be pulled and put on the agenda with a full presentation,’ he reported.

“Price called the consolidated public hearings ‘a process improvement,’ adding it would allow staff to focus on the cases where there are issues to be resolved.

“He said the process also could be a negotiating tool, which could influence an applicant toward compromise in order to be placed on the consolidated agenda.

“The planning director said he was concerned that his department was spending as much presentation time at public hearings on items such as additional signs at Wal Mart as it spent on other matters.

” ‘Most jurisdictions already do consolidated public hearings.  We need to spend time on cases with outstanding concerns,’ Price claimed.

“The county’s Planning Commission puts cases on a expedited agenda, which is similar to the consolidated public hearing process.

“Martin Jeter, MIDCO president, told Price he is concerned with keeping citizens informed on what the county is doing.

“He cited the county requirement that residents within 200 feet of a special use  permit or rezoning public hearing must be notified, asserting the 200 feet should be more like 1000 feet.

“Jeter also mentioned two General Assembly bills that would remove legal advertising from daily newspapers.  He said the bills failed to pass but would be back.

” ‘I’m concerned that the casual citizen could miss out on the information,’ Jeter contended.”