Citizens for Balanced Growth

Category: Centers of Community/Commerce

Innovation Park gets a makeover

by Tara Slate Donaldson, The Gainesville Times

12 January 2012, pp. A1, A2

“Changes will soon be coming to Innovation Park in light of Tuesday’s approval of a new sector plan for the area.

“Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart (R) hailed the redevelopment plan, which he said will give George Mason University ‘a real college campus,’ complete with student housing and restaurants.

“The sector plan creates a high-density ‘center of commerce’ district on the university’s campus around the Prince William Parkway at University Boulevard.

“That area is already set aside for high-tech business and education as part of Innovation, the county’s business park that is anchored by the university.

“Now, the area will also feature retail, offices, hotels and housing.

“Planning Commissioner Kim Hosen said on Tuesday that she had voted against the sector plan when it came before the commission, because the transportation plans ‘aren’t in sync’ with the reality of the development.

” ‘But that is a great place for high-density,’ she added.

“Stewart later agreed with one of Hosen’s concerns, the location of a planned VRE station. Early plans indicate that the station could not feasibly be built inside the actual campus but would have to be constructed further west.

“While he said that situation isn’t ideal, he added that it’s too soon to know for sure about the location.

“Hosen said that uncertainty over transit plans was one of her major issues.

“However, the sector plan was approved without opposition on Tuesday.

“That vote was an easy opening for the board meeting which ended in contention after an hours-long public hearing over an office development in Occoquan.

“That proposal generated a huge outcry from town residents who packed both the Board Chambers and the lobby on Tuesday night.

“Residents had a number of concerns, ranging from transportation to recent flooding problems that they fear may be made worse by more development.

“However, the crux of the issue was the character of the town and what many characterized as the developer’s lack of responsiveness to community concerns.

” ‘He is counting on the Board of County Supervisors to bail him out from poor planning and bad community relations,’ said Occoquan Mayor Earnie Porta.

“On the other hand, the proposal does include a conservation easement, which supporters say helps make it a far better plan than any earlier development request for that site.

“Not many people spoke up in favor of the idea, but former Supervisor David Rutherford was one.

” ‘I don’t think the county will ever get a better proposal than this one,’ he said.

“In the end, the debate among supervisors came down to community relations versus jobs.

“Occoquan Supervisor Mike May (R) opposed the proposal because the developer had not engaged in the proper ‘give-and-take’ negotiations with the town and had not tried hard enough to earn community support through concessions.

“But Stewart supported the measure because, he said, the county needs more jobs.

“He pointed out that two-thirds of county residents commute to other jurisdictions to work, which means the county only has one-third of the jobs it needs to support its population.

“The only way to solve that problem and the accompanying traffic congestion is to build more offices, he said.

“After failed attempts to kill or defer the plan, it eventually passed, 5-3. May voted against it, as did Woodbridge Supervisor Frank Principi (D) and Coles Supervisor Marty Nohe (R).”


Per county Planning Staff e-mail dated 11 April 2012, immediately “below please find the link(s) to, Comprehensive Plan Amendment #PLN2011-00249; Innovation Sector Plan Chapter Update to the Comprehensive Plan, approved by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors on January 10, 2012.”

Innovation Sector Plan Chapter Update | Link to Innovation Sector Plan Chapter Update on county website

Official Information from 2008 County Website:

Centers of Commerce/Community (2008)

County summary of intent of Centers of Community concept

County summary of intent of Centers of Community concept (previously on county website, but county has since removed links)

Centers of Community should be neighborhood centers for residents to live, shop, dine, recreate, and congregate. Centers of Community are to be overlay designations on the Long Range Land Use Map, proposed with the 2008 Land Use and Housing Update. The concept was developed by the Land Use Advisory Committee, and its purpose is to allow a mechanism by which Smart Growth can be implemented in select areas of the County.
Centers of Community, as shown on the Long Range Land Use Plan Map, should be located at or near the intersections of principal arterials and/or major collector roads, transit hubs, and commuter lots, and should generally encompass land within 1/2 mile of the center. Characteristics of Centers of Community should include internal pedestrian walkability, local serving retail and office uses, and a range of housing types and densities. See maps below for proposed locations of Centers of Community:

Ashdale

Aerial Map

Long Range Land Use Map

Zoning Map

Bristow/Broad Run

Bull Run

Chinn Park

Dale City

Fairgrounds

Forest Park

Hunter’s Wood

Aerial Map

Lake Manassas

Mapledale

Marumsco

Piedmont Station

 
 

Portsmouth Station

Prince William Commons

 
 

Signal Hill

Somerset Crossing

Aerial Map

Staples Mill 

Aerial Map

University Village

 
 

 Yorkshire

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Prince William County construction plan addressed

PW Pulse, 9 October 2008, p. A7

The Committee [of] 100’s October 1 meeting at Manassas’s Sheraton Four Points addressed Prince William County’s Comprehensive Plan for ‘Smart Growth’ development affecting construction through the year 2030. The comprehensive plan proposes 19 ‘Centers of Community’ and six regional ‘Centers of Commerce.’ Panelists included Ray Utz, PWC’s Chief of Long Range Planning; Bob Marshall, 13th District Delegate to the General Assembly; Stewart Schwartz, founder, Coalition for Smarter Growth; Michael Vanderpool, Land Use Attorney. Peter Galuszka, award-winning journalist and blogger at ‘Bacon’s Rebellion,’ moderated the forum.

“According to the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], ‘Smarth Growth’ covers a range of develoment and conservation strategies that help protect the environment and make communities more attractive, economically stronger, and more socially diverse. In PWC, Smart Growth refers to the latest trend in planning and is generally defined as vibrant, walkable, environmentally sensitive communities providing public transportation and preserving farmland, thus reducing sprawl. According to Vanderpool, mixed use development with housing, condos, work places, and shopping conveniently located within walking distance represent a preferred layout by young professionals. Vanderpool described PWC’s previous planning as ‘Post WWII’ in which land was segregated into housing, work, and retail space, thus demanding private transportation. He contended that this land is better developed as centers versus ‘more of the same’ since the land will be developed one way or another.

“In conjunction with Utz’s staff, a group of citizens appointed by the Board of County Supervisors proposed the Centers of Commerce and Centers of Community. Delegate Marshall addressed potential inappropriate voting by Citizen Advisory Board members. According to law, board members with conflicts of interest must abstain from voting. Delegate Marshall also criticized what he viewed as lack of communication with the public about this process. Two thousand postcards containing limited information were mailed out only to residents living near planned centers. Utz said, however, that the information was released to the press and made available on the county’s website.

“Citizens cited the backlog of new and foreclosed homes as well as other current unused buildings. Schwartz said there were no easy answers but that recevelopment of existing empty lots and buildings should be considered over more build-outs. Other citizens voiced the need for protecting trees, Manassas Battlefield Park, additional Civil War battlefields and historic sites. Mr. Utz, who recently received more detailed battlefield maps, said those resources were considered in developing the proposal and would be included in the long-range plans….”

Speech at PWC Planning Commission hearing on Centers of Commerce/Community

by PWCBG’s Ralph Stephenson

8 Oct 2008

Mr. Chairman, members of the Commission, my name is Ralph Stephenson. I live in the Brentsville District and represent Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth. Visit our website at pwcbg.org

The county is proposing radical changes to how it accommodates future growth by designating 25 locations in the county as “Centers of Community & Commerce (CoCs).” These are large areas (reportedly about one square mile) that are specifically planned for high-density mixed use, particularly high-density housing. According to the county website, there are 13 centers in the Haymarket, Gainesville, Bristow, Manassas area, and 12 at the east end of the county. If each of these 25 centers builds 3,000 houses on average, which is about the same density as the infamous 2006 Brentswood Project, and assuming the county’s average of about three people per house, that would total 225,000 more people, a 62% increase in the county’s population. Yet, it will take many, many years to work off the county’s current glut of thousands of foreclosed and unsold houses, plus the 25-30,000 already-approved-but-not-yet-built, at last count. In whose interest is it to plan even more, massively more housing now?

Citizens might be interested to know that two of the main authors of this plan are leading members of the Prince William County developer community who may have a direct business interest (most would call it a major conflict-of-interest) in land involved in the plan, owning some of the land proposed for development. Citizens might also be interested to know that making this plan part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, as proposed, will apparently effectively bypass the former approval and public hearing process, and fast-track CoC development projects for expedited approval.

Let me depart from my prepared text here for just a moment to say that this plan has not been well publicized. I’m on all the county’s mailing lists and never received any word of this plan until I began burrowing into the most recent proposed Comprehensive Plan amendments and noticed it buried there and also heard about it through e-mails from other concerned citizens.

This plan should not be allowed to slip thru without broad-based citizen input and thorough study and publicizing of its impact on: 1) traffic congestion, 2) overcrowding in schools, 3) the county property tax base, 4) property values in existing neighborhoods (oversupply drives down the value of your home), and 5) the environment. Note: Relative to the property tax base, all but the most expensive homes in the county are a net drain on county services and tax revenue. Ultimately, as taxpayers, we indirectly subsidize all the other, non-high-income housing, which the county, already glutted with thousands of foreclosed and unsold homes — and tens of thousands more approved but not yet built — doesn’t even need. And note also that the 100,000 people who would live in these houses are in addition to the 225,000, more or less, that would result from the CoC plan we’re discussing today. 325,000 more people would double the county’s current population.

It’s ironic, even bizarre, that the county is bringing this up for discussion at the very time that the U.S. is in the middle of its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, a crisis brought on by, among other things, massive housing oversupply (probably the single biggest cause), predatory and dishonest lending practices by many mortgage lenders to people who couldn’t afford the homes they were being sold, and the financially toxic effect of these millions of now-non-performing (bad) loans on the books of banks and other investors. [Forbes magazine reported 2.2 million foreclosures in the U.S. in 2007 alone.]

This plan in its current direction should go no further. But if it does, let’s demand a thorough, public study and accounting of all its true costs to taxpayers. Thank you.

Smart Growth schematic makes inroads into county

 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.”

County summary of intent of Centers of Commerce concept

County summary of intent of Centers of Commerce concept (previously on county website, but county has since removed links)

Centers of Commerce should be planned urban town centers where a variety of activities with a regional draw allows people to work, shop, dine, live, and enjoy entertainment. Centers of Commerce are to be overlay designations on the Long Range Land Use Map, proposed with the 2008 Land Use and Housing Update. The concept was developed by the Land Use Advisory Committee, and its purpose is to allow a mechanism by which Smart Growth can be implemented in select areas of the County.   
 
Characteristics of Centers of Commerce should include traffic and pedestrian circulation, connections between street activities and building use, and cohesiveness of commercial activity and scale. Centers of Commerce, as shown on the Long Range Land Use Map, should be located within easy access to major transportation hubs such as interstate highway interchanges, commuter rail stations, express bus stops, commuter parking lots, or some combination thereof. See maps below for proposed locations of Centers of Commerce:
 

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