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PW School Board Votes Down Opposition Statement on Development of Rural Cresent

| September 23, 2019 | 0 Comments | Education, News

In a 5:3 vote, the Prince William County School Board defeated a resolution that would have drafted a letter to the Board of County Supervisors opposing changes to the zoning policy in the Rural Crescent that could result in 7,000 more students to the school division.

The resolution brought forth by Alyson Satterwhite (Gainesville) and Willie Deutsch (Coles) also gained support from Gil Trenum (Brentsville).

During the summer, Prince William County Planning Staff proposed various alternative land-use policies for the non-development area, or “Rural Crescent” in Prince William County. This area is on the south end of the Brenstville District and extends into the Gainesville district to the west and Coles District to the east.

In that area, new residential development must be on a minimum of 10 acres, or clustering in which 60% of a property is preserved and the new homes are still single-family dwellings.

Should the supervisors vote to approve a “Transition Ribbon” within the Rural Crescent, that would allow for more homes to be built near the development area and could include sewer, opening the area to even more development

Satterwhite, who is running for school board chair, explained that it is very important to oppose these new developments because the cost would seriously disrupt their ability to continue with their current CIP plans. It would disrupt building new schools to get students out of trailers and improvements to older schools. She said this is very serious as they do not have the money for the current CIP plans as they currently stand.

Loree Williams (Woodbridge) said the school board would be overstepping its boundary, and that they could disapprove of an impact statement as they have done in the past.

Of course, she said, they oppose overcrowding schools. The supervisors know that because they say that all the time. In the future, they could comment on an impact statement, which is more in line with what they have done in the past. Chairman Babur Lateef agreed.

Lillie Jessie (Occoquan) said firstly, she disagrees with the statement in the resolution stating that the supervisors have been helpful in eliminating trailers. Chairman Babur Lateef agreed. Secondly, she said they do not have all the facts at hand.

Deutsch explained that changes to zoning could make new residential development “by right,” meaning that the school board would not have the opportunity to then comment on an impact statement as they do when a special use permit is required. “It’s our only time to act,” he said, regarding the Rural Crescent.

He added that a resolution affecting other parts of the county or county-wide could be discussed at a subsequent meeting.

Would Keeping the Rural Crescent as Is, Negatively Affect the Eastern End of the County? 

Williams added the resolution is too narrowly focused on the Rural Crescent. In her District, Supervisor Frank Principi (D-Woodbridge) is approving new apartments “at lightning speed,” so perhaps a county-wide resolution would be more fitting.

Perhaps significant is that another alternative for the Rural Crescent is the transferring rural development rights [TDR] to the Woodbridge District. That means the county might simply trade high density from west to the east.

At a Protect the Rural Crescent town hall, last week, organized by Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, Principi said he believes more urban development is appropriate in North Woodbridge.

By-and-large Rural Crescent residents liked this option. Principi even pointed out that new supervisors might not be as open to protecting the Rural Crescent as he is, and residents should attempt to make inroads with them.

School board members did not directly refer to the transfer of development rights as one of their objections, but it is public knowledge.

Trenum and Deutsch both said they would be happy to support a resolution saying they would like to limit development on the eastern end of the county as well.

Williams said that would likewise be inappropriate.

According to The Washington Post*, Amazon coming to National Landing in Arlington would bring 25,000 people over the next decade, who would require new homes in Northern Virginia. But new homes come with the cost of new schools, teachers, services and perhaps falling real estate values for existing homes.

Virginia Housing Development Authority has pledged an additional $15 million annually for five years for REACH Virginia (Resources Enabling Affordable Community Housing in Virginia) to build more affordable houses in Northern Virginia.

However, residents in the Rural Crescent are concerned that higher-density housing would be tax negative and would require a large amount of infrastructure to support it. But most of all, it would destroy the nature of the Rural Crescent and the nature in it.

Prince William County Planning will hold a public meeting about proposals for the Rural Crescent, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 5:30-8:30 p.m., at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas. 

*Jeff Bezos owns Amazon and The Washington Post. 

© 2019, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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