Residents of western Prince William County may or may not be surprised to learn the suburban areas of Brentsville and Gainesville will be far extended into the Rural Crescent within the next 20 years. However, now the plans have become more official.
Prince William County Supervisors approved several proposals for new medium-density residential neighborhoods, clusters of homes, "villages" and "hamlets" in the Brentsville and Gainesville Districts as per Prince William County Pathway to 2040 Comp Plan Update.
The comprehensive plan is a vision for a county, and a preliminary step in the development process. Rezonings and developments have an easier time gaining approval when they match the county’s vision.
The two that will most affect Linton Hall area Bristow residents are the Patriot/South Vint Hill Plan Residential Conservation Plan, in coordination with an extension of the suburban residential area adjacent to Braemar. Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson-R presented the two tied together at one of her town halls recently.
The Prince William County Board of Supervisors included a plan for an estimated 6,500 new homes to be built near Braemar and in the Vint Hill area of Bristow and Nokesville during its Pathway to 2040 Comprehensive Plan Update meeting, Wednesday morning.
The amendment replaces the previous plan for 600+ residential single-family homes to be built on medium-sized lots as a transitional area between the suburban and rural areas.
Via a 5-2 straw poll taken at 2 a.m., supervisors selected the most densely packed of three options, overruling objections from Lawson. In contrast, less dense "Hamlets" are planned for other rural areas in Brentsville.
Single-family, townhomes and attached would be located on both sides of Vint Hill Road where farmland or rural land exists. The area stretches from Sudley Manor Drive to Rollins Ford Road, which would match the existing neighborhoods. Further west along Vint Hill falls within another plan for clustering.
Next to Braemar, density and home styles would match existing development.
On the south side of Vint Hill Road, the planning department is calling this the "South Vint Hill/Patriot Conservation area." The plan conserves 60 percent of open space by clustering 40 percent of the homes in a way to allow for attached homes as well as single families.
But it is not the density, as much of the number of homes that is the problem. Sixty-five hundred homes are equivalent to a town, considering there are approximately 9,000 homes in Bristow. This is in addition to new residential areas that will eventually crop up in rural Brentsville.
Supervisors said they were interested in having more homes built to meet housing needs based on COG projections of demand and to make homes in the area more affordable.
Lawson was upset to hear most board members no longer advocated for mid-density option Alternative 2 of 3,500 homes as they did over the summer. To Lawson, a better compromise would have been to keep the plan created in 2010.
At two town halls Lawson described Alternative 3 as the worst alternative because of the resulting effects it would have on traffic and school capacity. However, she said that one was unlikely to pass because it did not have the support of the board, just the Chair.
The approved plan would bring 22,500 vehicles on Vint Hill Road per day, 28,700 on Rollins Ford Road, and 24,900 on Sudley Manor Drive. Vint Hill Road would need to be widened.
It would also mean 2400 more K-12 students coming to the Brentsville District, and for Lawson, this was the biggest problem. She said her district has just begun to “catch its breath,” after 25 years of expansion.
She also noted that Brentsville School Board member Adele Jackson and Gainesville School Board member Jennifer Wall shared their concerns about the impact on their schools.
”This is setting us up for a repeat of failure from the past, and I don’t want to go there,” Lawson said.
Proponents of the Plan
Chair-At-large Ann Wheeler-D preferred this alternative and described it as a compromise. She said she ran on clustering homes as a means to protect open space while still meeting housing demands.
She emphasized, “this is a twenty-year plan,” it is not as though the changes would happen overnight.
Staff said Prince William County Schools has the COG projections so they know the number of students they will be expected to house in the coming decades, making the assumption they would plan accordingly.
Lawson agreed that the area closest to Braemar and another plan around New Bristow Village should be a mixed density of single-family and townhomes, but she did not want such a density bordering the rural area.
Wheeler said she wants a mix of size single-family homes and townhomes is important because affordable housing is lacking in the area.
During the public hearing, many speakers talked about how the supervisors planned to destroy the rural crescent and the character of the area. Some said the board was "a developer's dream," and they did not care to even listen to their constituents.
They noted the board went ahead with the public hearing even as it left Gainesville District residents without representation. Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland-R was told by the commonwealth attorney that he could not participate. As a result, he resigned, but the public hearing went on without him.
However, not everyone was in favor of leaving the rural areas as is. Many residents said they want affordable housing. In many cases, it has become unattainable for people working in Prince William County to live in the county, especially on the western side. They asked homes to be built with middle-class, working-class people in mind.
Details of the Planning
According to Alternative 3, North of Vint Hill Road would be classified as RN-T2, or "Rez 2," meaning a medium-density Residential Neighborhood. This translates to single-family attached or detached homes, like the Braemar neighborhood.
South of Vint Hill would be “Clustered," together rather than spread out on large plots of land. That allows open space to be consolidated and utilized by the public.
Documents describe the style as Mixed Use “Village” or T1-C, which is higher density than a "Hamlet." Residential and mixed-use businesses would be laid out on a traditional street grid, offering residential, business and civics options, not only houses. The plans also say the rural character of the area will be preserved.
Although the image says ‘2 units per 1 acre’ that is the average density when open spaces are added in. The addition of new homes, water, and sewer would need to be extended. Patriot High School is already attached to a sewer line.
How Affordable would the homes be?
Lawson made a point of asking what the plan is for real affordable workforce housing the Democrats have spoken about.
Coles District Supervisor Yesli Vega-R said that realistically $400,000 for a townhouse (the current going price) is not "affordable housing." Moreover, the builders they work with do not like to build affordable housing.
Staff said that if they want to add truly affordable housing it could be worked in as a duplex or tri-plex that could look similar to surrounding homes, keeping the character, while serving the need.
Neabsco Supervisor Victor Angry-D said he was not talking about "HUD" or "Section 8." He is talking about increasing inventory to make homes more affordable. He said he'd like to see someone making $40-50,000 be able to buy a house in any part of the county.
Potomac District's Andrea Bailey-D said they cannot possibly answer about workforce housing the questions at this time, but Lawson said they should know since they are creating future land use policies.
Meanwhile, in the months leading up to the Comp Plan, rumors of "high-density" housing spread. It could be people did not understand what "high density" meant since the county and board adopted new terminology.
However, it is also due to the fact that past October, the Biden-Harris Administration announced it is providing incentives for more inclusive housing. This will likely result in the county adding more affordable housing options, but jurisdictions do not have all the details as of yet.
While Lawson addressed the proposal at two town halls, it is still a huge proposal to have been placed within the Comp Plan, which most residents were unaware of.
The plan was largely overshadowed by other concerns such as the data center being built for new homes and schools, and the data centers planned for Pageland Lane.
People can expect clustering in almost all of the transitional areas between suburban and rural development.
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FACT: Lawson doesn't care if the rural crescent is developed. She's continued to rake in thousands of dollars by selling out residents. She can vote know, but her campaign coffers say another.
Friday, December 16, 2022 Report this