Planners delay west-end action
About 70 people attended a public hearing Wednesday night regarding the Interstate 66/U.S. 29 Sector Plan, a proposed guide for development in western Prince William County that has created much drama in its two-year making.
The county Planning Commission heard dozens of citizens weigh in on the plan, which lays out strategies for development of 3,800 acres surrounding the intersection near Gainesville. The commission had not taken action as of 9:15 p.m.
Many people said they were against the plan because it calls for more development than the area’s infrastructure can handle.
The sector plan calls for a 270-acre town center, about 6 million square feet of retail space and more than 5,000 new homes.
“The plan we adopt must be real, and this one is a pipe dream,” Gainesville resident Ray Roberson told the Planning Commission at the McCoart Administration Center. He said the sector plan’s proposals require money and transportation improvements that aren’t likely to materialize.
The plan was presented to the county Planning Commission for review about a year ago but deferred by commissioners who said they wanted to carefully review it after completing more pressing projects.
Chairman Geoffrey Swanberg said they likely would vote on the sector plan later in the summer. He said a second public hearing would be held only if significant changes were made to the proposals in upcoming work sessions.
After the Planning Commission makes a recommendation on the plan, it will go to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors for vote. If approved by the board, the sector plan will be added to the 1998 comprehensive plan — a blueprint for development in the county.
Although not binding, county officials use the plan as a guide when making land use decisions.
The I-66/U.S. 29 sector plan was amended by the county planning staff, and both a citizens’ plan and the staff’s revision are being considered by the Planning Commission.
Last year, a second sector plan was submitted by a group of residents who were not part of the citizens’ committee and disagreed with their proposals.
The alternative plan, dubbed the Resident’s Plan, called for about one-sixth the amount of retail space allowed in the sector plan and a little more than half the number of residences. It also planned for a Virginia Railway Express station and a large park, which encompassed a historical African American neighborhood.
But support for the Resident’s Plan tapered off after some residents of the proposed park called the plan “racist” because it limited their ability to develop their land.
County Supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn III, R-Gainesville, recently tried to force the Planning Commission to submit their analysis of the sector plan to the board because he felt it was dragging on too long, but other supervisors did not support the motion.
A point mentioned frequently Wednesday was the delay of the I-66/U.S. 29 interchange project –which was a major factor in the creation of the sector plan and a primary feature of its objectives.
Virginia Department of Transportation and state officials recently announced the project is on hold for several years because of funding cuts.
Rick Lawson, director of planning for the county, said the sector plan is meant to guide the shape of development for up to 25 years to come and will be relevant when the project does occur.
Staff writer Kate Bissell can be reached at (703) 878-8068.