The Prince William Board of County Supervisors approved a 393-housing unit development called the Villages of Piedmont II Tuesday as residents came out in support of a developer’s plan that promises a large nature preserve with walking trails.
They said that was a far better alternative than current plans for the land, at Route 15 and Market Ridge Boulevard near the town of Haymarket. The residents were largely from the Villages of Piedmont, a housing development that adjoins the newly approved extension of their community, who said they didn't want the storage units, warehouses and truck depots that have been planned for the area.
Supervisors voted 7-1, with Maureen Caddigan (R-Potomac), the lone vote against the project. She said that county schools are already overburdened by housing developments.
“Houses are a drain on the school division,” Caddigan said. “I’m voting my conscience tonight.”
A county report shows nearby Buckland Elementary School is at 120 percent of its capacity and Battlefield High School is at 126 percent. County planners said that other schools are online to ease congestion – including Reagan Middle School, scheduled to open this fall.
Supervisor W.S. “Wally” Covington (R), who represents the Brentsville district where the project is located, said he was glad to see the more than a dozen residents who showed up to voice their opinion. But he criticized county planners for not having a full grasp of the schools’ overcrowding situation when he questioned them about the development’s impact on the schools.
However, he said after months of negotiations with developer Scott Plein of Chantilly-based Equinox Investments, the plan achieves “that balance we’re looking for.”
It was clear that the nearly 400 acres promised as preserved open space were the draw for residents and officials. Supervisor Martin E. “Marty” Nohe (R-Coles) said the development was “visionary.”
Normally, when large tracts of open space are preserved, they are in developments with large, estate-like homes, he said.
“We’ve got 380 aces that is next door to regular, hard-working families,” Nohe said. “We’ve never seen this kind of parkland attached to this kind of development."
The project also had the support of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, a non-profit that plans to ensure that the large park is protected from development forever.
NVCT president Michael Nardolilli told supervisors that the developers would preserve an “important” piece of land that is also a part of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground project, which seeks to preserve land in a corridor valued by conservationists and historians.