But Covington asked county planners and the landowner, Hunter Trust, usually represented by lawyer Peter Dolan, to reach out to the surrounding community, further study the area and try to come up with a vision that residents could support. It was a chance for residents to weigh in before a proposal was delivered for new housing and commercial space.
About two dozen showed up Tuesday, largely to voice their support for the “blended” approach that they had helped come up with: a mix of housing and employment centers, with a large open space in the middle for playing fields. The site would also include space for a high school, residents’ top concern.
A new plan could mean from 6,000 to 13,000 potential new jobs in retail and office space, and from 600 to 1,600 new housing units, county planners say. Those numbers could change as developers create a detailed plan.
With amenities such as space for a high school and open space for fields, area residents said that the project had more to offer than what’s envisioned in the county’s long-range Comprehensive Plan,
Covington said area residents’ support helped sway him to support the project this time around. Voting against the project were supervisors Michael C. May (R-Occoquan), Maureen S. Caddigan (R-Potomac) and Peter K. Candland (R-Gainesville).
“It has a lot of attractive features, and it drew the community together,” Covington said of the developers’ new blueprint.
The county’s action Tuesday means that county planners will further study the area for a change to the county’s Comprehensive Plan. Officials expect developers to submit a more detailed rezoning plan within a year, which would eventually go before the Planning Commission and again before the supervisors for a final vote.
Covington and other supervisors said they expect a lot from developers. Covington said it wouldn’t be enough to simply provide the land for a new high school, which is generally acceptable.
“The developer is going to have to step forward,” Covington said. “Whether it’s financial or in-kind contributions, something needs to be done with that element.”
Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) said the development represents the county’s best chance for a new high school in western Prince William. The school would need 80 acres, space that is increasingly difficult to find, he said.
He also said that land, surrounded by other communities, would not stay the same forever. “We can move forward, we can grow or we can make the decision to die,” he said.
Residents said the new plan is a significant improvement over the light industrial uses for which part of the land is zoned.
“The county was actually listening to people,” said Brian Sivak, a business owner. “We see this as a great opportunity.”
Matthew Patterson, who serves on the board of the Grizzlies youth football organization, said that new playing fields for area sports are a “desperate need” and something that could be provided as part of the development.
“Between soccer, football and lacrosse . . . practice space is at a minimum,” Patterson said.
Caddigan said that the effect on the crowded schools in western Prince William led her to vote against the project. She said that many residents of the western end have asked supervisors to slow growth there.
“I still can’t forget folks from Linton Hall and the Gainesville area really taking us to task,” Caddigan said. “They complained to us, and rightfully . . . schools are overcrowded, horribly so.”
Officials expect to hold public meetings on the proposal.