Prince William County wants community support before development of Stone Haven

December 3, 2012

More than 800 acres along the Linton Hall corridor in western Prince William County remain the largest undeveloped parcel in the county’s growth area. But that is likely to change.

County officials have taken a rare step with the yet-to-be proposed development: obtaining public input before a formal proposal is made.

Development, especially in Prince William, tends to be controversial. Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville) said he hoped that by hearing from the public upfront, property owners and developers can craft a plan that has community backing.

The Stone Haven property, between Linton Hall and Wellington roads, is likely to draw a great deal of community interest once a plan does come forward. So county officials, at Covington’s request, held four community input meetings in recent months. Dozens of residents attended, and one meeting drew 70 people to comment on what they’d like to see, officials said.

The results: Most residents are concerned about adequate infrastructure, primarily schools and roads to handle traffic. They also want a lot of open space and parkland set aside; residents said there are few opportunities in the area for outdoor recreation.

Covington said that he was proud of the process and that having residents voice concerns before a formal proposal is valuable.

“This is way beyond what the rules of process require,” he said. “How much housing [the area should hold] seems to be the elephant in the room, as it almost always is.”

He said concerns about adequate park space — some people want as much as 250 acres set aside — should influence future decisions.

“I think that had to hit home,” he said of the park space. “That’s what most all the citizens were saying.”

Jeanine Lawson, a former supervisor candidate who lives in the area and attended several of the meetings, said she was very impressed with county officials leading the process. Still, she is concerned about what a large-scale development could mean for county residents who are already concerned about severe traffic and crowded schools, she said.

“When you build a bunch of high-density housing, the tax dollars you generate do not pay for the levels of service for each house,” Lawson said. “If we make that a lot of higher-density housing, it’s just going to drive us further into debt, or the county leaders are going to be faced with raising taxes. They’re [probably] not going to be willing to do that.”

Still, Lawson praised the process, saying officials did “an excellent job of trying to listen to all parties at the table.”

Jeremy Borden covers Prince William County, Va., for The Washington Post.
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