Supervisors voted to approve, 7 to 1, with Maureen S. 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 planned to ease congestion — including Reagan Middle School, scheduled to open in the fall.
Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R), who represents the Brentsville district, where the project is located, criticized county planners for not having a full grasp of the schools’ overcrowding 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 promise of a preserved park was the draw for residents and officials. Supervisor Martin E. 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.
The preserved park will be on 380 acres “next door to regular, hardworking families,” Nohe said. “We’ve never seen this kind of parkland attached to this kind of development.”
Supervisor Michael C. May (R-Occoquan) asked the county attorney whether officials thought the developer’s written promises ensured that the development would be built as anticipated — a concern that had been raised before about the development. County Attorney Angela Lemmon Horan said the legal language was adequate.
The project also had the support of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, a nonprofit group 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.