Stone Haven development in western Pr. William promises scrutiny, tension

March 15, 2013

The close vote this week by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors for a potential development on the county’s western end could portend a contentious road as developers look to pave the way toward a new housing and commercial development.

The site of several past battles over development — namely the 2006, 6,800-house failed effort called Brentswood — the issues for a new development called Stone Haven are similar, even if the politics and players have changed and the size of the proposal is expected to be smaller.

Stone Haven is an 864-acre piece of contiguous open space between Wellington and Linton Hall roads, a place of booming growth in the past and the ills that come with it: namely overcrowded schools, roads and playing fields. In community meetings to reach out to the surrounding community before a formal plan was submitted, residents say developers and representatives for landowner Hunter Trust, have promised a site for a new high school, playing fields and perhaps a recreational center.

Going forward, area resident Jeanine Lawson said she’s not sure if she will oppose the development plan. The biggest question, she said, is whether the developer would deliver on promised amenities.

“A lot of folks are expecting those carrots that were dangled in front of them,” Lawson said. “I’m going to do what I can to see the fields, the rec center and everything else” come to fruition, she said.

Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville) said that a key sticking point would be a site and dollars for an area high school, a key concern for residents.

He said that while developers are required to offer “proffers” — or contributions to offset the impact of development — a developer doing site work for the building of a high school had never been done in the county. He said he’s expecting something like that for Stone Haven to move forward.

“I haven't cut any deals, I’ve just been saying ‘You’ve got to do this to have any chance,’” Covington said.

A formal plan for Stone Haven has not yet been presented, but supervisors on Tuesday moved forward with studying the area for a change to the county’s long-range Comprehensive Plan, the first step in considering new housing and commercial space for the area. Officials expect a more formal proposal to be introduced within the year.

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.

The vote was 5-3 on Tuesday. Supervisors Michael C. May (R-Occoquan), Maureen S. Caddigan (R-Potomac) and Peter K. Candland (R-Gainesville) voted against moving the potential project forward. Caddigan said that area growth and the area’s overcrowded schools — Prince William has the largest class sizes in Virginia — led her to vote against the project. Candland said in an interview that his concern about overcrowded schools were similar.

May did not return a phone call requesting comment. Peter Dolan, an attorney for Hunter Trust, could not be reached immediately Friday.

A more formal plan and rezoning request would eventually go before the Planning Commission and again before the supervisors for a final vote.

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