Bid for Delay Falters On Brentswood Vote

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 11, 2006

Prince William County Supervisors Corey A. Stewart (R-Occoquan) and John T. Stirrup Jr. (R-Gainesville) tried Tuesday to get the vote on a proposed development of 6,800 houses delayed for a month so that Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan (R-Dumfries), who is out of town, can vote.

The proposal for the Brentswood development, which has become noteworthy for the developer's unprecedented offer to pay for more than $100 million in transportation improvements, is scheduled for a vote Tuesday. Caddigan, who has voiced opposition to it, is on vacation. On her office voice mail, Caddigan says she will be gone until May 24.

At the end of Tuesday's meeting, Stirrup, who opposes the project, requested that the vote be rescheduled for June 27. Chairman Sean T. Connaughton (R) said that the board's rules require a week's notice for votes and that Tuesday's vote and public hearing had already been advertised.

The vote was scheduled for Tuesday because Connaughton said he wanted to ensure that Brentswood and the proposed quarry in Nokesville received full nights of discussion. The vote on the quarry, which has drawn feverish opposition, is scheduled for June 27.

On Tuesday, Connaughton often talked over Stirrup and Stewart, who demanded proof of the board's rules. Stewart said he thought that County Executive Craig S. Gerhart could take directives and could schedule a vote for whenever he wanted.

Connaughton interjected, "He doesn't make the agenda. I make the agenda."

Elena Schlossberg-Kunkel, a representative of Advocates for the Rural Crescent, said she did not understand why Connaughton scheduled a vote for Tuesday if Caddigan will be out of town. "I just think it's questionable," she said in an interview.

Schlossberg-Kunkel and other residents, including Victor Bras, chairman of the Prince William County Democratic Committee, voiced their concerns about Brentswood and Caddigan's absence.

They also said the board should send the proposed resolutions, which include approving a rezoning and creating a community development authority that would require residents within the development to pay for improvements, back to the Planning Commission if the developer, Brookfield Homes, makes major changes to its proposal.

The talk has been that Brookfield, which also built the 3,115-house Braemar subdivision, could significantly reduce the density of its planned development, which would straddle Gainesville and Brentsville off Interstate 66. A reduction could make the development more attractive to the planning staff, which has recommended rejecting it. The county Planning Commission has also rejected the development.

Richard Dengler, a chief executive and vice president at Brookfield Homes overseeing the proposal, and county planning director Stephen K. Griffin said that the county and developer had been in discussions but that no major changes had been made.

"We've been in negotiations from Day One to reduce the number of houses and increase the amount of office" space, Griffin said. "We want them to cut" the number of houses in half.

The county planning staff recently released a report showing that Brentswood, as proposed, would create five times the maximum number of houses intended for the area under the county's Comprehensive Plan, a master plan that guides Prince William's zoning decisions.

Dengler said "nothing was fruitful" in recent discussions with the planning staff. "Right now, we're going with what we proposed: two town centers, unprecedented transportation improvements, same density."

Dengler's tone was one of frustration. He said he was frustrated because Brookfield Homes had been working on the proposal for two years. He was not sure whether the vote would be delayed and the plan would be approved, he said.

"We think it's a great, dynamic plan," he said.

Stirrup said he did not know whether he would push for a deferral Tuesday. "It struck me that no one else spoke on behalf" of Caddigan, he said. "We'll see what plays out between now and Tuesday."

There might be more opposition on the board than Stirrup and Stewart think.

Supervisor W.S. Covington III (R-Brentsville) has criticized the planning staff's report on Brentswood and said he was also weighing the much-needed transportation improvements. But during the debate over the deferral, he said, "If I decide to deny or defer that, I don't need eight votes to do that."

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