The Prince William County Board of Supervisors last week created a new office of mapping, the first in Virginia, and approved the creation of an executive director to head it.
The office is necessary, county executive Robert Noe told the board, because of the change in growth the county is undergoing. "Such an office is critical to the county's ability to provide public safety services and manage the tax assessments process as well as other important government functions," he said. "Mapping now occupies center stage. It is perhaps more vital to the county's land information efforts than any other entity." Currently the mapping division is under the jurisdiction of the zoning office and is run by mapping chief Tom Herrick.
The mapping office serves 14 county agencies as well as the public sector, Noe said. The new position, although it is being created just three months after the board approved the 1985-86 budget, will not upset the budget because the money that would have been used to hire a second planner in the zoning office will go instead to pay the director of the new office, he said. According to county information officer Joyce Eaby, a Planner II earns between $23,000 and $36,700; the director of a department earns between $29,000 and $34,000.
Although he voted for approval of the new office on Noe's recommendation, Woobdridge Supervisor Don Kidwell objected to the way the mapping office is currently run. "Somebody ought to make a decision to get all the maps on the same scale," Kidwell said. "Fairfax did it 10 years ago; it can't be that impossible to do."
Planning director Roger Snyder assured the board that the mapping office is working on standardizing county maps -- a goal, he said, that will be achieved within two years. Kidwell, a title lawyer, often uses the mapping office for information.
According to Eaby, the county is aware of only one other office of mapping. "It is in Wisconsin and it is apparently the state of the art," she said.
The mapping office is currently working on a long-term project that will eventually place all county addresses in sequence and will eliminate the duplication of street names. In addition, a spokesman said, the office soon will produce the county's "first accurate parcel boundaries." Within the next several years, he said, the office also expects to change to computerized mapping, thus eliminating the tedious process of drawing maps by hand.
The board also received a report it commissioned from Clement Associates, an Arlington firm, to determine if a fiber glass plant in Featherstone is causing the eye irritation and respiratory problems claimed by residents. But the raw figures had not been analyzed and the board declined comment. According to county deputy attorney Stephen MacIsaac, the analysis is due within two weeks.
If the analysis shows that the phenols and formaldehyde the firm uses to manufacture fiber glass are dangerous to health, MacIsaac said, the county believes that "doctors who have treated Featherstone residents will come forward by the hundreds to testify in court." A recent survey by the county and state health departments indicated that Featherstone residents do not have significantly higher incidents of eye and lung problems than do residents in a control group in Dale City. MacIsaac said that resident complaints that the health department "didn't talk to any of the people who are actually sick" have resulted in a second survey, now under way.
In other business, the board denied a public hearing to residents of Bannerwood Drive in the Brentsville district despite a petition in which more than 75 residents asked that their street not be connected to another street in the development. They cited heavy traffic, speeding drivers and subsequent danger to the children in the Tudor Hall subdivision. Brentsville Supervisor Joe Reading recommended the denial on several grounds: such a connection has been in the development plan from the beginning, the contractor is already bonded for it and the county fire marshal recommended denial for the sake of public safety. Without the connection, John O'Neil told the board in a report, response time for emergency vehicles would increase and emergency services to the subdivision would be hampered.
Charles Johnson, who heads the homeowners represented at last week's meeting, said later he has asked the group's attorney to study the possibility of legal action against the board to ensure a public hearing on the issue.
Reading said holding a public hearing would be "prolonging the agony" because in the end the streets in question "will be connected anyway."