The Prince William Board of County Supervisors, which drew a barrage of criticism this summer when it approved new houses near the Manassas airport, moved yesterday to limit sharply any further residential growth around the airport.
On a unanimous vote, the supervisors proposed an amendment to the county's comprehensive plan to change almost 400 acres now zoned for houses to land that will be used for business growth.
The supervisors were sharply criticized in August from several quarters, including the Federal Aviation Adminstration, when they overruled the recommendation of their own planning specialists in approving the Godwin Woods project, which would bring more than 200 new houses near the airport.
Historically, new houses and their occupants have created antinoise constituencies calling for limits on air traffic when they are built near airports. Furthermore, the Godwin Woods vote seemed to contradict the supervisors' own policy of encouraging commercial and industrial growth instead of houses to buttress the tax base.
By changing the planning status of the land near the airport yesterday, the supervisors said they were demonstrating their commitment to new business construction around the airport, where air traffic has been growing rapidly in recent years.
The proposed change in the comprehensive plan must go to the Prince William Planning Commission for review, then back to the supervisors for final approval.
Board Chairman Joseph D. Reading (D-Brentsville), whose district includes the land around the airport, said he and other county officials negotiated with a developer and Manassas city officials before announcing the proposed land-use change.
The developer of Compton Farms has agreed to revamp a pending rezoning request for a tract near the airport so that it will emphasize offices and industrial businesses instead of houses.
Officials said the balance between residential and business growth is important for local government. Households usually demand more in county services, including public schools for children, than they return in tax revenue, while the opposite is generally true of businesses.
In other action yesterday, the supervisors voted to raise by 28 percent fees charged to builders to review development applications. The unanimous vote came over the objections of Prince William developers, who asked that the fee increases be delayed until better evidence could be shown that the county's costs have risen as rapidly as officials claim.
Rick Lawson, director of Prince William's Department of Development Administration, said the county has lost $800,000 this year because fees are too low.