The Prince William Board of County Supervisors set a new vision yesterday for how the county should grow by adopting a long-term plan that it hopes will create new jobs, more urban development and greater control over what is built.
By a 6 to 1 vote, the board overturned its Planning Commission's recommendation to keep parts of the county rural by limiting residential growth in environmentally sensitive areas along the Occoquan River and near the Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Supervisor John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco) warned that approval of higher densities for those areas would further burden crowded roads, schools and services.
"We are shooting from the hip . . . . The density is so great that it causes an undue tax burden" to pay for services needed to support residential growth, he said. Planning officials said the board's decision will mean an additional 4,000 houses can be built near the Occoquan.
Officials have looked to their first major overhaul of the growth plan since 1985 to give them more control in managing development. The new plan, approved in concept yesterday, essentially paves the way for greater urbanization, particularly along major highway corridors, such as Interstate 66 and Route 29. For example, the tiny town of Haymarket, in the county's western end, would be bordered by regional office complexes.
The plan also sets aside thousands of acres northwest of Manassas for industrial and commercial development. The supervisors also voted to plan major new roads throughout the county.
Although the board will review the plan in February once the final document is drafted to make sure it is free of errors, all new rezonings will be considered under the new guidelines.
Throughout the nearly two-year updating process, environmentalists and commuters have struggled to limit the major residential growth that has increased the county's population by 55 percent to 220,000 in the last decade and strained services.
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has estimated that Prince William's population will rise an additional 42 percent by the year 2010, and the number of in-county jobs will double, to 120,000.
However, property owners have defended their right to use their land as they see fit. They argued that too many restrictions would strangle the already weak construction industry.
"Individual property rights should not be subordinated to opponents for growth who will not be directly affected," said Virginia Moonan, who pleaded at a public hearing to be allowed to build more houses on her Catharpin property.
A fiscal consultant estimated that the new plan would cost more in needed transportation improvements and services than it would bring in new tax revenue.