The Board of County Supervisors approved rezoning yesterday for Innovation@Prince William and surrounding properties, a move officials hope will speed development of the 970-acre high-tech hub just west of Manassas.
Innovation and the larger area known as Broadview Centre have been burdened with complicated and inconsistent zoning over the past nine years, making the land tough to market.
After a year-and-a-half of map redrawings and negotiations, supervisors yesterday endorsed a complex agreement with numerous private owners meant to attract the targeted industries of bio-research and technology.
The "planned business district" zoning should complete a cohesive plan for a strategic parcel of land with immediate access to the proposed Route 234 Bypass and flanked by Dominion Semiconductor, the George Mason University satellite campus and Lockheed Martin Corp. It also highlights the atypical role the county has taken on, as its acts both as land developer and as negotiator with neighboring owners.
"We think these changes . . . will encourage targeted uses to locate on this property by eliminating the [zoning] complexity," said Sherman Patrick, the county Planning Office's community resources manager, who helped broker the agreement between Prince William and five land owners.
Even as the county imagined Innovation as attractive to high-tech business, the land's history has been a handicap for Prince William. The land was zoned as a business park in 1990, making it suitable for industrial and retail use. But the owner went bankrupt, and the land was splintered, ending up with various owners.
In 1994, the county imposed additional zoning restrictions on certain parts of the parcel that conflicted with some of the preexisting zoning.
That made the land--particularly those parts privately owned--tough to sell and difficult to regulate. Few buyers were willing to invest in land without being sure precisely what they would be able to build on it or how much they might need to spend on road improvements in the area.
And the fact that the land was owned by six different entities further complicated the picture. The county purchased its portion of the land in 1997 for about $8.5 million.
Three years ago, the county requested the help of the Urban Land Institute, which conducted a study and recommended rezoning the land.
"A lot of the problems kind of evolved from one overlay added to another overlay," said Supervisor Edgar S. Wilbourn III (R-Gainesville), adding that he wished supervisors had known earlier how complicated the zoning issues on Innovation were becoming. "This is a good evolution."
The entire swath of Broadview Centre runs east and west of the planned Route 234 Bypass, although some of its outer boundaries are still vague. Its future, as approved by the board, dictates a few self-enclosed retail areas, including designation for hotels and one 26-acre residential tract zoned for about 300 apartments.
About 525 acres of the land are owned by the county, while 296 are privately owned. The rest of the land is dedicated to general uses, such as road right-of way.