While Fairfax County has gotten much of the attention for delays in approving development plans, Prince William County also has a growing backlog of proposals.
In fact, the problem in Prince William County is compounded by the smaller number of personnel available to complete plan reviews.
Eight plan reviewers and processors in Prince William County were juggling 285 major plans by the end of July, said Edward Luckett, director of plans for the county's Department of Development Administration.
"If we drew the line now, it would take us nine months to catch up," Luckett said.
Fairfax County, in contrast, had 338 plans of a similar type on hand by July 15, but it has 33 employes plus 10 private engineers under contract from Bechtel Inc. to handle the backlog. That backlog would take four months to clear without accounting for the dent Bechtel engineers should make in the pile, said Claude G. Cooper, Fairfax's development director.
Unlike Fairfax County officials, however, Prince William officials are planning no radical action to reduce the growing mountain of plans.
A staff report to be presented to the board of county supervisors Aug. 6 recommends forming a development coordinating committee to study the problem, according to Deputy County Executive Richard G. Noble.
Formation of the committee was one of the principal recommendations of a five-month study of the delays by the consulting firm of Booz, Allen & Hamilton Inc. The committee is composed of representatives from the public and private sectors.
Local builders expressed disappointment that county officials are taking a low-key approach to the backlog and have started to lobby county supervisors to make changes.
James L. Robinson, vice president of the Prince William County Builders Association, estimates that it takes 60 to 75 percent longer to get plans processed today than it did one year ago.
Though Luckett said his staff does an excellent job, he agreed that DDA would benefit from more skilled personnel. But with starting salaries for engineers in Prince William at $23,894, it's difficult to compete with private industry for the best applicants, he said. Three plan reviewers at DDA now have bachelor's degrees in engineering, and none are certified engineers, he said.
Although the staff report to be discussed at Tuesday's board meeting contains no staffing proposals, DDA Director Martin E. Crahan is working with the county executive's office to present a separate proposal in September, Noble said.
Crahan is sticking by his April budget request for 16 new jobs at DDA and is not ruling out the possibility of hiring private engineers.
"Our work load is not dissimilar from Fairfax County's, and if they are doing something drastic, then it indicates we need to do something," Crahan said.
One county official who asked not to be named said he was dismayed that the county spends thousands of dollars attracting development to but cannot service developers adequately once they arrive.
That complaint is shared by the builders association. It protests that developers paid about $2.7 million in development fees to the county in fiscal 1985, up from $747,600 in 1983. But the county has not used that money to hire extra staff to handle the growth in development.
Luckett said only one plan technician has been added to the regular plan review staff since 1982.
Despite the county's pro-development reputation, some developers depict Prince William as harder to deal with than its larger neighbor.
"In Fairfax, at least they're organized over there . . . . Prince William, they've got no organization. It's chaos," said John Flynn, vice president of the Manassas-based Caudle Construction.