Western Prince William County is a place of rapid development, but also bucolic beauty, where residents tend to cast votes for Republicans. But, as one voter put it, “the votes have to be earned.”
County Supervisor-elect Peter Candland (R) — whom voters ushered into his role with 56 percent of the vote Tuesday — will be the new point person at the local level shepherding the urban-rural Gainesville district.
“I was really happy and humbled and honored,” Candland said of his victory. Opponent Ann Wheeler “ran a spirited campaign and one that challenged me as a candidate.”
One of the biggest issues on the campaign trail was the potential development of the Rural Crescent, the county’s 80,000-acre area set aside in planning documents for preservation.
Wheeler had signed a pledge declaring that she would not support development in the rural area. Candland declined to sign the pledge but said at the final debate of the campaign season that his “pledge will be to the voters of Prince William County, not to a piece of paper.”
The Board of County Supervisors has approved only one major project in the Rural Crescent in recent years — Avendale, approved last year. The county’s action allows Brookfield Homes to build an almost 300-home subdivision along Vint Hill and Nokesville roads.
Candland said the Rural Crescent has “been a settled issue for many years.” He said he learned a lot about the needs of Gainesville residents while knocking on 1,500 doors over the course of the campaign.
“I absolutely support the Rural Crescent. It really stands for the fact that people feel we don’t have the infrastructure to support the people,” he said.
Candland might be tested on rural-area policies in the near future. Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large), who was reelected Tuesday, said in an interview that he plans to introduce a policy next year regarding the concept of “clustering.” As it stands, the county’s rural area can be carved up into 10-acre lots and developed.
“That, I believe, succeeds at nothing,” Stewart said. “I think that we need to look at better ways of preserving very large areas of rural ground as well as promoting more commercial office space and high-end retail. We have to take the emotion out of this debate and give it a cold, hard, objective look.”
Stewart said his argument is that having a hodgepodge of 10-acre lots doesn’t make sense. Better, he said, to have a development on 100 acres, where 30 acres are developed and the other 70 are open space, he said. Stewart said that such a policy would take a long time to develop, and the board would do so “in conjunction with the community.”
Candland said he rejects the commonly used term “slow growth,” saying “managed growth” more adequately describes his philosophy to encourage growth along with adequate infrastructure. But he largely agrees with Stewart’s philosophy of bringing the county more high-end retail and office space, he said, adding that improving the county’s quality of life will drive economic growth.
“Plain and simple,” Candland said, “we need to bring business to Prince William County.”