Prince William Planning Commission advances Comprehensive Plan update

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

Prince William County is putting the finishing touches on its vision for the next 18 years.

At its meeting Nov. 9, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the final three chapters of the Comprehensive Plan update.

The Comprehensive Plan is a guiding document for county land-use policies. While not committing the Board of County Supervisors to any decisions, it declares the county’s vision for future development through 2040. It is broken into five chapters.

In October, the commission recommended approval of the land-use and electrical services chapters of the plan with nearly a dozen changes aimed at putting further limitations on residential density.

The mobility, housing and sanitary sewer chapters of the plan were scheduled for a vote in October but were delayed until Wednesday.

Mobility

The mobility chapter covers various transportation initiatives, including road projects, sidewalks and trails. The update makes a variety of changes since it was last updated in 2010.

The update only added one road widening, which would extend Pageland Lane from two to four lanes between Sudley Road and U.S. 29. The project was partly spurred by the proposed PW Digital Gateway, which recently received preliminary support from the Board of County Supervisors.

The gateway plans up to 27.6 million square feet of data centers on 2,100 acres along the road.

Most of the discussion around the mobility chapter was about opposition to the only two new road extension projects.

The first was an extension of Heathcote Boulevard in the Haymarket area to connect with Antioch Road.

The proposal would extend Heathcote beyond the University of Virginia Haymarket Medical Center and could cost $23.4 million.

Gainesville Commissioner Richard Berry was concerned about the impact on a longtime landowner in the area and directed county staff to minimize complications related to right-of-way acquisition and the path of the road.

The second project was an extension of Peaks Mill Road in the Hoadly area to connect with Prince William Parkway, which is Va. 234, on one side and Purcell Road on the other.

An early estimate for construction is $40 million.

Several people who live in the area were concerned it would create a cut-through from Purcell to the Parkway, while others were worried it would increase hazards on an already dangerous stretch of Purcell.

“I have been on Purcell Road, and it seems like the whole road is not very well-constructed,” said Neabsco Commissioner Qwendolyn Brown.

Transportation Director Rick Canizales said the Board of County Supervisors directed staff to look at ways to alleviate traffic on Purcell Road without widening it.

Canizales said the connection with Peaks Mill Road would be made on a large curve of Purcell Road, which has been a dangerous stretch. It would add a signal in the curve, causing drivers to slow down, he said.

Several speakers were worried Peaks Mill Road would be widened, but Canizales said it would remain a two-lane road.

“We’re not widening the road,” he said. “We’re talking traffic calming if and when we build the road.”

After At-Large Commissioner Patty Kuntz made a motion to recommend approval of the transportation plan as it was presented, Coles Commissioner Joseph Fontanella Jr. made a motion to remove the Peaks Mill Road extension from the plan.

Fontanella’s motion failed 3-5 and the commission voted 7-1 to recommend approval, with Fontanella as the dissenting vote.

Housing, density

The commission unanimously recommended approval of the plan’s housing chapter, which outlines the county’s expectations of residential development proposals and vision through 2040.

One of the controversial elements of an initial proposal was to increase density in what’s known as the “rural crescent” – roughly 117,000 acres restricted to no more than one home for every 10 acres with strict prohibitions on the expansion of public sewer lines.

The draft plan called for increasing that density to one home per five acres, but planners have walked back that proposal and kept the guidelines of one house per 10 acres.

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