Breaking with staff recommendation, Prince William supervisors agree to fund private trail upkeep

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The Prince William County Planning Commission recommended approval of the final three chapters of the Comprehensive Plan update. (Courtesy Inside NoVa)
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The Prince William Board of County Supervisors on Tuesday broke with a recommendation from county staff and opted to take on the burden of funding maintenance of a trail located on private land near Gainesville.

The homeowners association of Regency at Catharpin Creek, a subdivision located off Catharpin Road just north of the Fieldstone Way intersection, said that they’ve been unjustly required to pay for a newly constructed walking trail and bridge built by the developer before the homeowners association was established.

Staff advised the supervisors against agreeing to finance the trail’s upkeep, raising concerns about the unknown budget implications for the county. They also called into question the precedent such a decision could set for other homeowners associations in the county that might wish to offload financial obligations.

The trail was constructed by the developer, Toll Brothers, as part of a proffer agreement reached with the county, so the homeowners association sought an amendment to the proffer to relieve them of what would become a financial burden. Members of the small subdivisions’ homeowners association argued if the county didn’t take over the trail, they’d be paying exorbitant sums of cash for what amounts to a public good.

The Prince William County Planning Commission did not make a recommendation in time on the proffer amendment sought by the homeowners association before it expired, leaving the supervisors to rely solely on recommendations from county staff. Further complicating the matter is the fact the trail is located on land under easement, which the county is now expected to take on.

At-large Chair Ann Wheeler, Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, Gainesville Supervisor Bob Weir, Occoquan Supervisor Kenny Boddye, Potomac Supervisor Andrea Bailey, Woodbridge Supervisor Margaret Angela Franklin all supported the measure.

Boddye argued the public good of maintaining the trail outweighs any potential risks that might come along with it. Wheeler made the case that the county may eventually need to take over maintenance if the homeowners association could no longer afford it. Lawson was concerned about placing such a steep financial burden on a small homeowners association with a meager budget.

Because county staff said there were few other homeowners associations in similar predicaments, Weir argued that the unique circumstances of the case ensured a precedent would not be set by the county agreeing to finance the trail.

Neabsco Supervisor Victor S. Angry opposed the measure, saying he was concerned about setting a concerning precedent. Coles District Supervisor Yesli Vega also voted against the proffer amendment citing insurance concerns for the county.

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