Prince William Co. officials divided over Haymarket affordable housing project at town hall-style event

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Republican Prince William supervisors Jeanine Lawson and Bob Weir held a town hall-style meeting Monday night where they sought to drum up opposition to a 144-unit affordable housing proposal near the town of Haymarket.

The project, Highpointe at Haymarket, is proposed for development at 6652 James Madison Highway on the border of Haymarket, with 12.6 acres in the county and the remaining 3.8 acres within the town’s boundaries. While the project would include 240 multi-family affordable housing units total, only 144 of those units would be zoned for Prince William. The remaining would sit inside the town.

Lawson, who represents the Brentsville District on the Board of County Supervisors and is seeking election as board chair, and Weir, who represents the Gainesville District, argued the proposed development is incompatible with the surrounding area on the western end of the county.

Many of the supervisors’ claims, voiced at the event held at Haymarket Elementary School, are backed by concurring opinions from the local school system and county planning office.

But despite opposition from county staff, outgoing Democratic board Chair Ann Wheeler said in an email to officials that the proposal is “clearly aligned with Board policy and the Comprehensive Plan,” which calls for additional investments in affordable housing. Her Democratic colleagues, which have the board majority, have voiced support for the project.

Highpointe’s developer, Detroit-based American Community Developers, Inc., is seeking a Comprehensive Plan amendment from the county to change the land designation to allow high-density housing and make way for the 144 units that would lie within the county. The developer said it would also seek a rezoning. The property is currently zoned for office mid-rises with a special use permit for a hotel, according to Lawson and Weir.

The portion of the project that lies in Haymarket will require a separate rezoning, the process for which is ongoing, according to Town Manager Emily Kyriazi.

Town officials have voiced concern additional traffic generated from the development would place a damper on the town’s walkability.

Opposition from schools, planners

Lawson and Weir highlighted the Prince William County School Board’s opposition to the plan on the basis that more housing in the area would place additional strain on already large classroom sizes at Haymarket Elementary School, Ronald Wilson Reagan Middle School and Gainesville High School.

Brentsville School Board member Adele Jackson during Monday’s event urged county officials to adhere to the school’s rejection of the proposal.

Lawson and Weir also pointed to a report from the Prince William planning office saying the proposed development doesn’t align with the characteristics of the location.

“The density being proposed is not appropriate for the area, given the proposal is not within an activity center, nor a town center, nor a redevelopment corridor, nor is it near a high employment area or employment center, nor are there transit facilities nearby or services,” the report said. “The proposal should reduce the number of units to a more appropriate density for this area.”

Allen Sibert, Haymarket’s chief of police, said the project would pose a public safety hazard by increasing emergency call volume for the town and delaying response times.

Weir, a former Haymarket Town Council member, argued the project does not actually provide housing that’s affordable to most since it uses low-income tax credits to provide homes for people earning 60% of the area’s median income. He accused Wheeler of placing her “fist on the scale” to push through the development that he argued shouldn’t be considered.

Weir said county planning staff told him they aim to take up the development in October. If recommended for approval by the Prince William County Planning Commission, the Comprehensive Plan amendment and rezoning will go to the supervisors for a final vote. Brentsville and Gainesville Planning Commission members Tom Gordy and Richard Berry both spoke out against the proposal at the event.

“The Gainesville and Brentsville districts in particular are under assault. They’re under assault by your own elected officials, although you don’t get to vote for about six of them. They’re jamming this stuff through,” Weir said at Monday’s forum.

“At the end of the day, if this continues, you’re going to pay for it monetarily, you’re going to pay for it in increased traffic. And if these types of applications continue, your quality of life is going to deteriorate,” he said.

Lawson called on residents to lobby Wheeler to hold a similar town hall-style event to publicly answer for her support of the project.

When the supervisor opened the floor for questions, Lawson declined to hear from anybody outside her district until the Brentsville residents in attendance had a chance to speak. That decision created outbursts between Lawson and attendees who wished to be heard, many of whom were in favor of the development to provide housing for those in need.

Other residents who spoke were concerned about the development’s impact on the area’s schools.

Democrats counter

Democratic nominee for board chair Deshundra Jefferson, who ousted Wheeler in their party’s primary election, spoke at Monday’s gathering, calling it a “campaign event masquerading as a town hall.”

“We need an affordable housing trust fund,” Jefferson said. “We need an affordable housing ordinance. We also need to have discussions with the community that are not preordained where we already have our minds made up … We need to have conversations with developers to see how we can make a project better.”

Both Lawson and Weir said they declined to invite the developer to the meeting.

The Prince William County Democratic Committee echoed Jefferson’s statements, calling the town hall “a campaign event, filled with dog whistling.”

“If it were an actual town hall, there would’ve been actual dialogue,” the party said on X, the social media platform formerly called Twitter. “Instead, Lawson only wanted to hear from those she ‘planted’ with her talking points.”

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


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