Independent Hill Small Area Plan (SAP) proposes to Remove 75+ Acres from the Rural Crescent
Planning Commission Vote: September 16 2020
Action: Contact Planning Commissioners and Supervisors to share your views.
Read the staff report here.
The Independent Hill SAP is located on both sides of Route 234 in the vicinity of the Prince William County landfill. This area is mostly undeveloped, with environmental and cultural resources that offer an opportunity to create a sense of place in keeping with the character of the surrounding area.
But the staff proposal overlooks the value of existing resources and proposes a dense community at a location not served by transit. The staff report shows up to 270 new homes and 5 million sq. feet of nonresidential buildings within a 544-acre area that is bisected by the four, soon to be six-lane Route 234, where there is no reasonable expectation for transit and schools are already overcrowded.
Attempting to justify high density development in the middle of nowhere, staff claims the SAP is surrounded by “economic hubs” – the Kelly Leadership Center, Hellwig Park, Prince William County Landfill, Prince William [National] Forest Park, and Marine Corps Base Quantico. Staff suggests these will serve as “springboards for future development.”
MCB Quantico is the only existing use that could reasonably be considered an “economic hub.” However, to date MCB Quantico has prioritized investments in opportunities that reduce residential development in this area in order to protect a substantial buffer and ensure their capacity to complete their military mission. One example of this is their support for the permanent conservation of the 300-acre Merrimac Farm Wildlife Management Area, accomplished in partnership with Prince William Conservation Alliance and the VA Dept. of Wildlife Resources.
175+ acres of Rural Crescent properties are included in the Independent Hill SAP. Surprisingly, the staff report never mentions the Rural Crescent but nonetheless proposes to re-plan at least 75 acres of Rural Crescent properties for commercial development, specifically a data center. All Rural Crescent acres should be removed from the study area.
Data centers are an industrial use that are not an acceptable in the Rural Crescent. Any data center in this area should be located across Route 234 at the landfill, which is within the data center overlay district. For unknown reasons, County staff is resisting the landfill location. Instead they are considering a plan to donate the unbuildable portion of these Rural Crescent properties to Prince William Forest [National] Park in exchange for County approval to build a data center in the Rural Crescent. All Rural Crescent properties should be removed from the SAP.
The Rural Crescent properties in the SAP are also within the legislative boundaries of Prince William Forest [National] Park – the largest green space in the Washington-Baltimore area and the largest federally protected Piedmont forest. Prince William [National] Forest Park protects 70% of the Quantico Creek watershed. As a result, several studies classify Quantico Creek as one of the highest quality and most biologically diverse streams in the Northern Virginia region. Quantico Creek is a gem to be protected! Adding significant impervious surfaces to the headwaters area would cause unacceptable impacts to the quality of Quantico Creek as well as downstream properties.
The Board has called for the consideration of equity issues as part of the decision-making process. This SAP includes just one reference to equity, associated with the need for bike lanes to expand access to jobs and schools.
This SAP study area is not directly served by rail or commuter rail or bus. Staff’s claim that the T-3 Transect Zone/ Community Mixed Use area “would support fixed-route bus transit” is disingenuous unless a realistic Bus Rapid Transit service proposal is included. Referencing “fixed-route bus transit” without planning for fixed-route bus transit is dreaming, not professional-quality planning.