Prince William Conservation Alliance

Community Report, June 24 2019

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Blue flags at Merrimac Faram

It Can Happen Here: Grow Smart Prince William

Monday, June 25, 6:30-8:30pm at Water's End Brewery, 12425 Dillingham Square, Woodbridge.

Prince William is unique within the Northern Virginia region, from the Potomac River shoreline to Bull Run Mountain. It’s time to take advantage of our assets. (Rural Crescent update below.)

On Tuesday evening, join PWCA and Tom Eitler, Senior Vice President of the Urban Land Institute, for a discussion on how new development could redefine Prince William County’s image to attract and retain talent as a means to compete in the Washington DC region, supporting our vision to create healthy sustainable communities. 

Understanding the Land Economics of the Rural Area

Prince William County should consider exploring what the current and future demand is for agriculturally-related uses and limited business uses in the rural area.

Understanding the socioeconomic trends that are affecting an area can help localities identify the potential for future land uses. Prince William County has 80,000 acres designated for rural uses. Mr. Eitler will discuss how the County may better understand and leverage the opportunities available in the Rural Area. 

Compact Suburban Development 


Prince William development area includes tens of thousands of acres of both vacant land and land that can be revitalized or redeveloped in the Development Area. This land will provide the County with all what it needs to meets its long-term residential and economic development goals


However, recent new residential projects in Prince William are resulting in low-density sprawl and 80s-style suburban development that is detrimental to the County’s ability to attract and retain talent. The millennial and Z generations are not interested in locating in humdrum suburban areas and Prince William runs the risk that these important cohorts will not be attracted to the county. 

A New Round of the Rural Crescent Debate Opens

Monday, June 24, 5-8pm at the Development Services Building, 5 County Complex, Woodbridge

Prince William County's (PWC) 80,000 acre Rural Crescent establishes a growth boundary that defines a rural area and a development area. It is the County's best tool to manage sprawl development.

The issues focus on proposals to increase residential densities within the Rural Crescent. Increased housing density in the Rural Crescent would increase sprawl, increase traffic congestion, and increase property taxes by requiring future construction of less-efficient public facilities. 

The Rural Crescent allows the County to focus development in areas where people do not need to get into their car for short trips. It is our best opportunity to establish live-work-play communities.

The PWC Planning Office has been collecting citizen comments on the Rural Crescent since the Rural Preservation Study began in 2014. The County has funded a community survey and a telephone survey, solicited written comments, and hosted public meetings. Supervisor Lawson has hosted several meetings. PW Conservation Alliance has hosted many meetings, generally with well more than 100 particpants. MidCounty Civic Association, Lakeridge Occoquan Coles Civic Association, Committee of 100, and other civic groups have hosted meetings that were also well attended.

The written and anecdotal evidence from these meetings and surveys shows strong support for maintaining the Rural Crescent, with a handful of Rural Crescent landowners and developers dissenting. Regardless, the Planning Office now says "Our goal is consensus, so we will have as many meetings as we need to get to it. [Prince William Times]

Please attend the meeting if you can. It is an opportunity to go on record and share your perspective on how to shape the future of the county.  And please attend the Grow Smart Prince William conversation the following evening, details above. Learn more and share your ideas.

If You Hate Traffic Congestion, You Should Care about Small Area Plans

Prince William County planning staff are creating nine Small Area Plans. Developers in those areas have asked for revisions to allow more-dense development and increase the value of the property proposed for additional houses or commercial uses.

That approach would make sense if the nine areas were locations where the county has opportunities to create mixed use communities with transit. 

A smart growth approach starts with selecting the areas where existing roads and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) capacity could move more people. Co-locating houses near jobs, schools, and shopping makes it possible to go places and do things without getting in the car just to drive a mile or two. Bike paths, sidewalks, and trails are an alternative to the car for short distances.

Concentrating new houses in a few locations also makes taking the bus a feasible alternative to driving the car. Bus service can be scheduled so it is reliable and regular, where there are concentrated pockets of potential riders. If Small Area Plans were developed at a series of places along Route 1, including North Woodbridge and Triangle/Dumfries (in partnership with the town), the opportunity to upgrade bus service and VRE would be clear.

However, if Prince William continues to scatter housing and perpetuate sprawl, bus service would be inefficient and expensive. Adults would choose to drive solo rather than take tiresome trips comparable to those required to move students between homes and schools.

By scattering Small Area Plans in an uncoordinated pattern across the county, staff is accommodating the desires of land speculators rather than planning to reduce traffic congestion. Prince William can accommodate the projected population growth while minimizing future traffic jams, or Prince William can plan for new development that will create more traffic congestion.

What can we do? Ask elected supervisors to redirect staff efforts to complete Small Area Plans only where there is high potential to provide transit services. 

Upcoming changes to Route 1 offer a great opportunity to redevelop that area. Land use planning could be synchronized with planning by VRE and Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) to upgrade transit services. 

The result could be a plan for public services that would attract developers willing to invest in mixed use, transit-friendly communities. This would benefit the residents of Prince William County, not just a few landowners.

Volunteer! Merrimac Farm Wildlife Garden

Saturday, July 6, 9 am to 12 pm. Meet at the Merrimac Farm Stone House, 15014 Deepwood Lane. RSVP appreciated to, 703.490.5200

Thanks to volunteer support, we created an area at Merrimac Farm WMA where people and the environment can come together as one. It's a great area to watch wildlife, learn about native plants and pollinators, and get ideas for your own backyard. We need help to keep nonnative invasive in check to maintain high quality habitat. Even if you can come just once, your help makes a big difference! Wear long pants, sturdy shoes, and long socks.

Please consider supporting PWCA today!

Your tax deductible donation helps protect green open spaces and healthy communities close to home, from the Potomac River shoreline to Silver Lake. For more information, please email or call 703.490.5200.

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