Prince William at a Crossroads
On Tuesday, May 4, the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the Rural Area Preservation Plan. The Planning Commission recommends adopting only one of the strategies presented in the Plan - a Purchase of Development Rights program. We agree with the Planning Commission.
It’s unknown if Supervisors will follow that lead or if this will be viewed as an opportunity to expand allowed Rural Crescent uses to include increased densities, commercial uses, or even industrial development.
Although much is uncertain, we know a few things. We know that opening the Rural Crescent to development beyond what is currently allowed goes against why it was established in the first place - to protect the Occoquan Reservoir watershed, to maximize investments in the development area, and maintain green open space (which could also be part of our climate change mitigation plan!)
Rather than expanding development in the rural area and investing money for infrastructure there, we should be supporting communities where equity needs call for infrastructure upgrades. Numerous schools in the development area would benefit from facility upgrades for state-of-the-art learning environments.
Also, few, if any, developers will redevelop Route 1 or elsewhere if the county allows them to purchase cheap land in the Rural Crescent, which effectively redirects taxpayer funds away from underserved areas.
While data centers are threatening both our rural and commercial assets, the county is taking steps to protect the Innovation area, with the intent of protecting the county’s capacity to attract jobs that pay at least a living wage.
Most Supervisors support data centers on privately owned land in the rural area, including next to our national parks. The county understands the value of a quality town center area to attract economic investments, but the value of the Rural Crescent -- attract tourists, support farming and other agri-businesses, improve underserved areas, and protect our reservoirs -- is not considered. This "it's not appropriate for here put it there" mentality shows the county has not recognized the value of our protected rural area.
That Rural Area was defined at the edge of the county because that was the most expensive area for extending sewer/water lines and roads. New residents there would also experience the longest commute to jobs in Fairfax County/DC, so it was viewed as the least-attractive area for building new subdivisions.
Now, once again, the Rural Crescent and its benefits are at risk. Given the inconsistent, fragmented process and poor information sharing with the community, PWCA sees an urgent need for an honest, comprehensive conversation about how to ensure equitable, sustainable communities for everyone.
Please share your views with Prince William Supervisors. Click here to email the Board, click here for more contact information. View the current agenda here. Register to speak remotely at the public hearing here.