The following text was sent out via email on October 21, 2022. Sign up for PEC email alerts →
With recommendation of approval from both the Prince William County staff and Planning Commission, the “PW Digital Gateway” Comprehensive Plan Amendment is set for public hearing by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, November 1, 2022. This is a critical moment for the County and the entire region. The Comprehensive Plan Amendment could be approved, denied or tabled.
If you read our last alert on the Prince William Digital Gateway, you know there is much to be concerned about in this ill-conceived proposal. If adopted by the Board of Supervisors, it will result in long-standing impacts, including to Manassas National Battlefield, the Occoquan Reservoir, and the rural landscape. That’s not to mention the costly infrastructure, uncertain energy needs and the groundwork the proposal lays for the controversial Bi-County Parkway.
Sept. 15 Planning Commission Approval
The recent Planning Commission recommendation for approval was not only disheartening, but also included an incredibly brazen eleventh hour amendment that undercuts many of the mitigation requirements that County staff had included in the Draft Plan to protect the public interest. It is unclear how these changes, which originate from a letter submitted to the County by QTS and Compass, will be carried over into what the Board of Supervisors reviews on Nov. 1. A coalition that includes PEC submitted comments to the Board requesting more review and explanation, but has not yet received a response.
The last-minute amendment:
- Reduces architectural screening elements around substations from a “requirement” to an “aspirational goal,” and limits that aspiration only to substations visible from Manassas National Battlefield Park or major roadways.
- Changes a provision to preserve key historic resources identified by County staff to only “if warranted,” but is unclear about who would make that determination and on what basis.
- Eliminates the 500-foot requirement for the wildlife corridors, leaving the width and placement of these corridors ambiguous.
- Removes a portion of the wildlife corridor north of Artemus Road.
- Weakens stormwater controls; rather than a “no net runoff” standard, stormwater just needs to be “reduced” with no requirement as to how much.
The amendment was not posted online until after the public hearing concluded, and County staff did not present on any of the changes, either. Thus, the public lacked any opportunity to weigh in on the changes until after the Planning Commission voted to adopt them!
Given the Sept. 15 vote by the Planning Commission, with four in favor, three opposed and one recusal, Board approval of the Comprehensive Plan Amendment is NOT inevitable. In fact, two planning commissioners tried to table the decision for a future date, and for good reason. The County’s Historical Commission recently recommended denial of the proposal; the Board of Supervisors endorsed but never pursued a water study; and several agencies have come out in opposition of the proposed land use changes, including the County’s own Watershed Management Department, the National Parks Service and Fairfax Water. With so many key stakeholders and subject-matter experts taking issue with the proposal, some decision-makers are starting to listen.
This split vote is also influenced by the immense opposition mounted by the community at large regarding the lack of good governance, impacts to their parks, water, and quality of life, and local government tapping into public tax dollars to support massive development projects in rural areas that lack appropriate infrastructure.
We Need Your Voice Nov. 1
Again, the Digital Gateway is not a done deal. It’s still possible to get the Board of Supervisors to deny this proposal or at least make a motion to table the vote until more information is made available. But they need to hear from you!
It’s the County’s job to act in the public interest and assess the impacts of the Digital Gateway proposal (such as by conducting a water study and clarifying energy and infrastructure requirements) before voting on it. Urge them to do so by writing to the Board of Supervisors today or speaking at the public hearing scheduled for Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m.
If you have a Prince William County address, use this form letter to:
Thank you for all that you’ve done so far to advance the debate and encourage the County to carefully weigh its future! We’ll see you at the public hearing.
Julie Bolthouse, AICP
Director of Land Use
(540) 347-2334 x7042