The Comprehensive Plan – It’s all about balance

aerial_reservoirPrince William is currently undergoing a debate, the outcome of which will decide the future appearance and direction of our County. The County’s Comprehensive Plan is in the process of being updated, and there are strong feelings from many quarters about what should be in that plan.

There are two major factions driving the discussion. On one side are the folks that represent the development community, basically builders, bankers, professionals such as surveyors and environmental consultants, and realtors – all the folks who make a living from land development.

The other stakeholder group is the citizen community – the civic associations, community groups, and individual residents who want to influence how their community looks and feels in the future.

This is the same old tug of war that happens across the country in areas lucky enough to have the kind of employment opportunities that attract people to live. The development community wants to maximize their short-term profits to satisfy their business (quarterly report) needs, and this can conflict with community wants and needs.

A couple of good examples are density requirements and environmental rules. Both of these could affect the individual project profitability in that they limit the active (rent-able or sale-able) square footage of a given parcel, whether it’s residential, commercial or retail.

On the other hand, if there is too much density and too little concern for environmental issues in the plan, the area becomes unattractive to the people we are competing with other jurisdictions to attract, and that will constrain building (and profits) of any kind.

Obviously, a balance needs to be struck, and here is where the BOCS needs to have the wisdom of Moses and the patience of Job. How do we become an area that has a reputation as a great place to work and play, and therefore attractive to quality employers and retailers?

In study after study, the answer seems to be that we need to concentrate on the environment, recreation, transportation, schools and employment opportunities. Intensely developed areas need to be balanced by green space. Roads need to be balanced by transit. Retail needs to be balanced by high-end employment.

To achieve this balance, we need cooperation from all parties. The development community needs to honor the citizen’s desire to leave areas like the rural crescent and mid-county alone. To drop the constant pressure to increase density in these areas. To understand that these green areas benefit them by providing a balanced community that draws people.

If they don’t, it will lead to a situation where citizens oppose every project because of perceived greed, sprawl and congestion.

On the other side, the citizen groups need to recognize that there are places in our county that can support growth. Areas with various transportation modes available and areas in need of revitalization, preferably both, are prime candidates. By targeting these areas we can preserve green space, limit sprawl, and maximize profitability for the business community.


1 comment so far

  1. mhamamo on

    Hey all it takes is planning,common sense and a true caring for the citizens of the county, something that our county government hasn’t shown it can do in the past.

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