School overcrowding threat spooks Prince William leaders, rezoning deferred

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — The verdict is still out on whether to approve construction of 45 new homes on one of the last open spaces in eastern Prince William County.

The county’s Board of Supervisors deferred a vote that is now scheduled for Feb. 14, 2017, on approving Mia’s Meadow, a planned rezoning of 19 acres of agricultural land to planned mixed residential at the intersection of Minnieville and Spriggs roads. Single family homes tightly packed on the parcel, and new homeowners and residents would join their neighbors in nearby Hope Hill Crossing, a newer development located on what used to be a farm.

Residents and members of the Board of Supervisors are concerned about the number of new public school students the development could generate for already reeling with classroom overcrowding issues. Official numbers from county staff indicate Mia’s Meadow would generate 23 new elementary, nine high school, and seven new middle school students at Montclair Elementary, Hylton High, and Saunders Middle schools, respectively.

But Supervisors, already at odds with a county School Board that has repeatedly blamed them for approving multiple developments that have to lead to overcrowded classrooms in the eastern side of the county, asked for more time to review the numbers.

“I’m looking at an email that says Montclair Elementary has a capacity of 698 students, but they currently have 581 students, so just by that alone, but just by that alone they’re under capacity,” said Prince William Brentsville District Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, citing a comprehensive report by Citizens Alliance of Prince William County.’

Gainesville and Woodbridge District supervisors Peter Candland and Frank Principi, respectively, asked for more time to review the report and to compare its findings with numbers provided by county staff. At the beginning of the school year in September, the county school division had at least 800 more students that it had anticipated, said Candland.

“We’ve had a School Board that has come out accusing us of overcrowding eastern end schools based on a whole host of reasons,” said Candland.

Prince William County Director of Planning Chris Price told Supervisors the plan for Mia’s Meadow conforms with the county’s comprehensive development plan, that the development fits with the projected, anticipated growth patterns of the school system.

Price also reminded leaders the developer of the proposed property Manassas-based NVP, Inc. has offered up nearly $2 million in proffers to the county to offset impacts to schools, fire and rescue services, water, utilities, and roadways. The offer was made in March 2016, four months before a new Virginia law took effect severely limiting how local jurisdictions negotiate with home builders and levy proffers.

“These are proffers that we will never see again. And not that proffers are the ultimate, but our legislators have done away with that, and anytime a rezoning comes up there will be no money for schools, there will be no money for transportation, and so this $2 million will go a long way,” said Potomac District Supervisor Maureen Caddigan.

The school system has not weighed in on this development, added Price.

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