Archive for July, 2013

Planning Office to Hold Meeting on Rural Preservation

As part of the County’s rural preservation study, the Planning Office will host a public meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 1st in the Nokesville Elementary School gymnasium located at, 12625 Fitzwater Dr. in Nokesville. The public input session is part of a study that began on June 4, 2013, when the Prince William County Planning Office presented information to the Board of County Supervisors regarding the County’s Rural Preservation Study. During the June 4 project kick-off, staff introduced the consultant team and noted that there would be several opportunities for public input. County staff explained that the purpose of the study is to provide an overview of the County’s rural preservation policies and an evaluation of their effectiveness, identify additional rural preservation tools that may be appropriate and effective, and make recommendations regarding possible amendments to the County’s rural land use planning policies.

The meeting will provide residents with an overview of existing conditions within the rural areas of the County, will provide residents with an update on the status of the study, and most importantly, give residents a platform to voice their opinions regarding existing rural land use policies. 

Additional public input opportunities will be available during the course of the project. Project information can be found on the Planning Office webpage, www.pwcgov.org/planning, under the heading Rural Preservation Study. For more information, please contact the Planning Office at 703-792-6830.

County’s 2nd Dog Park Now Named for Police K-9 Gunner

The County’s second dog park, located at 13000 Minnieville Road in Woodbridge, now is named for a largely unknown hero of the Police Department after the Board of County Supervisors today approved its new official name: “K-9 Gunner Memorial Park.”

Gunner, a seven-year-old German Shepherd who served on the Department’s K-9 Unit from 1999 to 2005, was killed in the line of duty on June 6, 2005. Police were trying to apprehend a suspect in the Woodbridge area when Gunner was struck by friendly fire. His ashes, along with those of 13 former Prince William County Police dogs, were buried in the police dog memorial cemetery on the grounds of the Prince William County Criminal Justice Academy later that month.

K-9 Gunner earned many awards and achievements during his service including the 3rd Quarter Patrol Dog award from the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) in 2005; 1st Place Overall in the USPCA Region 3 Field Trials in 2003, where he also received the Patrick Cahill Award for his overall outstanding scores; and the USPCA’s Triple Crown award for certification in tracking, patrol and detection in 2002.

In addition to being a certified police canine, Gunner was also certified as a drug detection canine. He had just two handlers during his career: Officer James Ford from 1999-2001, and Officer Bill VanAntwerp from 2001-2005.
The dog park on Minnieville Road is the second one in the County – the first one opened in October 2012 and is located at the Prince William County Animal Shelter. The Minnieville Road dog park opened in May 2013. Community volunteers leased the land for $1 from the then-Prince William County Park Authority, and held several fundraisers to get the land fenced and ready for dogs. The K-9 Gunner Memorial Dog Park is open daily and closes at sunset.

VDOT Hosting Meeting on Gainesville Traffic Switch

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will hold a meeting at. 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 31, to provide details on the Route 29 traffic switch planned for the weekend of August 16-18. The traffic switch will cause delays of up to an hour on roads in Gainesville.

Local businesses and residents are welcome to attend the meeting which will be held at 5095 Wellington Road, in the storefront located between the Sports Authority and Golfsmith in the Gateway shopping center. The project team will be available from 6 to 8 p.m.

VDOT plans to move Route 29 traffic onto the new bridge over the railroad tracks in Gainesville beginning Friday night, Aug. 16 through noon, Sunday, Aug. 18. During that time, only one lane will be open in each direction on Route 29 and Linton Hall Road. Motorists can avoid major delays by using I-66. Message signs will alert motorists of the closures and delays well in advance of the weekend work.

For more information, call 1-800-FOR-ROAD or visit www.virginiadot.org.

ENERGY STAR Awarded & Poster Contest Winners

The Department of Public Works recently received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s prestigious ENERGY STAR award, the national symbol for protecting the environment through superior energy performance. This is the third consecutive year that Public Works has received the award.  The buildings recognized include the Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building in Woodbridge, the Judicial Center and the Fire & Rescue/Voter Registration Building on Lee Avenue in Manassas.

The ENERGY STAR rating signifies that buildings are using about 40 percent less energy than average buildings, while still providing quality service and comfort to occupants.  The Prince William County buildings energy performance rates in the top 25 percent of facilities nationwide.

To celebrate this achievement, Public Works sponsored an energy conservation poster contest for children.  Over 200 posters were sent in from children throughout Prince William County.  Congratulations to Melissa Lopez and Ava Magnelli for winning the poster contest!

County Awarded Top Bond Ratings

Recently  Moody’s, Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s reaffirmed that Prince William County receive their highest possible ratings for the upcoming sale of $32.1 million General Obligation Bonds and $69.3 million in Special Obligation School Financing Bonds. General obligation bonds are used to fund road and park projects; school bonds for school related projects.

In awarding its coveted Aaa rating, Moody’ noted the County’s “strong financial flexibility supported by effective management and ample liquidity, and manageable debt burden.” 

Fitch’s AAA rating was awarded based in part on the County’s “favorable location on the outskirts of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region, its relative affordability, and a well-educated and trained workforce.” They also noted that “reserve levels and financial flexibility remain sound, supported by prudent fiscal policies and multi-year planning.”

Standard & Poor’s rating of AAA noted Prince William County’s “diverse economy, sizable and diverse property tax base, strong financial management and low-to-moderate debt.” They noted that “finances are, in our view, strong and have remained consistent throughout the recession due to a conservative and pro-active financial management team.”

Over several decades, the Board of County Supervisors has maintained stringent control of the County’s annual appropriation and five-year budgets and the Capital Improvement Program resulting in balanced five-year budgets and six-year Capital Improvement Programs, strong revenue forecasting, growing reserves and services that are affordable for County residents.

Rural Preservation Study to Proceed

On June 4, 2013, the Prince William County Planning Office presented information to the Board of County Supervisors regarding the County’s upcoming Rural Preservation Study. The presentation by Planning Director Chris Price included background information, an overview of the project and process and information about the selected consultant. This presentation served as the official project “kick-off.” 

The presentation noted that Prince William County has a long rural preservation history and specifically cited a 1964 study conducted by Harland Bartholomew and Associates, which recommended a Comprehensive Plan identifying a significant portion of the County as “Large Estate and Agricultural.” The County’s 1972 Comprehensive Plan designates much of that area as “Agricultural and Large Estate.” The preservation goals became more formalized through designation of the “Rural Area” in the 1998 Comprehensive Plan when the area was described with a map and a series of policies and strategies. 

Price stated that, in addition to the Rural Area, the County has adopted various rural preservation measures over time. These include policies and strategies in several Comprehensive Plan Chapters, zoning ordinance provisions and subdivision ordinance standards. Together, these measures constitute the County’s overall rural preservation vision, goals, policies, and strategies. 

Price noted that, the Board authorized the Rural Preservation Study following Board directives, discussions and a staff work program report and recommendation in 2012. The goal of the study is to determine if the County’s past planning has been effective, and if there are additional rural preservation tools that may be appropriate for Prince William County.  

Price said that the study, which is to be conducted by Environmental Resources Management (ERM), will help clarify the County’s rural preservation objectives, evaluate our existing polices and provide information regarding potential planning strategies for our rural area.

“When we adopt or amend our policies, especially of this magnitude moving forward, we recommend identifying measurable goals and objectives, so over time we tell you whether or not the strategies were effective in meeting stated goals and objectives,” Price said. “We have some things in our land-use plan, we have some ordinances, but we don’t really have a clear vision or goals for rural preservation.” According to Price’s presentation to the Board, the process will include data gathering, preliminary analysis, and evaluation in June, with a variety of stakeholder input opportunities throughout the project.

In October, ERM will review its findings and write a draft report to present to the Board in November.

Price said the Planning Office, hired ERM after putting out Requests for Proposals and interviewing companies capable of evaluating the effectiveness of the County’s existing rural preservation tools and identifying additional tools for consideration.

According to Price, “the principal thing I’d like to get from the study is an evaluation of the rural preservation tools so that we have some clear, articulated, measurable goals and objectives for our rural preservation programs and then, if we’re not using all of the tools available to us, which tools do the consultants think are appropriate for Prince William County.”

Price said he wanted to stress that County residents would have the chance to provide input through public meetings, workshops, surveys, and comments on the Department’s website. “We’re really going to be engaging the community through a variety of forums,” he said. The public would have additional opportunities to provide input if the Board takes any action, Price said. “If the Board chooses to take any of the recommendations of the consultants and change any of our land use policies or ordinances, that would require public hearings before the Planning Commission and the Board of County Supervisors.

Information about the project can be found on the County’s website at www.pwcgov.org/planning.

Prince William County Seeking Citizen Feedback on Website

Prince William County is recruiting citizens to help identify ways to improve the County’s website, pwcgov.org.

The County’s Department of Information Technology and Office of Communications are conducting surveys, convening focus groups, and scheduling individual interview sessions. Members of the community who are willing to donate their time to assist are being sought. Specifically, County staff is seeking individuals who are willing to participate in one or more of the following activities:

  • Online Survey (5-10 minutes);
  • Online Navigational Assessment (20 minutes);
  • In-person usability testing sessions (1 hour); and/or
  • In-person focus group session (1 hour).

The results will be used to understand how satisfied citizens are with the latest iteration of the County’s website and to identify ways to improve access to information on the site.  Members of the community who are interested in participating can fill out a recruitment questionnaire at http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e7suttcvhivvwlgy/start.  

 

Public Meetings on Setting up Additional Voting Precincts

PWC Voter Registration and Elections and the Electoral Board have been working individually with the members of the Board of Supervisors to realign voting precinct boundaries, making the precincts smaller, if necessary, and establishing new precincts when the larger precincts needed to be divided.  Locating additional facilities with adequate parking and meeting rooms to host these new precincts has been a challenge, but a number of churches in our community have been identified.

These proposals will go before the Board of County Supervisors on July 16, in order that the BOCS may set the date for a Public Hearing to discuss the proposed voting precinct changes.  Before the Public Hearing, the Electoral Board wants interested parties to have the opportunity to review the suggested changes in a less formal setting for complete discussion.  Public information sessions will be held on Tuesday, July 23 in Manassas, and on Tuesday, July 30 in Woodbridge (see calendar of events for details).  Maps illustrating the new precincts, boundary changes in others, and the new voting locations will be available at the information session.

When redistricting was completed in 2011 by the General Assembly in Richmond, the members of the House and Senate did not use the county’s precinct lines to create their districts.  This resulted in voting precincts being “split” between House, Senate and Congressional Districts across the county.  Some of these problems have been fixed, when possible, in the realignments of the voting precincts, because these splits cause voter confusion when comparing ballots with their neighbors and friends. They are also costly to the election process, as different ballot styles must be programmed within each precinct.

Please do not hesitate to contact any of the following if you have questions or concerns about the upcoming meeting.

What’s Wrong with my Tree?

Some residents may have noticed the browning of the tips on so many trees across our area. According to County Arborist Julia Flanagan, the cause is the Periodic Cicada. The Periodic Cicada is the 17 year brood that we have seen so much of these past few months.

The flagging on the trees (tips of twigs turning brown) is the result of the female cicadas laying their eggs by carving a small incision into the softer wood of young twigs.  They make a series of these incisions and the result is that the twig usually dies where the incisions have been made. 

On mature trees with large canopies, the damage is not considered significant.  But if you have a young or newly planted tree and several of the limbs are damaged, it could harm the health of the tree, causing some significant dieback and/or deformities.  But at this point there is nothing you can do about it, except keep your tree healthy with watering during dry periods and mulching to improve soil conditions.

The cicada eggs will hatch about 6 to 10 weeks after being laid and the young cicadas will drop to the ground and burrow into the soil where they will spend the next 16 years of their lives.  The dead twigs will eventually fall off with no real negative effect in the long run.

New Commuter Lot Near I-66 in Manassas Opens July 8

On Monday, July 8, VDOT will open a new 433-space park-and-ride lot at Cushing Road and I-66 near the Prince William Parkway. Drivers will access the lot from Balls Ford Road via Cushing Road. The lot has a direct on-ramp connection to eastbound I-66 which is open only from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and is restricted to buses and vehicles with two or more people.

OmniRide will provide bus service to the lot on its Linton Hall Metro Direct route. Direct service between the lot and Washington, D.C. is scheduled to begin this fall.

For more info, visit http://www.virginiadot.org/newsroom/northern_virginia/2013/new_commuter_lot_near66533.asp