In 1998, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors adopted a Comprehensive Plan that, for the first time, formally established an Urban Growth Boundary. The County had been experiencing very rapid population growth over the previous 40 years. Because of this, local government was having to continually raise taxes to provide schools, roads and other infrastructure required for the new residents. The Comprehensive Plan established zones for greater development density, primarily in the Woodbridge and Manassas areas, to concentrate the available public services.
The plan, also for the first time, defined a Rural Area which was to be for "That portion of Prince William County which contains agricultural, open space, forestry and large-lot residential land uses, as well as occasional small-scale convenience retail centers and community facilities." This area became known as the Rural Crescent.
Some think that the Rural Crescent is an area covered by working farms, forests and rolling meadows, and there is certainly those kinds of places. However, the changes in zoning did not go into effect until after a lot of development had taken place. Additionally, the regulations allow for exceptions through the use of Special Use Permits. As a result, there are already over 25,000 developed acres.
Because the land is relatively cheap, as compared to the available properties in the planned development zones, there is a constant stream of proposals to place non-rural activities and facilities in this area. Protecting it from development is critical to minimizing tax increases for infrastructure, protecting our water supplies and watersheds, maintaining our rural heritage, and continuing to provide natural scenic viewsheds.
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