The Comprehensive Plan: A Vision for Prince William County
The Comprehensive Plan is a cornerstone of the development process. This document establishes the vision for what Prince William will look like twenty, and fifty, years from now. The Comprehensive Plan defines the County's expectations for development proposals. Applications are evaluated on their consistency with the Comprehensive Plan's goals, policies and actions strategies.
Virginia is a Dillon rule state, where any power enjoyed by a locality must spring from an express grant by the legislature. Localities are required to adopt a Comprehensive Plan and a Subdivision Ordinance.
The Comprehensive Plan is a vision document. It recommends development densities, parcel-by-parcel, for the entire county. When projects call for higher densities than are planned, developers are usually required to file a Comprehensive Plan Amendment application.
Rezoning and special use permit applications that do not match the vision, as detailed by the reasonable policies and action strategies in the Plan, can be denied. However, as a vision document, it is not designed to be an ordinance, and cannot be administered or enforced as an ordinance.
Although not specifically mandated, most localities also adopt a Zoning Ordinance, which implements the Comprehensive Plan and is legally enforceable.
The local Planning Commission is charged with reviewing the Comprehensive Plan at least once every five years and recommending changes to the Board. The Board can send any recommendation back to the Planning Commission with a list of issues they wish addressed.
Prince William County reviews the Comprehensive Plan on a rolling, chapter-by-chapter basis. The Board can initiate amendments to the Comprehensive Plan. Both the Board and Planning Commission can initiate amendments to the Zoning Ordinance.
The Comprehensive Plan is the foundation document of the land use process, which includes both legislative and ministerial (administrative) actions. Government staff is largely responsible for most ministerial decisions, which include site plans, site plan revisions and waivers to the County’s minimum standards, as authorized in the Zoning Ordinance, Subdivision Ordinance and Design Constructions and Standards Manual.
Major revisions to an approved rezoning require a legislative action called a Proffer Amendment. These receive public hearings at the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.
The Development Process
Each development application is first analyzed by the Planning Office. Planning staff then present information on their analysis to the Planning Commission. Citizens have the opportunity to provide input at the Public Hearing scheduled for each application the Planning Commission reviews. The Planning Commission makes recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on the development application.
After the Planning Commission makes their recommendation, the application moves forward and is considered by the Board of Supervisors. Planning staff presents their analysis and the Planning Commission's recommendation(s) to the Board. Citizens can provide their views to the Board of Supervisors by speaking at the Public Hearing and emailing their views in advance. The Board of Supervisors makes the final decision on all development applications.
Citizens can review the status of development applications by reviewing the Development Applications Processing Schedule (DAPS). Links to Staff Reports are added to the DAPS when they are completed and ready to be presented to the Planning Commission.