County says no to school growth

Holy Family Academy in Woodbridge will not be allowed to expand its hours or number of students, despite pleas from parents and administrators who said the school is a good neighbor and is offering an outstanding education.

Several parents said they had moved to the county from other states or Fairfax County to send their children there.

The private Catholic school on Pineview Road near Moore Drive is zoned A-1, for agricultural uses, and designated in the 1998 comprehensive plan as semi-rural residential, which means low density housing. The expansion is an allowed use under that blueprint for development but requires a special use permit.

In denying the permit, several board members relied on their memory of what had transpired six years ago when the school got its initial special use permit to operate.

Supervisors L. Ben Thompson, R-Brentsville, John Jenkins, D-Neabsco, and Mary Hill, R-Coles said they recalled the school making promises it wouldn’t expand.

A school official did not answer that question directly but said the school was allowed 4,000 square feet of additional space it had never used. The space can be used for expansion now, county planners said, but additional students can’t be added.

If the special use permit had been approved, the school would have been able to increase total occupants, students plus staff, from 175 to 275 and expand operating hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Current hours are from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

School officials said they wanted the extra hours to allow children to play outside in the evenings.

The board of county supervisors Tuesday night voted 6-2 against the expansion. At-large Republican board chairman Sean Connaughton voted for it, as did Supervisor Maureen Caddigan, R-Dumfries.

Several residents who spoke against it all who live near the school said it has increased traffic.

“Today from 2:35 to 3:55, 64 cars pulled in and out. We’re talking about 133 vehicular trips a day increase,” said Catherine Clark of McNichol Lane near the school. She also cited concerns about water since most are on private wells and septic tanks. “The school needs to prove to us that their deep commercial well is not taking water from us,” she said.

Michael Dove, who lives across the street, said he is opposed to the size. “The size doesn’t go with the neighborhood,” he said. “It will be 29,660 feet, ten times larger than any house in the immediate area. Most homes are less than 3,000 square feet.”

Their remarks were countered by several parents who said they had moved to the area so their children could go to school at Holy Family. John Ostridge said he moved to Prince William for the school and travels 35 miles to work. He transports eight different children to the school in a carpool. Parents said carpooling is frequent since the school cannot provide buses. Prince William is benefitting from the increased real estate tax base the school is attracting while not being a burden on the public school system, he said.

In other action, the board approved a plan to build a town center in Gainesville off Va. 55. Joe Contrucci presented his plan to the board Tuesday night, calling it “urban-oriented, mixed use, pedestrian-friendly smart growth.”

The plan is an outgrowth of the Gainesville sector plan, which about 60 resident apposed in August and supervisor Ruth Griggs, R-Occoquan, has consistently criticized for allowing too much retail development. Connaughton, Griggs and Caddigan voted against the plan.

The Peterson Cos.’ proposal to change the zoning on 54 acres in Gainesville on Lee Highway to allow a shopping mall for businesses and office use was also also approved. It will be an addition to the Virginia Gateway shopping center. It was approved with one exception Griggs voted against it.

Staff writer Diane Freda can be reached at (703) 878-4723.

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