Coles candidates compare their slow-growth agendas

Day in and day out, they’ve become a regular sight throughout Prince William County’s Coles District, wearing their matching blue polo shirts and ball caps.

They’ve climbed over February snow drifts and muddled through May rainstorms, banging on the doors of countless residents, handing out refrigerator magnets as they talk about the need to preserve open spaces, support schools and keep residents safe.

Martin E. “Marty” Nohe, 33, and his wife Kristina, 27, say they’ve visited more than 3,000 homes in the Coles District, sandwiched between Prince William County’s suburban east and more rural west. Marty Nohe is a native of the county who runs his family’s appliance store and attends Catholic church every Sunday. And come Tuesday, he may just give Supervisor Mary K. Hill a run for her money in the district’s Republican primary.

“I think there are things people would like to see their supervisors do differently,” Nohe said. “And they’re ready for a fresh perspective.”

It’s a far cry from four years ago, when Hill, 50, won re-election unopposed. Only two of the Board of County Supervisors’ members were challenged that year. But this time around, every seat on the board is being contested. And the Coles District is no exception.

Fueling the race is the large amount of development seen throughout the county. Between 2000 and 2002, the number of homes in the county grew 12.5 percent. In only a one year period, from 2000 to 2001, the population rose 6.5 percent.

Such growth has caused controversy. Nohe wants the county board to make even fewer exceptions to its long-range planning. He stresses more funding for overstrained schools and public safety services, even if other parts of the budget need to be cut.

Hill counters that she’s worked hard during her eight years in office to hold down growth in the district. By pushing for a decrease in the density of housing allowed in the county’s Comprehensive Plan, she says she’s reduced the number of homes that could be built in the district by 150,000. She cites her work bringing in the BMX track at the Pfitzner Stadium Complex and the role she played in the founding of Ridgefield Park.

At the same time, sticking to long-range planning isn’t as simple a solution as it seems, she says. Not making any exceptions might violate citizens’ property rights, and if new housing isn’t created fast enough, real estate in the area might become less affordable than it already is. “I wish people who are concerned about this issue realized that it is complex,” she said. “It’s market-driven. And we need to be careful.”

Hill is seeking to counter Nohe’s challenge by mailing newsletters throughout the district, not just to all of the more than 27,000 registered voters but to every house. She’s visited over 1,000 homes and won the endorsement of community leaders and homeowners associations.

Still, Hill admits that issues in her personal life have distracted her from campaigning. Her son William is facing drug charges, and her ex-husband, the father of her three children, is dying of a terminal illness. “I wouldn’t be a human being if these events with my son and my children’s father wasn’t deflecting what I was doing,” she said. “I think family needs to come first.”

Meanwhile, Nohe and his wife continue to hit the campaign trail. Being a supervisor, Nohe says, has been a dream since he was a senior at Woodbridge High School. He speaks of his volunteering as a school debate coach, his service on the Prince William Soil and Water Conservation Board, and an endorsement recently received from the Prince William County Police Association. He also talks about the three pairs of shoes he’s already worn out.

“Hopefully, they’ll be six more to wear out from now until November,” he said.

Staff writer Chris Newmarker can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 119.