The Prince William County and Fauquier County Planning Commissions recently met to learn about how each commission deals with development, zoning and planning in their counties.
Commissioners from both jurisdictions said it's good to get together occasionally. The recent meeting was the second time the groups have met in the past couple of years.
Don Taylor, the at-large member of the Prince William County Planning Commission, said the meetings help put faces with people while at the same time they provide a "collective effort between the two counties that generate topics of discussion."
Adrienne Garreau, chair of the Fauquier County Planning Commission, said the meetings lay the groundwork of establishing a good rapport and better communication. "Our planning office has been communicating over the years with the Prince William office and that becomes more robust when we're all in the same room together."
At a glance, it doesn't appear that the counties share much in common. According to the latest figures at each county's websites, Prince William County has a population 456,105 while Fauquier County's population stands at 69,069 Prince William County is 348 square miles and Fauquier County is 647 square miles. The median household incomes are comparable, with Prince William County coming in at $98,546, while the median household income in Fauquier County is $93,672.
Still, Garreau said, Fauquier's commission stands to learn from Prince William County because development will eventually come to Fauquier County and it will be good for county officials to have a reference point. "It's certainly a very different intensity," Gerreau said of Prince William County's development, "but many of the same issues that you all deal with are issues that we face as well."
On the other side, Prince William County stands to learn some things from Fauquier County, said Prince William County Planning Director Rebecca Horner. Prince William County's rural area stands at 52 percent and Fauquier County officials have some insight into dealing with rural issues.
"We have a larger development area. Our population is higher. We have a higher level of service needs," Horner said. "It's nice to be able to look at their rural policies and be able to learn what might work in Prince William County."
Horner cited Fauquier County's approach to agritourism as an area where Prince William County officials can learn from Fauquier County and use its experience to learn how to promote agritourism in Prince William County. "It was very interesting to hear how they define agritourism, how they're regulating it," Horner said. "It's good to know their approach to see if there are additional things that we can do to address impacts from those types of uses."
Getting together also helps each commission to understand how major issues, such as development along traffic U.S. 29, affect each county, Horner said. "I think it's important for us to be aware of major initiatives that each of our jurisdictions are working toward so that we don't get in each other's way. In those cases we coordinate really closely. Our staff talks to their staff. We share information back and forth."
Taylor agreed that it's good that the two planning departments and commissions talk to each other. "We're learning here, not only from the planning commission standpoint. That gets these two organizations in sync on how we're going to move forward."