by Ralph and Kathy Stephenson of Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth, 4 Dec 2007
Kathy Stephenson 4 Dec 2007 speech to Board of County Supervisors
Good evening, members of the Board. My name is Kathy Stephenson and I live in Bristow. I represent Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth. We stand for balancing residential growth with traffic, tax, local economic, school, and quality-of-life issues. I invite all who are watching or listening to visit our website at pwcbg.org. That’s PWCBG.ORG.
Tonight the Board has scheduled a vote that could bring sewer lines to undeveloped land in the Rural Crescent for the first time. Fireside Wesleyan Church wants to build a new facility on public sewer in the Rural Crescent, on Route 15 just north of the intersection with Route 29. Although everyone welcomes churches (I’ve been a churchgoer my entire life), that is not the issue here. Approving the extension of public sewer to this undeveloped property would change the Comprehensive Plan restrictions on access to public sewer in the Rural Crescent and open the area to development at higher densities.
You cannot pick and choose: what is fair for a church is fair for developers. Thus, my concerns focus on the Comprehensive Plan and not on any particular use: religious and residential applications are approved using the same rules.
In addition, the Board vote on this application does not follow standard processes. The County’s established policy has been not to vote on development applications after an election and before the new Board is seated. Supervisors recently changed this policy to allow votes on commercial applications. However, this particular proposal was scheduled for a Board vote in January after the Holidays, but then recently quietly moved to December 4.
If Supervisors are interested in eliminating the Rural Crescent by providing widespread access to public sewer and changing the Comprehensive Plan, the appropriate way to do so is through a Comprehensive Plan update and not by a precedent-setting action on a single development application.
Supervisor Covington, who supports this proposal, has made no attempt to hide the fact that he would like to see the Rural Crescent sewered and thus opened up to widespread development. According to an interview with reporter Catherine Hubbard that appeared in the Bull Run Observer on 11 August 2006, page 5: Concerning the Rural Crescent, “Covington said he’d like to see more cluster housing and allow homes that are currently on septic to hook up to sewer… ‘There’s more that we can do to have more orderly development,’ ” he said. [See pwcbg.org for more details on Supervisor Covington statements on this and related issues.]
I urge the board to vote against the text amendment for Fireside Wesleyan as the Prince William Planning Commission has recommended.
Let’s not pave paradise and put up a parking lot. … [pause] Let’s not sewer the Rural Crescent and pave it over with residential development.
Ralph Stephenson 4 Dec 2007 speech to Board of County Supervisors
Good evening, members of the Board. My name is Ralph Stephenson and I live in Bristow. I also represent Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth.
As the Bible says, when we serve our fellow human beings, we serve God. True service is freely given to and for the benefit of all those whom we can reach, not just our closest friends or supporters. In politics, perhaps the best that can be expected is the greatest good for the greatest number, but even that perhaps-somewhat-lower standard rules out serving only our friends and cronies.
Tonight I would like to publicly thank the entire Board for their service. But I would particularly like to single out two members of the Board. First, I would like to thank Supervisor Nohe for meeting with two young Boy Scouts before the last Board meeting on 19 November. He spent considerable time with the Scouts, treating them like they were honored guests, which they indeed were. And he did it with no fanfare and no one else present but two or three people, including me. I commend and thank you, Supervisor Nohe, for this unselfish act of service and am sure that it is just one example of many that could be given.
I would also like to thank someone who has been unselfishly supporting balanced growth issues, including defending the Rural Crescent, for a long time, longer than most of the current members have even been on the Board. I am confident that she will continue to be a leader of this Board in supporting balanced growth policies. My heartfelt thanks to Supervisor Caddigan. [pause]
Now, … [pause] per longstanding county policy, including the county’s Comprehensive Plan, sewer lines should not be extended to undeveloped land in the Rural Crescent. This is in order to protect this relatively small part of the county from high-density development. Allowed exceptions to this rule are few.
At a public hearing a few months ago, Supervisor Stirrup proposed that the Park Valley Church, located in his district on the edge of the Rural Crescent, be hooked up to nearby public sewer. He proposed a “no-net loss” approach which provided that new land be added to the Rural Crescent to compensate for the small amount being lost.
At the same hearing, Supervisor Covington attempted a Trojan Horse proposal to allow public sewer lines anywhere in the Rural Crescent, under the subterfuge that he was really just doing this for churches. At the time, the Board saw this for what it was and voted it down.
Now, Supervisor Covington is back with another Trojan Horse, this time a precedent-setting text amendment to the Comprehensive Plan to allow sewer for Fireside Wesleyan inside the Rural Crescent, with no mention of the compensatory, no-net-loss-to-the-Rural-Crescent approach that he had earlier promised. (Also unmentioned, of course, is the fact that Supervisor Covington is a big landowner with lots of big landowner friends who constantly seek county government land rezonings in hopes of selling their land at a killing to big residential developers – no matter what the cost to county taxpayers in higher property taxes, falling property values because of an increasingly glutted housing market, increasingly crowded public schools, more traffic congestion, reduced public services, and lost open spaces.)
Let’s not sewer the Rural Crescent and then pave it over with high-density development. I urge the Board to vote against the text amendment for Fireside Wesleyan.
Prince William Conservation Alliance synopsis of the Fireside Wesleyan proposals titled: “Rural Crescent at Risk … Again”
“This coming Tuesday, December 4, 7:30 p.m. at McCoart, the Prince William Board has scheduled a vote that could bring sewer lines to undeveloped land in the Rural Crescent for the first time. This precedent-setting action could change the Comprehensive Plan and set the stage for high densities within the Rural Crescent.
“Fireside Wesleyan Church wants to build a new facility on public sewer in the Rural Crescent, west of Route 15 near the intersection with Route 29. Although everyone welcomes churches, approval of public sewer to this undeveloped property would change the Comprehensive Plan restrictions on access to public sewer in the Rural Crescent and open the area to development at higher densities.
“You cannot pick and choose, what is fair for a church is fair for developers. Thus, the concerns focus on the Comprehensive Plan and not on any particular use: religious and residential applications are approved using the same rules.
“In this case, the applicant has submitted a Comprehensive Plan Amendment requesting access to public sewer as well as a Special Use Permit to allow construction of religious facilities. However, the applicant claims that they do not need a Comprehensive Plan Amendment because the existing rules allow undeveloped land in the Rural Crescent to be served by public sewer if surrounding properties have documented sewerage system failures.
“In the past, this Comprehensive Plan rule has been applied only to properties with existing structures in order to address existing health and safety issues associated with sewerage system failures. A new interpretation based on the speculation that a future septic system on undeveloped land will fail would change the Comprehensive Plan and open the Rural Crescent to new development proposals at higher densities.
“In addition, the Board vote on this application does not follow standard processes. The County’s established policy has been not to vote on development applications after an election and before the new Board is seated. Supervisors recently changed this policy to allow votes on commercial applications. However, this particular application was scheduled for a Board vote in January and recently moved to December 4, catching citizens concerned with protecting the Rural Crescent by surprise.
“If Supervisors are interested in allowing all Rural Crescent properties access to public sewer and changing the Comprehensive Plan, the appropriate way to proceed is through the Comprehensive Plan update and not by a precedent-setting action on a single development application.
“The Rural Crescent has been instrumental in changing the County’s reputation from the home of low-end retail to a quality community that is attractive to a broad range of commercial development. It has helped the County focus new development in areas where existing infrastructure can be maximized, create opportunities for a diversity of residential housing, and protect our public drinking water supply, scenic viewsheds and the rural character of west Prince William. Protecting the Rural Crescent protects our wallets as well as our watersheds. The Rural Crescent is working for Prince William not against us.
“Share your views on Prince William’s Rural Crescent!”
Fireside Wesleyan Public Hearing
Tuesday, December 4 at 7:30 p.m.
McCoart Government Center, directions
Citizens have three minutes and organizations have five minutes to speak at the public hearing. Public hearing speakers are not required to sign up in advance.