by Ralph Stephenson of Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth

26 Nov 2008

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: PW County Citizen Alert: I Strongly Urge You To Get Involved
Date: Wed, 26 Nov 2008 14:04:54 -0500
From: Ralph Stephenson <>
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

All:  The county — following behind-the-scenes lobbying by local residential developers for many months, with virtually no effort to keep citizens informed or to receive broad-based input from them — is proposing that at least 30-35,000 homes (accommodating about 100,000 people) be built in the Haymarket-Gainesville-Bristow-Manassas area in the coming years.  If this does not sound to you like a good idea, I strongly urge you to get involved.

You can get involved by contacting the Board of County Supervisors.  I urge you to send e-mails opposing this idea, at least as currently written, to all eight members of the Board.  Here are e-mail addresses.

I also urge you to speak against this proposal at the Prince William County Planning Commission meeting on 3 Dec, Wednesday at 7 pm at the Board of Supervisors Chambers in the McCoart Building of the County Complex off the PW County Parkway.  (The Planning Commission is the primary land-use advisory body to the Board of Supervisors.)  I intend to be there to speak and would be happy to go early to sign up by 6:00 pm anyone else who would like to speak.  Let me know if you’d like me to do this for you.  Each speaker is limited to three minutes. There will almost certainly be a follow-up public hearing in January or later at which the Prince William Board of County Supervisors will vote on and decide the issue.  Please strongly consider speaking at that meeting as well.

If you have any questions, please let me know.  And please share this message with any of your friends/neighbors who you think would be interested.

It is my impression that you would like to receive e-mail alerts about major actions by your county government that affect you.  If not, please let me know right away so I can take you off the mailing list.

For those of you who were asking or who might be interested, here are links to info on the county Centers of Community Proposal.  The first is specific info.  The second is the homepage for Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth. (Note:  In this plan, the county is also proposing 6 “Centers of Commerce“, which have mixed housing, retail, and other commercial.  My view is that planning now for 1 or 2 of these in the county — maybe more later — could be reasonable, depending on a number of factors, including whether they are located around infrastructure that can handle them.) : Centers of Community/Commerce

Further info on the Centers of Community proposal and its likely impact is included below.

The county is proposing sweeping changes to how it accommodates future growth by designating 19 locations in the county as “Centers of Community”.  Centers of Community are  large areas (reportedly about one square mile) that are specifically planned for high-density housing.

The screenshot at the bottom of this e-mail, which I took off the county website, summarizes the current plan.  There are  19 planned Centers of Community — 11 in the Haymarket, Gainesville, Bristow, Manassas area, and 8 at the east end of the county.  If each of these centers builds 3,000 homes, which is about the same density level as the infamous 2005-06 Brentswood Project, and assuming the county’s average of three people per house, that would total 171,000 more people, a 50% increase in the population of the entire county.

See this link, noting particularly the land use update, for more info:

You might be interested to know that making this plan part of the county’s Comprehensive Plan, as proposed, will effectively fast-track the approval process for all residential development in the Centers of Community.

I believe that nothing like this should be allowed to slip thru without thorough citizen input and thorough study and publicizing of its impact on:  1) traffic congestion; 2) overcrowding in schools; 3) property values in existing neighborhoods (oversupply drives down the value of your home and can eventually lead to older neighborhoods becoming blighted unnecessarily); 4) the county tax base (commercial development subsidizes the tax base while almost all residential development results in higher taxes for you); and 5) other quality-of-life issues including the environment.  Note:  Relative to the county tax base, all but the most expensive homes in the county are a net drain on county services and tax revenue.  This means that ultimately as a taxpayer you indirectly subsidize all the other, non-high-income housing, which the county, already glutted with thousands of foreclosed and unsold homes, doesn’t even need.  (By the way, those thousands of foreclosed and unsold homes can themselves become a significant tax burden on county taxpayers.)  And at last count, there were still 25-30,000 approved, but not-yet-built homes in the county.

It’s ironic that the county is bringing this up for discussion at the very time that the U.S. is in the middle of its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, a crisis brought on by, among other things, massive housing oversupply, predatory and dishonest lending practices by many mortgage lenders to people who couldn’t afford the homes they were being sold, and the financially toxic effect of these millions of now-non-performing (bad) loans on the books of banks and other investors. (Forbes magazine reported 2.2 million foreclosures in the U.S. in 2007 alone.)

Centers of Community Locator Map

Centers of Commerce Locator Map