——– Original Message ——–

Subject: The Outrageous Lies Developers Are Telling To Sell Residential Development
Date: Sat, 20 Sep 2014 21:24:29 -0400
From: Ralph Stephenson <email address withheld>
To: Stephenson, Ralph & Kathy <e-mail address withheld>
CC: Stewart, Corey <cstewart@pwcgov.org>, May, Michael C. <MCMay@pwcgov.org>, Caddigan, Maureen <mcaddigan@pwcgov.org>, Covington, Wally <wcovington@pwcgov.org>, Nohe, Marty <mnohe@pwcgov.org>, Principi, Frank <fprincipi@pwcgov.org>, Candland, Peter <gainesville@pwcgov.org>, Jenkins, John <jjenkins@pwcgov.org>, Haynes, Austin B. (Chairman) <austin@crossroads-realtors.com>, Burgess, Ron <kenavon@aol.com>, Vanegas, Alex <alex.vanegas.cpm@gmail.com>, Arnold, Fran <gainesvilledistrictpc@gmail.com>, Holley, Edgar Bruce <ebholley@gmail.com>, Hosen, Kim <khosen@pwconserve.org>, Fry, Rene <fryrene@verizon.net>, Bryant, Russell <russellbryant@comcast.net>

Residential developers and their allies on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) and Planning Commission (appointed by the BOCS) have cultivated a thicket of lies around Stone Haven, the high-density residential development that will place 1,650 houses and 5,000 people behind Jiffy Lube Live. Soon to follow and next door to Stone Haven will be at least 2,000 houses, per Supervisor Mike May’s office, and 6,000 people at Prince William Station.  Are you ready for 11,000+ new neighbors in a two square mile-plus area, increasingly overcrowded schools and roads, much higher taxes than necessary, and less green space — with 5′-wide side yards, population density twice that of Bangladesh, and slummification perhaps just a few years down the road?

Let’s cut away some of the lies developers and their allies have told so far to win the public’s silence, acquiescence, or even support:

LIE #1:  You’re getting ANOTHER SCHOOL! …. TRUTH: You’re getting an empty piece of land. Then you, the taxpayer, will likely pay at least $100 million to build the new school.  Yet building of schools never even nearly catches up with development, does it?  It’s as if the residential developers are saying “I’m a developer and I promise you a school, so I can build 5,000 more houses.  Then you’ll need one or more schools to cover that and other nearby development.  So I promise you another school, so I can build 5,000 more houses.”  And so it goes, on and on.  According to BOCS Supervisor Frank Principi (Woodbridge), “elementary classes in Prince William have climbed to an average of 23 students and secondary school classes [have] topped 30, making them the largest in Virginia and in the Washington region… Smaller class sizes reduce the achievement gap, especially with low-income and minority students.”  Principi notes that the BOCS has so far ignored his proposal to make “reducing classroom size a [budget] priority.”  Stone Haven and Prince William Station will make the situation worse.

LIE #2:  Per Planning Commission Chairman Austin Haynes, as reported in Bristow Beat, the County SCHOOL BOARD “UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED OF” Stone Haven. …. TRUTH:  Well, not quite. Our School Board representative Gil Trenum told us (Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth, PWCBG) that he supported Stone Haven “under duress” as a “less bad alternative necessitated by overly rapid residential growth in the area and a history of sub-par school land proffers from developers as compared to surrounding jurisdictions.”  Gil noted that “individual opinions on the School Board are diverse and range in their level of support for Stone Haven.”

LIE #3:  Silence or change of topic by developers and their allies regarding the impact on TRAFFIC. …. TRUTH:  No serious secondary or primary road improvements to reduce congestion are planned, nevertheless, assuming two vehicles per house, there’ll be 7-8,000 more vehicles in the area.  Too bad for us locals; and good luck even getting to/from I-66 during rush hour, much less then being able to move on I-66, which will have more traffic than ever, much more.

LIE #4:  Stone Haven will bring in more TAX REVENUE and thus help strengthen the county tax base. …. TRUTH: A house has to be worth about $450,000 to generate as much in real estate tax revenue as it costs the county in services (for police, fire, roads, schools, etc.)  But in recent years the county’s median home value was only $331,700.  How does it make you feel to know that Stone Haven and other tax-negative residential development not only forces you to pay much higher taxes, but also brings you overcrowded schools and roads, less green space, sometimes even lower property values, etc.  (See: Speech to Committee of 100  and Email Exchange: Falsities in Chmn Stewart’s Reply on Rez Development, Taxes, County’s Economy, etc; Stone Haven).

LIE #5:  Stone Haven helps taxpayers because of generous PROFFERS (“gifts” by developers to taxpayers to offset part of the cost to taxpayers of new roads, schools, police, fire, and other services.) …. TRUTH: The 91.2 acres donated by Stone Haven for the school site are valued by the developer at $24,250,000 or $265,899 per acre, even though the land is empty, zoned for agricultural use, and not yet linked up to any services or roads.  Even more curiously, the 196.1 acres for parks & recreation are valued by the developer at $34,735,744, or $177,133 per acre, with no dissent from county planning staff, even though this “park land” is directly under high-tension power lines, adjacent to a swamp, and, in reality, virtually worthless.

LIE #6:  The Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) and Planning Commission are objective judges of land use issues and FAIRLY, HONESTLY REPRESENT YOU. …. TRUTH:  Four of the eight BOCS supervisors have received large campaign contributions from Stone Haven’s developers/realtors and are currently firm “yes” votes for Stone Haven, if not active shills for it. All four are ethically compromised at the very least, and should recuse themselves from the upcoming vote on Stone Haven (7 October at 7:30 pm at the county’s McCoart Building located at 1 County Complex Ct, Woodbridge, in the middle of the county on Prince William Parkway.)  The BOCS should also, this time, choose the ethical path and postpone the vote on Stone Haven until lame-duck Wally Covington’s replacement in the Brentsville District (Bristow), where Stone Haven is located, is formally seated and allowed to vote, after being chosen 1 October 2014 at a Republican mass meeting starting at 7 pm at Patriot High School. (There is no Democratic or Independent candidate.) No taxation — or lawmaking that harms local citizens — without representation.

 

 

BOCS Supervisors
receiving developer $
from and supporting
Stone Haven (their districts)

Political donations to BOCS Supervisors voting on Stone Haven (what PWCBG’s found; see vpap.org)
EV Hunter Trust
Edith Hunter Rameika,  Berryville
(land owner) (705) 750-2611
RK Realty / BruniPeters
(realtor) (703) 656-6162
brunipeters1@aol.com
Brookfield Homes
(likely builder; though others could be substituted with  similar results)
(703) 270-1400, info.calgary@brookfieldrp.com
Total Developer
$ received
Stewart (at-large)
  $21,500
$6,500
$759,841
Covington (Bristow area)
$1,500
$5,000
  $108,150
Nohe (Coles)
$2,500
  $2,500
$109,984
Jenkins (Neabsco)
$1,000
  $900
$105,271
TOTALS $5,000
$26,500
$9,900
$1,083,246

 

Here’s more on the four supervisors above who are financially beholden to Stone Haven’s developers.  Despite knowing and openly acknowledging that “when we approve large developments, we are essentially approving a tax increase” (2006), and that the county’s housing boom has “hurt the average person” (2007), Chairman Corey Stewart clearly doesn’t care and has relentlessly championed residential developer causes in recent years. Vast amounts of developer $ and a desire for statewide office have clearly changed him. Supervisor Wally Covington, who represents Bristow-area citizens, despite coyly pretending to be “undecided” on Stone Haven after being outed for severe conflicts of interest on land use issues, is a definite “yes” vote if he isn’t required to vacate his seat by 7 October. He’s been shilling for over eight years for developers trying to develop this land, beginning with its failed successor project, Brentswood, eight years ago.  Recently, Marty Nohe, the Coles supervisor, and a reliable, rubber-stamp, pro-developer vote who receives much of his campaign funding from big Fairfax County developers, has taken over the role of lead Stone Haven shill from Covington.  Supervisor John Jenkins has been a reliable, pro-developer vote for at least a decade.  A fifth BOCS supervisor, Peter Candland, has received a total of $2,500 from EV Hunter Trust, relatively modest total developer contributions of $45,644, and is voting “no” on Stone Haven.  4 out of 5: not a bad score for the developers.

(For info on county supervisors’ conflicts of interest and Stone Haven, see:  Supervisor Conflicts of Interest and Stone Haven, respectively. For more on Chairman Stewart, see: Supervisor Positions on Growth: Stewart, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0f8XDSKrNzs, and attachment.)

LIE #7:  If Stone Haven is not developed as residential now, something worse will be put there instead. …. TRUTH:  It’s currently zoned agricultural.  Only if our elected representatives on the BOCS intentionally choose to zone it as “something worse” and we, the voters and citizens, passively allow that to happen can it be rezoned as “something worse.”  However, would leaving it agricultural for the foreseeable future or possibly developing some of it later as commercial, with buffers like those between the Sudley Manor Dr. Safeway and surrounding communities, be worse than ~11,000 more people and ~10,000 more cars in a two square mile area in one of the most congested places in the state?  (See #s 1-3 above.)  (Eight years ago residential developers and their political allies unsuccessfully tried to use this scare tactic to frighten people into supporting the failed “Brentswood” development proposal for the same land.)  Per the official county report on the Stone Haven proposal, it “is a request to rezone +/-864.2 acres from A-1, Agricultural, to PMR, Planned Mixed Residential and PBD, Planned Business District,” and would “permit development of 1,650 residential units consisting of single family detached and townhouse units, and [already includes commercial –] a maximum of 1,062,735 million square feet of office/employment and commercial/retail development.”

LIE #8:  Stone Haven complies with county guidelines/policy and county officials are following the intent of the law relative to it. …. TRUTH:  See #5 above, in which the developer is obviously vastly overvaluing the proffered land; the majority of the county Planning Commissioners, some of them developers themselves, including the chairman himself, are shamelessly allowing this; and thus the purpose of proffers is being subverted.  Note that Stone Haven uses 2006 proffer requirements, not the higher 2014 requirements recently adopted by the BOCS.  Also, see http://pwconserve.wordpress.com/ from the Prince William Conservation Alliance, regarding county open space rules, which notes that “according to the staff report for the proposed Stone Haven development project, the County Planning Office agrees with the developer that” the following items “qualify as open space in Prince William County”:  “active recreation facilities; community recreation centers; power lines; stormwater management infrastructure; buffers along roads; and middle schools.”  ???  This is tantamount to fraud, as are at least some of the developer proffer valuations, as discussed in #5 above.

We’ve talked about at least four members of the BOCS being beholden to residential developers, as well as the county planning staff who work for the BOCS allowing virtually fraudulent overstating of proffers and open space.  But who’d’ve expected the same sort of behavior from the County Attorney’s Office (CAO), which also works for the BOCS?  In mid-September 2014, PWCBG made a fully legal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the CAO.  This FOIA request asked for recent e-mail correspondence regarding Stone Haven to/from staunchly pro-developer Supervisor Wally Covington’s staff with: local officials, BOCS candidate and Nokesville realtor/developer Scott Jacobs, and the Stone Haven developers. Ignoring PWCBG’s request that any but nominal FOIA fees be waived in the public interest, the CAO said it would comply with our legal FOIA request only if a minimum fee of $320 were deposited, with CAO reserving the right to charge any additional fees that it deemed appropriate.  PWCBG refused to sign such a blank check.  It appears that the leadership of the BOCS, through the CAO, by requiring extortionate FOIA fees that ordinary citizens cannot afford, may well be trying to conceal public records that show how its dealings with developers pervert public policy to serve very narrow private ends.

If Stone Haven is a good idea, good policy, why do its developers (see table in #6 above for contact info) and their political allies on the BOCS need so many Goebbels-like lies to sell it, and what do you think that says about what they think of you and the democratic process?  Contact them and ask them, but don’t let them lie to you again. Note that EV Hunter Trust (the developer) and Brookfield Homes (the likely home builder) both have Canadian contact info, and perhaps thus lack concern for local citizens (how development “has hurt the average person” in Stewart’s words) and how developer money corrupts local politics and government.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:  In democracies, the people tend to get the kind of government they’ve worked for and earned by being informed and vigilant.  The four BOCS members — the ones in the table above whose votes have been bought and paid for by Stone Haven’s developers — fear nothing except you as voters, especcially if you’re awake and aroused to action.  So if you’re tired of being ripped off by unnecessary residential development that is tax-negative and thus raises your taxes (~30,000 houses already approved but not yet built), if you and your children are tired of being herded like cattle into overcrowded roads and schools, if you’re tired of seeing more and more green space disappear, and being lied to again and again by scheming pro-developer politicians, then we urge you to exercise your rights as free people and do something about it. 1)  E-mail all the BOCS and Planning Commission members (cc addressees above) and tell them emphatically that you don’t want Stone Haven, and that the BOCS should, so as not to make a mockery of the democratic process, delay its scheduled 7 Oct vote until the affected district has a newly-elected, seated supervisor to represent it.  (If you like, you can just reply to all “to” and “cc” addressees and tell them you concur with these sentiments and want these abuses of power, abuses of the public trust to stop.)  2)  Attend the 7 Oct 7:30 pm BOCS meeting and sign up to speak against Stone Haven (more info in first paragraph of #6 above.)  If you let us know, we’ll get there early and sign you up.

Please contact us at admin@pwcbg.org if you’d like to help us get the word out on Stone Haven and/or receive alerts on Stone Haven, Prince William Station, and other important county land use issues that affect school overcrowding, traffic congestion, taxes, open/green space and quality of life.  We promise to keep you apprised of what we know.  We’ve lived in Bristow for over 14 years (in NOVA for over 30) and have nothing to gain from our work to keep you informed (and to keep the pressure on local politicians) but a better community.

Ralph & Kathy Stephenson
Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG)
http://pwcbg.org
admin@pwcbg.org