by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

21 April 2006, p 7

“John Stirrup told an audience of about 90 people who attended his town hall meeting March 30 in J.W. Alvey Elementary School that the Brentswood project ‘is not a done deal.’

“Stirrup, who represents Gainesville District on Prince William Board of County Supervisors, said the proposal still had to go to the county’s planning commission and then come up for a vote May 16 before supervisors. The planning commission recommended denial of the plan at its April 12 meeting.

“Brookfield.Washington, LLC, wants to build 6800 homes, 2.788 million square feet of non-retail commercial space, and 8.75 thousand square feet of non-retail space on 1500 acres of land surrounding Nissan Pavilion. The plan also includes a VRE rail station, two town centers, and a sports complex.

“Ray Utz, chief of the long-range planning division of the county, explained that supervisors decided at a March 15 meeting to have the planning staff study the Brentswood plan.  ‘The board, asked that the number of residential units be reduced, that traffic impacts be mitigated, that rail improvements be integrated, that employment opportunities be expanded, and that a balance of retail and residential uses be included,’ Utz noted.

“He said the land intended for flexible employment would be reduced from 606 to 34 acres. ‘We would lose 949 acres of industrial and employment, but add 278 acres of residential employment center, a net loss of 671 acres of non-residential,’ he added.  He said the county would lose agricultural land, industrial land, and some light industrial land but pick up mixed use and residential land.

“A VRE station with 350 parking spaces would be included in the northern section of the project. The planner explained a time frame for the station is not included in the proposal.  The applicant also proffers two elementary school sites and a high school site, Utz said.

“Utz said off-site road construction would include widening of I-66 from Prince William Parkway to Catharpin Road, building the Rt. 29/Linton Hall Road interchange, building the interchange at I-66 and Prince William Parkway and constructing Rollins Ford Road from land bay E in the project to Wellington Road.

“The Brentswood project also includes a 100-acre park with a lake and active recreation facilities, picnic facilities, another seven-acre park next to an elementary school and a 4000 to 5000-seat sports complex.

“Utz noted the plan does not include a time frame for construction of the non-residential uses and the town centers.  ‘There’s no commitment to build office buildings concurrent with the houses,’ he explained.

“The planner also said there are concerns that the off-site improvements can be done faster by the applicant than by Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).  ‘Can they (the applicant) do it faster?  They don’t say so,’ Utz observed.

“Dave Beavers of Prince William County School District told the audience Brentswood would add 1390 elementary students, 657 middle school pupils, and 626 high school students to the district.

“Bob Pugh, a certified financial analyst, said Brentswood ‘would impose a huge financial burden on the citizens,’ and that the cost of the proffers would be passed onto Brentswood residents through a proposed Community Development Authority (CDA).  Pugh said the county has a population of 364,211, or 2.94 persons per household.  He said it takes $2874 per person to provide services to citizens.

“‘How much per person do we need in real estate tax to keep current on the level of services?  Six thousand, nine hundred and forty two dollars. At a tax rate of $0.767 per $100 (of assessed value) a home must have an assessed value of $905,062 to pay its own way. But Brookfield says $545,000 is the average price of its homes,’ Pugh contended. He added the tax shortfall for 6800 units would be ‘$18.8 million at buildout …an annual amount from the county to keep current services.’

“Pugh asserted the ‘long-term cost to citizens of the Brentswood subsidy is $2.5 billion perpetually.’  Another option would be to reduce services, he added. The financial planner explained, ‘The applicant offers about $125 million for transportation and parks improvements and a contribution to VRE. The proffers will be paid through CDA bonds, and the debt service on the CDA bonds will be paid by a special assessment on (Brentswood) residents, not the applicant. The developer is proffering other peoples’ money.’

“The main advantage of a CDA is that ‘it allows private groups to issue bonds with the taxes deferred,’ Pugh remarked. He said the Brentswood proposal also does not meet the requirements for a CDA.

“He noted ‘residential development rarely pays for itself,’ and that to hold the line on taxes the county should seek economic development that produces a balanced mix of residential and commercial in the real estate tax base.

“Environmental quality would be hurt, and Brentswood would ‘be a huge financial burden for the county,’ Pugh explained.  ‘We want balanced growth.’

“Stirrup, who said he is against the project, explained in response to a question that each single family home in the county generates an estimated ten vehicle trips per day. ‘It’s lower in age-restricted areas and for townhouses and multi-family units,’ he added.

“The audience listened attentively to the presentations, but very few questions were asked.”