Citizens for Balanced Growth

Year: 2009

“Some like more transparency for county appointees”

by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

21 August 2009, p 4

“If you want to serve on a Prince William County board or commission that advises the county on land use, you have to file a financial disclosure statement, members of the county’s board of supervisors voted unanimously Aug. 4.

“The new requirement already has resulted in the resignation of Ann Burgess from the agricultural and forestry districts advisory committee, Wally Covington, (R-Brentsville), told the meeting.  The supervisor explained the committee resignation came about because Burgess ‘was upset regarding the disclosure form she has to sign.’ Her husband represents Brentsville District on the county’s planning commission.

“This disclosure form adopted by supervisors says non-salaried citizen members of any board, commission or council that supervisors might create to advise the board or the planning commission on land use policies affecting zoning or density of specific identifiable parcels in the county will be required to file a statement of economic interests prior to assuming office and annually thereafter.

“The form is due by Jan. 15 each year or prior to assuming office or employment and would be available to the public under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.  The clerk to the board of supervisors would retain the forms for five years.  The requirement to disclose is no retroactive.  Those needing to fill out the form include school board members, board of county supervisors, planning commission, board of zoning appeals, Prince William County Service Authority (PWCSA), county attorney county executive and deputy county executives and real estate assessors.

“Also completing the disclosure forms will be the finance director, planning director, the Dale City Sanitary District administrator and assistant administrator, the director of economic development, general manager of PWCSA, director and deputy director of the park authority and the director of the department of development services.

“The amendment to county code also adds that disclosure forms need to be filled out by members of the agricultural and forestry districts advisory committee, the architectural Review Board and the historical commission.  Jan Cunard, at-large member of the county’s historical commission, said Aug. 5 the disclosure form ‘is a good thing, and it should have been done a long time ago.’  She added she believes there are loopholes in the disclosure requirements, but this is a good first for step.

“Mike May, (R-Occoquan District), and Covington in March proposed changes to the county’s conflict-of-interest ordinance.

“Angela Horan, county attorney, told the Aug. 4 supervisors’ meeting that state law doesn’t give the county much authority to customize its local ordinance, but that ‘members of certain committees can be asked to file the short form.’  She added that supervisors can decide which committees will be required to complete the form.

“Covington noted county staff would report to the board in September or October on which other committees should be asked to disclose.  Public comment will be sought on this, he added.

“May made the motion to amend the existing code, noting the changes would bring more transparency to local government.”

“Community concerns overriding, says Stewart”

by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

5 June 2009, pp 1, 20

“Asphalt plants won’t be coming to land near Innovation, ‘unless and until both plants satisfy the community’s concerns’ about them, Corey Stewart, chairman of Prince William Board of County Supervisors, said May 27.

“A public hearing set for June 2 for a special use permit (SUP) to let Finley Asphalt and Sealing, Inc., build an asphalt plant on Hornbaker Road near Innovation was postponed indefinitely, Stewart explained.  He added he expects another SUP, this one for GRR Land of Virginia and scheduled for public hearing June 23, also will be postponed.

“Prince William County Planning Commission recommended the Finely SUP for approval at a public hearing May 6.  The 8.8 acres site is designated industrial employment (EI) on the county’s comprehensive land use plan.  It is zoned industrial transportation (M/T), and is in the airport safety overlay district.

“The GRR Land of Virginia property is three acres at 9435 Contractor’s Ct. in Broad Run Industrial Park.  The SUP is for an asphalt and concrete batching plant on land zoned for heavy industry (M1) 600 feet south of the intersection of Contractor’s Court and Industrial Drive.  The planning commission recommended approval of both a SUP and proffer changes for the operation at its May 20 meeting.

“In response to concerns that Finely Asphalt contributed $16,000 to him over the last two years, Stewart said he received $1000 on May 1, 2009, which he returned because of the pending SUP.  The company also contributed $10,000 on March 27, 2008, when he was running for lieutenant governor of Virginia, and $5000 on September 30, 2007, when sought the board of supervisors’ office.

” ‘I get support from a broad section of the business community, but that doesn’t mean support for their development.  In fact, I oppose this (SUP), and will continue to oppose both plants until community concerns are satisfied,’ the chairman said in a May 27 interview.

” ‘I will not support this development over the community’s objections,’ he asserted.

“Stewart pointed out, ‘I received more contributions from businesses in the area that strongly oppose (the Finley) propose, including land owners at Innovation.’

“The chairman noted land in the area of the VA 234 bypass ‘is some of the last industrially planned and zoned property left in the county, and industrial development is necessary for the county’s growth.’

“Stewart added, ‘However, the safety of the public is first and foremost.  I won’t support any development if it threatens public safety.’

“He explained he also realizes ‘some people feel blindsided by a lack of notice’ on the two plants.  The county is required to notify property owners within 200 feet of a SUP application, and this was done.

” ‘We should look at revising the county ordinance to require wider notice.  Two hundred feet is not sufficient,’ he remarked.

” ‘The Bull Run Observer’ also received e-mails opposing Finley SUP from Victory Lake residents Sam Shinaishin, John Schmitt and Charlotte and Joe Herres.

“Shinaishin mentioned the Finley contributions to Stewart’s coffers, and pointed out the Finely property at 9514 Hornbaker Road ‘is less than one mile east of Victory Lake Elementary School and a half mile (from) the Saybrooke subdivision.’  He noted Finley already purchased the property, which he called ‘a high degree of confidence for a project needing significant waivers and departures from established county development and zoning patterns.’

“Schmitt also noted the Finley money given Stewart.  He said he’d ‘decided to vote for [Stewart] in the last election,’ but that a vote for Finley Asphalt will cause Stewart to ‘lose my vote and never get it back.  I suspect my wife’s vote as well.’

“In his reply to Schmitt, Stewart pointed out there are very strict guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency for pollution and emissions from asphalt plants.  These standards are enforced by the Department of Environmental Quality.  He said he appreciated Schmitt’s support and shared his concerns over the plant.  Stewart added Erick Finley, plant owner, intends to ‘meet with the community to answer its concerns, and has deferred the public hearing….’

“The Herres couple wrote ‘The Bull Run Observer’ that “this neighborhood is furious and willing to do anything to stop this (plant) from happening.  After reading about the horrific health risks that come along with breathing the dangerous toxins daily, I don’t think most people will stay.’  The e-mail added that there are ‘many other reasons this doesn’t make sense.’

“In an e-mail sent to businesses and residents in Western Prince William County May 25, Stewart said, ‘There seems to be misinformation spreading in the community that this is a done deal.  I want to put an end to it right now.  I am in opposition to these plants as long as the community is in opposition to these plants.

” ‘There have also been accusations that I am unable to be objective in this situation because Erick Finley has been a strong supporter of my campaigns.  I want to make it clear that this is not the case.  I have probably received more contributions from businesses and individuals who currently stand in opposition to his proposal.  I am not for sale, and I do not make my decisions with anything else than the best interests of Prince William County in mind.’

“Tim Bako, a spokesman for Finley Asphalt, said May 27 the company had gone beyond the 200-foot notice requirement in telling the public about the plant.  He explained letters had gone to businesses and residents in the area, Manassas Airport and a homeowners’ association.  He said he did not recall the name of the homeowners’ group.

“Bako said only two people contacted the company, one inquiring whether the operation would run 24/7.  He said the company would operate round the clock ‘during paving season, if VDOT needs us for nighttime work.’

“Bako likened the 600 vehicle trips per day planned by the plant to traffic generated by 30 residential homes.  He said some fast food restaurants generate more than 1200 vehicle trips each day.  He said emissions from the plant ‘would be less than sitting in traffic.’

” ‘The plant will be based on green technology.  It will be an environmentally friendly operation,’ Bako pointed out.”

Letter to the Editor in “Your View” section: “Taxes low as long as priorities kept”

by Ralph & Kathy Stephenson, Inside NOVA.Com

17 March 2009

“We understand that the Prince William Board of County Supervisors is debating and will soon decide fiscal year 2010 property tax rates. We support efforts to keep taxes low, or even reduce them, particularly in the kind of severe recession the country is now experiencing. We understand full well that it takes political courage to keep the size of government and taxes under control, and none whatsoever to constantly expand government, heedless of the interests of those footing most of the bill — middle-class taxpayers.

“We will continue to support efforts to keep taxes low as long as the county’s highest priorities are police and fire protection, schools/libraries, and roads/transportation. And we will support reasonable efforts to attract more business and commercial development to the county.

“We also think it is important to be mindful of what got us into the current mess in the first place and to ensure that it never happens again.  As Vice Chairman Covington has noted, the plight of ‘the family who has one wage earner unemployed, the homeowner who has seen the value of his house plummet, the small business owner who tries to hold on to valued employees, the corporation that planned to expand, and the senior citizen who has witnessed his pension fund decline in value by 50%,’ and others even worse off is heartbreaking and erodes the well-being of all. These human tragedies all around us are reminders of the ultimate, root cause of the current severe recession:  a housing industry with massive overcapacity, consequent massive housing oversupply, and years of concurrent political mischief and corruption by both major political parties [at the federal, state, and local levels] (with apparently only a few Republicans dissenting) to distort healthy market forces and overturn normal, honest financial practices in order to artificially force housing demand to fit oversupply.”

Ralph and Kathy Stephenson

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