Gary Friedman, County Planning Commissioner

Ralph Stephenson and Bob Pugh, Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth

(e-mails read from top to bottom in reverse chronological order)

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: PW Supervisors 2 Feb Vote on Adding ~57,000 Homes, Most of them in Haymarket-Bristow
Date: Fri, 29 Jan 2010 13:33:33 -0500
From: Kathy Stephenson <>
To: Stephenson, Ralph <>

All:  Please spread the word and work to defeat the county government’s plan to further crowd schools and roads.  This plan will also subsidize residential developers yet again with your taxpayer dollars to create unneeded housing in a still-extremely-glutted housing market, and thus further damage the property values and long-term viability of older neighborhoods.  (At last count, the county still had a backlog of 25-30,000 approved, but not-yet-built homes.)   Furthermore, the plan will damage the county tax base, which is currently about 85% residential (higher taxes for you) and only 15% commercial.  And It will further harm the environment of beautiful (or soon-to-be formerly-beautiful) western Prince William County.

Below is a message I received 25 Jan 2010 from the Chairman of the County Planning Commission, the advisory body to the Board of County Supervisors.  See also recommendations and map below that.

My apologies if this message went to some of you twice.  : )  Ralph


Ralph and Bob –

Anything you can do to help get the word out will be appreciated.  See below.  Thanks much.


On Tuesday, January 19th, after two years of collecting input from advisory bodies and planning staff, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors held what it indicated will be its only public hearing on what could possibly become the two most important Comprehensive Plan documents it considers during the current board’s tenure:  The Long Range Land Use and the Transportation chapters.

As the At-Large representative and current Chairman of the county’s Planning Commission, I have been closely involved in this process from the beginning.  Following the board hearing on the 19th, I received several comments from planning commissioners and numerous comments from citizens concerned about the direction the board seems to be headed with these two chapters.  I would like to share some of these concerns.

From all indications, the board seems to be headed for adoption of the planning staff text recommendations on these two chapters at its February 2nd meeting, with perhaps some minor “wordsmithing” modifications.  Citizens should know that the Planning Commission carefully considered the texts for both these chapters and found the staff recommendations problematic, particularly in the land use chapter.  None of these concerns have been addressed.  Space constraints here prevent a full discussion, so I will mention just a few of the major concerns with the land use chapter.  The planning staff text:

1.     Provides no incentives for focused, major development in the two areas of the county identified by the Planning Commission as most in need of redevelopment and revitalization, which already have the basic public infrastructure in place and are the most likely locations for future metro rail expansion from Fairfax into Prince William County:  North Woodbridge and Yorkshire.

2.    The “centers”, as proposed by staff, have been best described by a fellow planning commissioner as allowing “anything, anywhere, anytime”.   There is no limit on the number of these centers that could be advanced and the Land Use Advisory Committee (LUAC) located a large portion of them in the Brentsville District.  Planning staff proposes these “centers” comp plan amendment initiations be allowed without form, format, or defined content, other than a vague “mixed use” requirement, and without any major investment in the county or the process by the applicant, whenever a proposal is submitted.  It would then be left to staff to work out the details along the way, thus allowing unprecedented “flexibility”.  In this scenario I am sure staff would do the best job possible to “work out the details”.  But any such effort will, of necessity, be constrained by resources and staff availability.  Due to budget restraints and numerous department vacancies, planning staff is already stretched to its limits.  Does it make any sense to add what would surely become dramatic new burdens on an already overburdened department?  And if so, what would be the likely result?

3.    Provides no phasing structure on mixed use projects.  We’ve been down this road before.  How many times have mixed use projects been approved in the past, the residential component installed, then the commercial component left waiting for “the market to catch up”?  This scenario always results in more rooftops, more congested roads, more overcrowded schools, and less revenue for the county to meet it obligations because the commercial component either never happens or happens to such a minimal level as to fail to offset the budget burdens the new homes create.

4.    Fails to include the Planning Commission safeguards designed to protect the rural areas from encroachment.  Anyone who cares about advancing smarter growth principles knows encouraging and concentrating growth in the development area, and protecting rural areas from sprawl development, are key features.  While the planning staff text mentions smart growth principles, and makes plentiful use of smart growth language, the proposed details tell a very different story.
Citizens who care about what the future of Prince William County will look like should let their supervisors know of their concerns before the board’s February 2nd meeting, when it plans to act on these chapters.

Gary C. Friedman
Chairman of the Prince William County Planning Commission.


Additional note from Ralph Stephenson:

RECOMMENDATION:  a) Contact all the BOCS Supervisors (the county’s land use decision makers) and let them know of your opposition to ~57,000 more unneeded homes,  ~33,000 of them in the Haymarket-Bristow-Manassas area. Here is their e-mail address:   It helps them to have your opposition as political cover to vote against unsavory plans that they’re under heavy pressure from powerful political interests to vote for.  b) Speak against the PW County Planning Staff’s Long-Range Land Use and Transportation Chapter updates to the county Comprehensive Plan at 7:30 pm on 2 Feb.  The meetings will be held at the McCoart Building at the county offices on Prince William Parkway.  (Note:  Since the Planning Staff recommendations on residential housing, on closer examination, apparently set no real limits on housing and instead seem to allow “anything, anywhere, anytime” — and thus are not really a plan at all — I see no reason to believe that they will not ultimately move strongly in the direction of, even converge with the county’s outrageous Land Use Advisory Committee (LUAC) recommendations described in this and the next paragraph.)

The [linked documents] at the bottom of this e-mail, which I took off the county website, summarize 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 19 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.

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

It’s ironic that the county is bringing this up for discussion at the very time that the U.S. is trying to recover from its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, a crisis brought on by, among other things: massive housing industry overcapacity and oversupply (probably the single biggest cause); political shenanigans by local and federal government officials allied to the housing industry, trying to keep demand artificially high to match the artificially high housing supply; dishonest and predatory 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.

Centers of Community Locator Map
Centers of Commerce Locator Map