by Ralph Stephenson of Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth

1.  Members of the Board:  Thank you for all your service to the county.  Tonight, I urge you to reject the Planning Staff and Land Use Advisory Committee, or LUAC, recommendations on the Land Use Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan. As you may recall, the LUAC recommendations are outrageous, proposing 19 Centers of Community — 11 in the Haymarket, Gainesville, Bristow, Manassas area.  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.

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 outrageous LUAC recommendations.

On the other hand, the Planning Commission recommendations actually would noticeably plan and channel residential growth in reasonable ways — in two areas of the county.

2.  As has been said and as subsequent events have proven so many times before, more residential housing will further crowd schools and roads, subsidize residential developers yet again with our 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 neighborhood (At last count, there were still at least 25-30,000 approved, but not-yet-built homes in the county.)  More residential housing will also 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.

It’s ironic that the county is considering making it even easier to build residential housing 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:

1) massive housing industry overcapacity and oversupply (probably the single biggest cause);

2) 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;

3) dishonest and predatory lending practices by many mortgage lenders to people who couldn’t afford the homes they were being sold; and

4) the financially toxic effect of these millions of now-non-performing (or bad) loans on the books of banks and other investors.

3.  Supervisor Covington, you represent my district, Brentsville District.  For many years you have supported every residential development I can think of — from Brentswood to Avendale to bringing sewer lines to the Rural Crescent, which is supposed to be off-limits to residential developers, so you can develop it, too.  You appointed a developer to the  Land Use Advisory Committee to make sure that residential developer interests were given preferential treatment.  You do not represent the interests of the vast majority of your constituents, though most are not yet aware of that.  Are you prepared to tell your constituents now that you really don’t care what they think because you’re a big landowner with lots of big landowner friends looking to make a killing off of taxpayer-subsidized real estate and county government bailouts of residential developers?  Are you willing to tell your ordinary constituents that the 10s of thousands of dollars of  campaign contributions you’ve received mostly from developers are far more important to you than their interests?  If so, then vote for the LUAC or Planning Staff Land Use plan.  Otherwise, if you respect the wishes of your ordinary constituents at least to some degree, I strongly urge you to vote for the Planning Commission Land Use recommendations.

Let there be no doubt:  It is in no way ethical or humanitarian or fiscally responsible or pro-free-market to support county taxpayer bailouts of residential developers and big landowners so they can build more unneeded and economically harmful housing.  Let’s call it by its real name:  political corruption and an abuse of supervisors’ sacred public trust.  Please support the Planning Commission  Land Use recommendations.  Thank you.