Citizens for Balanced Growth

Year: 2012 (Page 1 of 3)

“Stonehaven Development and ‘Getting’ a High School”

by Kim Simons, in “PWC Education Reform Blog”

29 November 2012

Stonehaven Development and “Getting” a High School


Compare low Prince William Proffers to much higher Proffers in Stafford, Loudoun and Fauquier:

Proffers Comparison

Note:  Northern Virginia’s Fairfax and Arlington counties, Alexandria, and Falls Church require higher proffers overall from developers than the four counties noted above.  Also, note that Fauquier is a slow-growth, rural county and thus proffers are not as relevant to its growth management policies as they would be in high-growth counties like Loudoun and Prince William.

 

Local road projects on schedule; ‘hubs’ eyed for future”

by E. Bruce Davis, Bull Run Observer

19 October 2012, pp. 1, 9

“Current and future local Virginia Department of Transportation and Virginia Railway Express programs seem in tune with the recommendations in the forthcoming Super NoVa Transit/TSM Vision Plan.

“VRE is undergoing environmental analysis and preliminary engineering for a new 11-mile branch into Gainesville/Haymarket.  There are also plans to build a parking garage at Broad Run with 700 spaces and a kiss and ride loop.

” ‘It is going smoothly.  We are on schedule,’ said Joan Morris, spokesperson for VDOT, as it heads for its 2015 goal of widening roads and construction of bridges in Gainesville.

“Another project that should help western Prince William riders is the addition of express lanes on I-495 for 14 miles from Springfield to just north of the Dulles Toll Road.  The lanes will accept Easy Passes and are free for cars with three passengers.

“Starting in 2013, I-66 will be widened from US 29 to US 15.  There will be four lanes on each side, with an added HOV lane and regular lane.  In 2015, the interchange at I-66 and US 15 is scheduled to be built to alleviate the ramp back up.

“Meanwhile, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is nearing its destination on time by finalized recommendations on its Super NoVa Transit/TDM Vision Plan.  The plan, ‘envisions safe, strategic and seamless mobility options for rail, transit and TDM (Transportation Demand Management) in the greater Northern Virginia area.

” ‘The study was the result of a Governor Bob McDonnell initiative,’ said Doborah Cordell, a consultant with Cordell and Crumley, on behalf of DRPT.  ‘This is the first time of a study of this magnitude.  It is a challenging study for the engineers who worked closely with the VRE and the Transit Authority.’

“Identifying Northern Virginia as the most congested region in Virginia, McDonnell said, ‘To truly address congestion in Northern Virginia, we have to take a broader view of what constitutes the region and the commuting patterns of its workforce.  We must develop a geographically broader vision and plan for transit and TDMs that do not stop at local or state political borders.’

“In its overview, ‘The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation defined super region for this planning effort encompasses all of the localities comprising Northern Virginia and the localities extending form Northern Virginia to Caroline County on the south, Culpeper County on the west and Frederick County to the northwest.  It also includes an effort in coordination with Maryland, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

” ‘The mission is visioning mobility beyond boundaries,’ said Mike Harris of consulting firm, Kimley-Horn and Associates.  ‘This was a large effort.’  It involved getting input from the public and stakeholders, which include regional government agencies, TDM, organizations, the military and metropolitan organizations.

” ‘This is a vision plan, not a program,’ Harris said.  It will evaluate current transit service and TDM programs, existing and future land use, population and employment factors, travel patterns and trends, and future anticipated travel demand to develop a vision through 2040.

“Four stakeholder meetings were held to obtain input from various localities and agencies.

” ‘About 200 people attended these meetings,’ said Cordell.  ‘We received about 600 comments from them.’  Harris agreed, saying, ‘We had good participation.  Everyone wants to cooperate.  The public has a strong voice.  Its input will go into the draft recommendations.’  The draft plan was scheduled to be available by Oct. 15; public comments can be made until Oct. 30.  To send in a comment for consideration, email SuperNOVA@kimley-horn.com by Oct. 30.

” ‘We are looking for coordination and dialogue,’ said Harris.  ‘Of course, we will not be making recommendations to Maryland, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.’

“The Virginia-based study will include an emphasis on transportation hubs.  ‘This is the form for transit and TDM to flourish,’ he said.  ‘We suggest corridors leading to these hubs, connecting from one another.’

“Current draft recommendations with a vision for enhanced regional mobility include, ‘expansive commuter bus network throughout the region; interconnected network of high-capacity transit services in the region’s urban areas; network of hubs to connect people to transportation services and programs; increased coordination of local transit services across jurisdictional boundaries; pedestrian and bicycle improvements to enhance connections to transit services and facilities; comprehensive regional TDM strategy and programs; leveraging technology to enable people to make informed decisions about travel.’

“These recommendations are aimed at improving travel in the Super NoVa area now and over time.  The effect of the recommendations will be contingent on the methods of implementation within each area.  Recommendations of increased rail travel and the development of hubs with connecting corridors could improve travel and reduce congestion in the area.”

“Planners meet with residents about Stone Haven”

by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

19 Oct 2012, p. 3

“How would the development of Stone Haven, the 864-acre tract of land south of Wellington Road and Jiffy Lube Live, affect schools, roads and the quality of life in this area of Brentville Magisterial District?

“These were some of the concerns expressed Oct. 9 by several of the approximately 50 peole attending an infomration meeting sponsored by Prince William County’s Planning Department in Gainesville Middle School.

“In March, Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted not to initiate a comprehensive plan amendment (CPA) for the 340-acre Hunter tract in the area, deciding instead to do a wider study.  A preliminary report on the study was presented by the Planning Department July 12 at a public session, and a study group was formed.

“The study group came up with four different land use maps for the area, and a ‘blended’ map after a Sept. 6 public information meeting.  The ‘blended’ proposal has general office, light industrial and service uses, low density residential uses, paks and open space with tree save areas and a transitional area featuring office, commercial, light industrial, medium density housing and/or public uses.

“Chris Price, a county planning director, told the audience that supervisors could vote Nov. 27 on whether to initiate the CPA.  If initiated, the planning staff would study the proposal.  Public hearings would then be scheduled by the planning commission and board of supervisors.

“Price noted the community is concerned with growth in the area and that there is little support for office, industrial or commercial development along Linton Hall Road.  The study area is west of Devlin Road, north of Linton Hall Road and east of Limestone Drive.  There also is little support for residential development along Wellington Road.  While there is general support for the road network in the comprehensive land use plan, residents believe more schools, recreation, open space and community facilities are necessary.

“The planning director said there is support for having employment uses in the area, as well as continguous open space and preservation of environmentally sensitive areas.  Transitional areas should have buffers betwen more intense uses.

“Price noted outstanding concerns include the need for a well-integrated mix of uses, identifying and mitigating impact of the residential uses and determining if the proposed open space corridor along Piney Branch should expand to a broader trail or open space network.

“During the question segment a woman in the audience asked if the 13th county high school, planned to open in 2019, would be in the Stone Haven area.  Dave Beavers, of the school district’s planning staff, said this is ‘a potential site,’ but that the school could be built elsewhere.

“Jeanine Lawson contended both Patriot and Battlefield high schools are overcrowded and that thousands of residential units are being built in the area.  Beavers reported that student projections for Patriot High School ‘told us one thing, then went up 22 percent.’

“Another woman in the audience asked if the 12th high school, planned for mid-county, instead could be built in the Brentsville area.  Beavers said planning a high school involves a five-year time frame.  The process starts with identifying a site and buying it, and ‘it’s not a quick turnaround,’ he noted.

Another audience member asked if overcrowding could involved students’ being bused across county as was done several years ago.  Beavers answered that the school board determines school boundary lines, and ‘we do the best we can.’

“A woman told the group she can hear events at Jiffy Lube Live and expressed concern that no one would want to buy a home near the facility.  She said that, and the overhead power lines from Dominion Virginia Electric Co., could lead to low-income housing in the area.”

Letter to Editor in The Gainesville Times

by citizen Victoria Swanson

9 October 2012

“A community input meeting will be held at Gainesville Middle School regarding the Stone Haven Development on Tuesday, October 9th, at 7pm. This piece of land, also known as the Hunter Tract, is the only remaining significant piece of undeveloped land in the Linton Hall Corridor, approximately 900 acres. Earlier this year the property owner applied for an amendment to the county’s Comprehensive Plan in an appeal to re-designate future zoning from predominantly commercial development to high density housing. This would essentially raise the value of the land. Thankfully, Supervisor Covington, Brentsville District, did not initiate the amendment. ‘Too many houses and not enough community input’ were the reasons he stated.  He then directed staff to conduct a comprehensive study of the land and include the land owner, local residents and business owners for input.

“Prince William County’s Planning Department held a series of three community meetings over the course of the recent summer months. As a concerned resident, I attended and encouraged my neighbors to attend and provide input as well. The sole purpose was to study potential impacts, such as traffic and schools, and we were to consider land use alternatives. After these meetings the director of the Planning Department decided to hold an additional meeting in October (10/9) as it was clear a compromise was not close.

“I’m troubled that my supervisor, Mr. Covington, is absent from attending these meetings. In addition, I feel he has not done an adequate job of informing his constituents of these meetings. It is my understanding that during Tuesday’s ‘Supervisor Time’ at the board meeting, he made an announcement advertising for a private organization, Youth For Tomorrow’s annual event, however he failed to mention this upcoming community input meeting on Tuesday. You would think he would encourage his constituents to attend meetings that stand to have heavy impacts on our daily lives and property values.

“In spite of Supervisor Covington’s dismal job of keeping his constituents informed, after reading this, I hope you are encouraged to attend on Tuesday and let your voice be heard.

“For more information on the meeting and materials click on the county’s website: http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/planning/Pages/Special-Planning-Projects.aspx

“Sincerely, Victoria Swanson”


19 Sep e-mail from Brentsville District Supervisor Wally Covington publicizing 9 Oct “public meeting” on “Stone Haven” to some interested parties:

——– Original Message ——–
Subject:     Stone Haven Public Meeting
Date:     Wed, 19 Sep 2012 15:19:34 -0400
From:     Covington, W. S. Wally <wcovington@pwcgov.org>
To:     [info withheld]

You recently expressed interest or concern about the development of the Stone Haven property.  Our office would like to keep you informed and welcomes your participation in the process.  The following news release provides information on the next public meeting.

Wally Covington
Supervisor
Brentsville District

Stone Haven Public Meeting / Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 at 7 p.m.

Prince William County, Virginia . . . Prince William County’s Planning Office is seeking public input on land use alternatives and potential impacts for the Stone Haven property, also known as the Hunter Trust property. A public meeting will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 at 7 p.m. at Gainesville Middle School, 8001 Limestone Drive Gainesville, VA. 20155. The Stone Haven property is located between Wellington and Linton Hall Roads.

Earlier this year, an application was submitted to the County for an amendment to the County’s existing Comprehensive Plan land use map for the property. The Board of County Supervisors did not initiate that request, but instead directed the Planning Office to work with the community and the property owner to identify and discuss alternatives. This meeting will provide attendees the opportunity to review the County’s existing land use plan for the subject area, the applicant’s proposed land use plan, and a series of alternatives developed at stakeholder workshops over the past few months. It will also offer attendees the opportunity to ask questions and to provide additional input.

Information on the process, including all materials presented at the stakeholder workshops, is available at http://www.pwcgov.org/SpecialPlanningProjects

“Some pro, some con on plans to divert future Manassas Battlefield traffic”

by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

7 September 2012, pp. 14-15

” ‘The battlefield is overrun with traffic.  Its historical integrity is being lost, and there’s a negative impact on the historical nature of this hallowed ground,’ Sean Connaughton, Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation, told the Bull Run Observer late Aug. 30 via telephone from his Richmond office.

“Connaughton is very familiar with Manassas National Battlefield Park.  He is a former chairman of Prince William Board of County Supervisors and lives in the county.

“The state’s top transpo official explained that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is nearing agreement with the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) to find a way to build a Manassas Battlefield Bypass.

“This would take traffic around the park and then join the proposed Tri-County Parkway north of the park.

“Both roadways have had their supporters and detractors in the area for several years.  The bypass is a project of NPS and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), while the Tri-County Parkway is on VDOT’s project list.

“The bypass ‘would be an alternative to Rte. 234 and Rt. 29 in the battlefield.  Our intent is to let us close those roads in the battlefield by building alternative routes around it, and getting local and commuter traffic out of there,’  Connaughton said.

“According to Ed Clark, the bypass would start where VA 234 ends at Interstate 66, go over US 29 and along Pageland Lane, then through Catharpin and over Braddock Road, ending at US 50 west of Dulles International Airport.  Clark is superintendent of Manassas Natinal Battlefield Park.

“Clark noted Aug. 30 that ‘the amount of explosive growth in south Loudoun County’ concerns the park service.  He asserted that it is one of the fastest growing areas in the United States.

” ‘Gum Springs Road used to be two lands through farmland.  Now the farmland is gone, and there are thousands of homes there.  Loudoun County wants to have Gum Springs Road six lanes into Prince William County,’ he reported.  Gum Springs Road then would send its traffic to VA 234, a two-lane thoroughfare.

“The superintendent said the battlefield park is ‘a huge economic benefit to the area, contributing annually about $10 million and 200 jobs.’

“The battlefield  bypass and the Tri-County Parkiway would share the same alignment near the battlefield, according to Maria Sinner of VDOT’s Northern Virginia office.

“The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) set aside $4 million in its recently-approved FY 2013-2018 six-year improvement plan to do the bypass design phase, and $5 million toward the parkway project.

“But not everyone is pleased with the Tri-County Parkway proposal.  Joy Oakes of the National Parks Conservation Association contends VDOT recently came up with a draft agreement it wants with the NPS, and that the state needs NPS approval because the parkway ‘would use four acres of battlefield.’

“She added that an analysis by Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) shows ‘that up to 35 acres of the historic district’ around the park would be affected.

“Oakes contends her group ‘hasn’t been at the table’ in the parkway discussions ‘in a meaningful way.’  A press release from her organization says a coalition of national and local groups sent formal comments to VDOT, pointing out ‘significant shortcomings in its proposed agreement with the National Park Service.’

” ‘The coalition’s comment emphasized the need to analyze a low-build alternative, including the need to focus on improvements to east-west commuter routes like I-66 and Highway 50, and context-sensitive upgrades to local roads that would better address traffic and better protect and preserve the historic character of the park without unnecessary noise and traffic impacts on the battlefield,’ the press release explained.  It asserted the parkway would be part of an outer beltway and is being promoted by VDOT ‘to increase the movement of truck cargo to and from Dulles International Airport.’

“Oakes said ‘every reasonable alternative to meeting traffic demands without damaging the battlefield’ should be explored.

” ‘Our biggest beef is not looking at alternatives,’ she reported, adding a thorough analysis of alternatives is called for.  She suggested looking at bus lanes on US 50 and building roundabouts like the one at Gilbert’s Corner.

“Oakes asserts that since VDOT would be building both the bypass and the parkway, they should be looked at together — not as separate processes.

” ‘This is an irreplaceable natural and historical resource with meadows, grasses and habitat for birds.  Wed need to take all reasonable steps to avoid harming the battlefield,’ Oakes observed.

“The National Parks Conservation Association contends the Tri-County Parkway would have a 200-foot right-of-way, up to six lanes of traffic and would lead to more traffic noise, would damage the battlefield’s historic character and trigger more development and traffic.

” ‘Commuter traffic through Manassas National Battlefield jeopardizes both the park and its 650,000 annual visitors,’ Oakes noted.  ‘Diverting commuter traffic out of the national park is a top priority; however, VDOT’s plan shows that the Tri-County Parkway would make traffic in the park even worse.’

“The draft agreement between NPS and VDOT on the parkway is ‘out for review,’ according to Sinner.

“Oakes said her gruop and other ‘consulting parties’ would ask for a meeting with VDOT on the project.”

“The Tri-County Parkway is looking like a done deal for Loudoun, Prince William counties”

by Tom Jackman, The Washington Post

4 September 2012

Sean T. Connaughton, the Secretary of Transportation for Virginia, and former chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. He believes building the Tri-County Parkway will improve the fate of the Manassas battlefield. (Virginia Department of Transportation)

Sean T. Connaughton, the Secretary of Transportation for Virginia, and former chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. He believes building the Tri-County Parkway will improve the fate of the Manassas battlefield. (Virginia Department of Transportation)

“The plan to build a major north-south highway connecting Loudoun and Prince William counties, skirting the western edge of the Manassas Battlefield National Park, appears to be nearing fruition after 30 years of planning. In fact, it’s been on the boards for so long, the highway has changed names — it’s now  the  Tri-County Parkway — and it will only run through two counties.

“But under the guidance of Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton, the former Prince William board chairman, new documents show the National Park Service is on board, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources is on board, and the Loudoun and Prince William supervisors are on board. If all goes according to plan, a second highway will be built as a ‘Battlefield Bypass’ around the north side of the national park, and both Route 29 and Route 234 in Manassas will be permanently closed, 25 years from now.

“There is a coalition of preservation and smart growth groups who are completely not on board. They believe the Tri-County Parkway runs smack through hallowed Civil War ground, will spark rampant development and make traffic much worse.

“But they are going to have to fight fiercely, at this stage, to overcome the momentum that Connaughton and his group have built to construct a limited-access, 10-mile highway from I-66 in Prince William north to Route 50 in Loudoun County. Details are after the jump, as is an interactive map if you want to take a closer look at the proposed route.

Cannons arrayed on the Civil War battlefield at Manassas. Preservationists say the construction of the Tri-County Parkway on the battlefield’s western edge will destroy the park’s pastoral quality. (Chris Sullivan - AP)

Cannons arrayed on the Civil War battlefield at Manassas. Preservationists say the construction of the Tri-County Parkway on the battlefield’s western edge will destroy the park’s pastoral quality. (Chris Sullivan – AP)

“Connaughton and others portray the highway as a way to better preserve the Manassas battlefield, which is now sliced into quarters by Route 29 and Route 234. They also see it as a way to improve the route between Dulles Airport and I-95, and between the two counties as their populations continue to grow.

” ‘This is about creating one of the biggest and most valuable pieces of green space in all of Northern Virginia,’ Connaughton said, by building roads around it rather than directly through it. Traffic on those existing two-lane roads is fairly miserable at rush hour, he noted.

“The Tri-County Parkway ‘is simply about sparking development in the Rural Crescent’ of Prince William, said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, one of five groups who issued an urgent plea to stop the highway last week, on the 150th anniversary of the Second Battle of Bull Run. ‘We think this is a really bad deal for the park service here, and for the park service nationwide,’ Schwartz said. He added that building a major north-south road would only increase the east-west traffic on Route 29 coming through the battlefield.

“Both Prince William Board Chair Corey Stewart and Loudoun Board Chair Scott York told me they are happy to have the Tri-County built, and Manassas battlefield Superintendent Ed Clark says it does not damage the historic site while laying the groundwork to eliminate traffic from it. The Virginia Department of Historic Resources filed its response to the plan recently without major objection.

“An agreement in principle to build the road could be signed by the four major players — VDOT, the Federal Highway Administration, the state historic resources department and the National Park Service — by the end of this year, Connaughton said. He said $5 million is already available for part of the design costs. ‘Funding for construction has not yet been identified,’ Connaughton said, ‘but it could be financed in the future traditionally or through public-private partnership,’ which could involve proffer trade-offs with developers or private builders who collect tolls.

“Schwartz said Connaughton has been adept at finding funding for other pet projects, such as the bypass around Charlottesville, and that he may divert funds from other roads such as I-66. He noted that Loudoun has already begun to plan for the road with its recent approval of Northstar Boulevard, and that Loudoun typically allows developers to build parts of roads in exchange for better zoning.

” ‘This highway is Connaughton’s top priority,’ Schwartz said. ‘I’m sure he has a plan.’

 Click here for graphic of Tri-County Parkway’s approximate location

Above is a map of roughly where the Tri-County Parkway would go. Since the actual road does not exist, the purple line is approximate.

TriCo1

The map [to the left] gives a high-level overview of the proposed route of the Tri-County Parkway, formerly known as the Bi-County Parkway, from I-66 in Prince William County along the Manassas Battlefield, north to Route 50 in Loudoun County. (Virginia Dept. of Transportation)

“Once upon a time in the early 1980s, when it appeared Northern Virginia’s growth would quickly expand past Dulles to the western borders of Loudoun and Prince William, plans were drawn up for two major north-south roads. One, to skirt the eastern side of the Manassas battlefield, was called the Tri-County Parkway. It traversed from Route 50 near what is now South Riding, down through Fairfax County and Bull Run Regional Park, then diagonally across Prince William to the intersection of the 234 bypass and Route 28.

“A second north-south road was called the Bi-County Parkway. It is the current alignment: Starting at Route 50 in what is now the Stone Ridge neighborhood, and heading straight south into Prince William and tracking the western edge of the battlefield to I-66 at the 234 bypass exit. That alignment, though it only goes through two counties, is now called the Tri-County Parkway. Confusing enough for ya?”

“Connaughton said they would change the name to ‘the 234 extension’ at some point.

” ‘It’s a critical north-south link for a number of reasons, including connecting Dulles Airport with I-95,’ said Bob Chase of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, a group of business leaders which supports development and growth in the region.

” ‘It also connects a number of Northern Virginia activity centers,’ Chase said, ‘including those at Dulles and in Prince William and Loudoun, which are going to be where a lot of jobs in this region will be produced.’

“Schwartz’s Coalition for Smarter Growth, along with the Piedmont Environmental Council, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Southern Environmental Law Center and the National Trust for Historic Preservation all disagree. They say traffic will continue to move east-west, not north-south, and that resources should be spent improving I-66 and Route 50, not building new roads to encourage new sprawl.

“These groups have suggested alternative, low-impact ways to improve traffic and reduce flow through the battlefield. Last month they filed detailed objections to the proposed agreement. But VDOT appears to be going a different way.

“In July, VDOT Commissioner Gregory A. Whirley sent a letter to the state Department of Historic Resources, asking for their input on a ‘draft programmatic agreement…regarding the Tri-County Parkway.’ Whirley’s letter notes that public hearings on the highway were held in May 2005, which seems like a while ago.

“In assessing the effects of a four-lane highway on the very boundary of the battlefield park, Whirley’s letter writes that the Tri County-Parkway will ‘convert a portion of relatively intact rural landscape’ into a highway, ‘introducing into this setting an increase in traffic-generated noise and visual elements that will alter and potentially obscure significant battlefield viewsheds. These direct and indirect effects will result in a diminishment of the integrity of setting, feeling and association of MNBP [the park] and MBHD [the adjacent land not formally in the park].’

“In addition, VDOT estimated how much land near the parkway would be developed in the coming years. By 2030, Whirley wrote, ‘30,660 acres [are] projected to be converted from undeveloped to developed land.’

“To obtain the National Park Service’s approval, VDOT devised ‘stipulations’ that it will use streetscape design, noise minimization and visual minimization techniques to reduce the impact on the battlefield. It would also use ‘traffic calming’ devices to discourage use of Route 29 across the park, and severely restrict the use of Route 234 through the park, with an eye toward closing both eventually.

“But VDOT acknowledges that until a bypass is built around the park, ‘construction of the Tri-County Parkway may result in an increase in through traffic on Route 29’ in the park. And ‘land development in areas served by the Tri-County Parkway may also be induced by the new highway.’

“Chris Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council, said, ‘Not since the threat of the Disney theme park in 1994 has Manassas National Battlefield been at such risk.’ He said the 200-foot-wide proposed alignment would run through ground where actual battles were fought.

“Ed Clark, the superintendent of the park, said the opponents are ‘not really historically accurate. That’s not where the fighting took place. The fighting took place to the east.’

Corey A. Stewart, Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors (L), touring construction at Stonebridge At Potomac Town Center in Woodbridge. Stewart hopes to break out his hard-hat again for the Tri-County Parkway from Manassas to Loudoun County. (Tracy A. Woodward - THE WASHINGTON POST)

Corey A. Stewart, Chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors (L), touring construction at Stonebridge At Potomac Town Center in Woodbridge. Stewart hopes to break out his hard-hat again for the Tri-County Parkway from Manassas to Loudoun County. (Tracy A. Woodward – THE WASHINGTON POST)

“Clark said the two Civil War battles, particularly the second in 1862, took place over a wide area, and ‘It’s beyond our ability to preserve all that. We’ve preserved what really is that core battlefield where the fighting took place.’

“Clark and the park service are most interested in eliminating the heavy-duty traffic through the battlefield, and the Tri-County Parkway would form the western end of a battlefield bypass. He said if VDOT stands by its stipulations to reduce the visual and aural impact of the parkway, ‘and we do it in a way to manage sprawl, I think it can be done and be a real benefit to the park.’

“Schwartz said there haven’t been adequate studies or commitments made to construct this major road. ‘VDOT has forced the National Park Service into an untenable negotiating position,’ he said. ‘The public and decision makers lack all of the necessary information to make a sound decision.’

“Joy Oakes of the National Parks Conservation Association said that ‘diverting commuter traffic out of the national park is a top priority, however VDOT’s plan shows that the Tri-County Parkway would make traffic in the park even worse.’

“Local officials want this road.

Charging the battlefield at Bull Run during the 2011 reenactment of First Manassas. Preservationists believe land outside the park’s boundaries, where actual battles were fought, would be paved over by the Tri-County Parkway. (Amanda Voisard - The Washington Post)

Charging the battlefield at Bull Run during the 2011 reenactment of First Manassas. Preservationists believe land outside the park’s boundaries, where actual battles were fought, would be paved over by the Tri-County Parkway. (Amanda Voisard – The Washington Post)

“Corey Stewart [R], the Prince William board chair, said in an e-mail that ‘because of the importance of the road to future economic growth, Prince William County considers [the Tri-County Parkway] a top priority. Although some issues remain to be worked through before the project is finalized, there is increasing consensus and momentum favoring its construction, and I believe that it will be built.’
“Loudoun Chair Scott York [R] told me the same thing. ‘There’s a lot of growth, from an economic standpoint, that will happen around the airport and down in Prince William. We need the connection back and forth,’ and he said it will help both freight and commuters needing to get from the two counties to I-95.

“Peter Candland [R-Gainesville], the Prince William supervisor whose district the road would run through, said that ’employers are bypassing Prince William County due to our over-burdened infrastructure’ as well as overreliance on taxes on residents and lack of an efficient corridor to Dulles.

” ‘If done properly,’ Candland said, ‘the Tri-County Parkway will open the door for new corporate relocation and business start-ups…It truly is an economic development game changer for our county.’

“Connaughton says it’s the best way to get traffic out of the park, improve the congestion at rush hour and preserve the battlefield. He says the battlefield has lower visitor numbers than it should because the current parking and walking situations are poor, but the parkway and bypass will fix that.

“The preservation groups are stunned. They say VDOT’s stipulations to limit the impact of the proposed parkway are ‘inadequate to protect the Manassas National Battlefield Park, one of the Commonwealth’s most sacred Civil War landscapes,’ and that a 200-foot wide highway is ‘grossly excessive.’  Schwartz reiterated the belief that this is another key step in an Outer Beltway that would reach to Maryland, spreading more sprawl and traffic.

“The next key moment could come this fall, when all the relevant government agencies sign on to the program agreement. Battles over money and design will come next. But signing the agreement to build the Tri-County Parkway would be a historic step, one way or another, for fans of the Civil War, and Northern Virginia.”

The proposed route of the "Battlefield Bypass," from Route 29 on the east, connecting with the Tri-County Parkway north of the park. This would enable the state to close Route 29 and Route 234 through the park, though not until 2035. (Virginia Department of Transportation)

The proposed route of the “Battlefield Bypass,” from Route 29 on the east, connecting with the Tri-County Parkway north of the park. This would enable the state to close Route 29 and Route 234 through the park, though not until 2035. (Virginia Department of Transportation)


 

For more information on the proposed Tri-County Parkway, see:  Bi-County / Tri-County Parkway

VRE board rejects independent audit request, recommends new CEO

by Jeremy Borden, The Washington Post

17 August 2012

 

“Virginia Railway Express will not request an independent investigation into whether an official has done anything improper to benefit a company that he owns, a majority of the agency’s board voted Friday.

“Susan Stimpson, a Stafford County supervisor who serves on the VRE board, had asked for the investigation. Stimpson’s request centered on a letter contained in a 2011 outside audit into VRE’s finances that stated ‘we have no knowledge of fraud or suspected fraud involving VRE.’ But a handwritten note underneath adds, ‘with the exception of the items discussed in the conversation on 11/15/11.’

” ‘Up until this point, no one has even asked for or is pressing . . . for the auditors to come back in,’ Stimpson said, adding that the board needs assurance from auditors that no fraud occurred. ‘I’m very disappointed in fellow board members. . . . We need to ensure our internal controls are functioning.’

“Stimpson’s request was about last year’s audit, when auditors learned that a VRE official had set up a company before his arrival at the agency. VRE looked into whether the company was improperly involved with the agency, according to a Dec. 16 letter to board members from former chief executive Dale Zehner.

” ‘A review of all VRE contracts did not reveal any business relationship between the VRE and the employee’s business,’ Zehner wrote.

“VRE is controlled by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission. Its two rail lines, which connect Prince William and Stafford counties and downtown Washington, carry an average of 16,000 passengers a day, its Web site says.

“Stimpson, along with Fredericksburg City Council member Frederic Howe and Stafford County Supervisor Gary F. Skinner, voted for the independent inquiry. But a majority of board members said the organization should allow a separate FBI inquiry to wrap up before going forward.

” ‘It seems prudent to wait,’ said Chris Zimmerman, an Arlington County Board member.

“The FBI is looking into a separate matter to determine whether another former VRE official steered an agency contract to a company in return for a payoff, according to transportation officials. The Washington Post reported the existence of the investigation Friday.

“The VRE board is composed of elected officials from the localities it serves. Zimmerman voted against an independent audit, along with officials from Manassas, Fairfax, Alexandria and Prince William.

“The outcome of the vote was muddled at first. In a confusing and hectic exchange, the board debated its own voting procedures — the votes from members whose jurisdictions have the most ridership are weighted more than others. Board Chairman W.S. Covington III twice asked for a show of hands — but the second time the vote was tallied, one board member changed her vote.

“Prince William County Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan switched her vote from approving the request for an independent audit to denying the request.

“The rail agency’s attorneys were unsure how Caddigan’s vote would have affected the final outcome, saying they had never confronted a split vote from a locality before.

“Caddigan, who left the meeting early, couldn’t later be reached for comment.

“A majority of board members said that with ongoing scrutiny from the FBI, there was no reason for another inquiry.

“The board also unanimously recommended Doug Allen, 58, a veteran of transit systems in Austin and Dallas, for the job to replace Zehner, who stepped down in July. Allen also will have to be approved by the VRE’s parent boards, the NVTC and PRTC, which are scheduled to take up the issue Sept. 6.

” ‘First and foremost is to continue to provide safe and quality service,’ Allen said in a telephone interview. ‘It’s just a great service. There’s such a great demand for it.’

“He said one of his primary tasks will be expanding VRE, which is growing in popularity. He also said that VRE’s contracting issues and the FBI investigation did not deter his decision to seek the post.”

**************************************

“The Covington Pattern” by “Riley”, from Viginia Virtucon blog, “the commonwealth’s free-market online home for news, politics, policy and entertainment since 2006,” on 19 August 2012 adds the following:

“Conflicts of interest. Corruption (or at the very least the strong appearance of it.) Cover-ups. There seems to be a pattern when it comes to things surrounding Wally Covington, Brentsville Dist. member of the Prince William BOCS. As if the whole discretionary funds / Rainbow Riding debacle weren’t enough, guess who is currently the Chairman of the Virginia Railway Express — that’s right, it’s Covington. Under his watchful eye, VRE has found itself embroiled in an FBI bribery / kickback investigation and now an outside audit has apparently uncovered suspected fraud, but he and Potomac Dist. Supervisor Maureen Caddigan led the way in quashing calls for an independent investigation under the flawed premise that the FBI investigation of a different matter must be concluded first.

“Can you say ‘cover-up’ boys and girls? I knew you could. Covington and Caddigan are fighting for their political lives and they know that one more piece of bad news may put them at the tipping point where they cannot continue in office. Sources tell Virtucon this afternoon that this is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the VRE and things may get a whole lot worse real soon.”

“Prince William supervisors reject conflict of interest measure”

by Jeremy Borden, The Washington Post

8 August 2012

“The Prince William Board of County Supervisors rejected a conflict-of-interest measure late Tuesday that its proponent said would have led to more transparency and accountability among board members.

“Under the measure, proposed by Supervisor Peter K. Candland (R-Gainesville), supervisors would have had to disclose involvement in organizations that receive county funds and recuse themselves from voting to allocate funds to any group in which they or their relatives are involved.

“For the full board to consider the measure, Candland needed a second member to agree to a vote. None did, and the measure quickly died, but not before a lengthy debate. And not before supervisors took the meeting across the street, ending the broadcasting of the discussion on television and online.

“Candland said he revised his proposal before Tuesday’s board meeting because of an opinion issued by County Attorney Angela Lemmon Horan. According to Candland, Horan said that the measure overstepped Prince William’s authority.

“In Virginia, localities must have express permission from the General Assembly to institute laws. Although Candland said he disagreed with Horan’s assessment, he said he modified the proposal to make it more palatable to county officials and other board members.

“The revised proposal required board members to disclose when they or their spouses are volunteers with nonprofit organizations, but members wouldn’t have to recuse themselves from votes.

” ‘When you sit on a board, a nonprofit . . . I believe you have a fiduciary responsibility to that board,’ Candland said. ‘That’s information citizens of Prince William County should know.’

“While Supervisors Frank J. Principi (D-Woodbridge) and Michael C. May (R-Occoquan) said that too many changes were made close to the supervisors’ meeting for proper consideration, other supervisors substantially disagreed with the measure’s intent.

” ‘Serving this community is not a conflict of interest,’ said Supervisor Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles).  ‘If the only way we serve this community is by showing up every other Tuesday . . .then I don’t believe we’re doing our job well. It flies right in the face of what public service, particularly at the local level, should be about.’

“May and Nohe said they would voluntarily disclose any potential conflicts but didn’t see the need for a formal policy.

“Nohe’s wife, Kristina, addressed the board earlier in the meeting. She said she had never addressed the board while her husband has been in office but was compelled because she felt that the board’s policy was wrongheaded.

” ‘I am more than Mrs. Nohe,’ she told the board. ‘We [volunteer] because we love this county and not for some nefarious reason. Volunteerism and public service is something this board should be encouraging.’

“Candland said his intent was to ensure that supervisors were upfront when allocating taxpayer dollars.

“On June 5, the board unanimously decided to ban supervisors from doling out ‘discretionary funds’ to charities, nonprofits and other groups. Critics said supervisors used the money to build support among key constituencies, turning taxpayer money into political goodwill.

“With Candland’s measure, supervisors said conservative bloggers had tried to paint them into a corner.

” ‘No one wants to be accused and arm-twisted into this,’ said Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large).

“On Wednesday, the bloggers were also angry because supervisors held the last part of the meeting outside board chambers, where there were no video cameras broadcasting online or on local public-access television.

“Stewart said he decided to hold the meeting in a board room across the street where supervisors had a dinner meeting with the county’s Service Authority.

” ‘It was the one thing everyone was waiting for,’ said Al Alborn, who often blogs about Prince William politics. ‘It probably did more to unite those in opposition of questionable practices of the board .  . . than any single thing that happened.’ “

“Planners report on 864-acre undeveloped tract in Gainesville [Stonehaven]; no questions allowed at public meeeting”

 by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

20 July 2012, p. 10

“What’s the future of Stone Haven, the 864-acre undeveloped tract of land south of Wellington Road and Jiffy Lube Live?

“More than 50 area residents crowded into the media room at Piney Branch Elementary School July 12 to hear  Prince William County staff give its initial report on its study of the area.  Questions from the audience were not alloowed and had to be submitted in written form.

“A second meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 6 in the school for public input on alternative land plans for the area, and a wrap-up session is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 6, also in the school.

“Prince William Board of County Supervisors could vote on Oct. 9 on whether to initiate a comprehensive plan amendment (CPA.)  If initiated, the county’s planning staff would study the proposal.  Public hearings next would be conducted before the planning commission and board of supervisors.

“In March, supervisors voted not to initiate a CPA for the 340-acre Hunter tract in the neighborhood, deciding instead to do a study of the entire area.

“Chris Price, planning director, told residents in attendance at the July 12 meeting that the planning staff will give county supervisors a range of land use possibilities and a preferred option for the project study area after gettting resident input.  The study area is west of Devlin Road, north of Linton Hall Road and east of Limestone Drive.

“Ray Utz, head of long-range planning for the county, explained that existing plans show 458 acres planned for flexible employment center (FEC), 308 acres intended for suburban residential low (SRL) and 98 acres of environmental resource (ER).  He added that, if fully developed, 10,000 to 13,000 jobs could be in the offing.

“FEC uses cover a wide ‘range of permitted users over several zoning districts,’ Utz pointed out.  Included could be offices, contractor businesses, data center, self-storage facilities, warehouses and wholesaling operations.  SRL entails single-family homes with one to four dwelling units per acre.  Most of the existing homes in the area are SRL, Utz said.

” ‘Up to 25 percent of SRL can be townhouses,’ he added.

“Utz reported, ‘This is the beginning of a multi-step process and what we want to see,’ in the area.  If supervisors initiate a CPA, ‘the owner would ask for a rezoning to develop the property.’

“Patty Dietz of the county’s environmental services department told the audience attention would be paid to resources in the area that need protection, including about 75 acres of resource protection area (RPA).  There also are some rare plant species in the area.

“Ryan Conklin with county’s parks and recreation department, noted that within three miles of the study area are Prince William Golf Course, Rollins Ford Park with its future six soccer fields, open play area and playground, and Braemar Park, Ellis Barron Park and Rosement Lewis park.  Bridlewood-Rocky Branch Park and Broad Run Park are [with]in a mile of the study area.

“Gregg Steverson of the county’s transportation office told the audience Devlin Road to the east of the tract will be widened to four lanes, that Wellington Road will be six lanes, that University Boulevard will be four lands through the site and Rollins Ford Road will be four lanes.

“In a March e-mail, Wally Covington, told constituents he ‘did not make a motion to initiate the review because it had too many houses and not enough citizen input.’  Covington represents Brentsville District on the board of supervisors.  He pointed out the FEC designation ‘often leads to industrial uses.’  He said the planning staff also believed FEC ‘was not appropriate in this corridor.  I concur.’

“Covington’s e-mail also said he wants a high school site to be a ‘priority in the overall plan for the area.’  He asserted that ‘clear-cut planning for the remaining Linton Hall acreage is essential to continue robust economic activity (in) the area and support surrounding idyllic neighborhoods.’ “

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