PWCBG co-founders Ralph Stephenson and Bob Pugh

Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart

23 March-8 April 2013:  e-mails in reverse chronological order, most recent on top

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Re: Falsities in Chmn Stewart’s Reply on Rez Development, Taxes, County’s Economy, etc; Stone Haven
Date: Mon, 08 Apr 2013 10:09:49 -0400
From: Ralph Stephenson [e-mail address withheld]
To: ‘Prince William County’ <>, ‘GT_Dan Roem’ <>, ‘GT_Tara Slate Donaldson’ <>,,,,,,
CC: Bob Pugh [e-mail address withheld]

A high-level summary of PW County’s failure to attract business other than residential developers, and the consequences, from Washington Business Journal:

The article concludes with the following statement:

“The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments projects Prince William to hit 555,000 residents by 2030. Perhaps by then the county will have shed its sleepy image, or at least welcomed some big time employers into the fold.  I-95 and I-66 may never be wide enough to handle the traffic if it doesn’t.”

Ralph Stephenson
Co-Founder, Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Re: Falsities in Chmn Stewart’s Reply on Rez Development, Taxes, County’s Economy, etc; Stone Haven
Date: Mon, 08 Apr 2013 08:56:58 -0400
From: Ralph Stephenson [e-mail address withheld]
To: ‘Prince William County’ <>, ‘GT_Dan Roem’ <>, ‘GT_Tara Slate Donaldson’ <>,,,,,,
CC: Bob Pugh [e-mail address withheld]

I concur with Ralph Stephenson’s analysis, and want to add a few points of my own.

Mr. Stewart’s numbers on changes in the real estate tax base in Prince William County are correct, but misleading, for the seven-year period based off 2005 and ending in 2012.  He includes apartments and state-valued public service properties in his definition of “commercial” to arrive at his totals.  To me, it’s very disconcerting that he considers apartments as commercial development.  Other analysts would consider them residential, even though they are owned by commercial entities.  They do nothing to improve the revenue-positive tax base in the county.

More accurately, the commercial/industrial part of the tax base was 10.08% in 2005 and 14.28% in 2012.  Even these numbers are skewed and show “progress” that does not really exist in developing the commercial/industrial sector in Prince William County.  2005 was at the height of the residential real estate bubble and artificially skewed the commercial/industrial percentage down and residential up.  There has been little, if any, actual change in the proportion of commercial/industrial in the County’s tax base.  After the residential real estate market collapse, commercial/industrial rose into the teens in its proportion in the tax base.  This change again does not reflect real economic development but instead anomalies derived from the expanding and then bursting residential real estate bubble.

Moreover, the commercial development that has taken place in Prince William County over the past seven years has been overwhelmingly low-wage service sector employment.  Please see my presentation to the PWC Committee of 100 January 30, 2013 for a detailed analysis of changes in the economic structure in Prince William County over the past decade (attached).   [Click here for that presentation.]

Prince William County remains a primarily low-wage service economy.  According to the latest data (downloaded today) from the Virginia Employment Commission, PWC ranks below the state average in hourly, weekly and annual wages, despite its proximity to the Washington, DC and being a part of the Northern Virginia economy:

Virginia Employment Commission Data

Mr. Stewart’s assertions on taxes falling during his tenure as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors strain plausibility.  He claims that taxes have been cut by 8.5% since he has been Chairman.  In fact, total general property taxes have risen 37% during his tenure as Chairman, which is twice the rate of inflation.

Property Taxes PWC

Job growth in Prince William County has been substantial over the past decade (refer again to my Committee of 100 presentation).  However, job growth has lagged behind population growth substantially.  Total at-place employment in Prince William County grew from 83,676 in 2001 to 108,573 in 2011, or 24,897 jobs. That is an increase of 29.75%. However, the population of Prince William County grew from 294,798 to 409,345 during the same period. That is growth of 38.86%. Thus, the rate of population growth has exceeded the rate of job growth by over nine percentage points.

The inevitable conclusion is that the economic vitality of Prince William County has deteriorated significantly as job growth fails to keep pace with population growth, and the jobs being created are primarily low-wage service jobs.  The wealth and affluence of Prince William County derives from the more than two-thirds of our residents who commute to other jurisdictions in the region to find high-wage jobs.  Those jurisdictions have pursued more forward-looking, balanced economic growth strategies while Prince William County has allowed itself to become a low-wage bedroom community subservient to the wishes of the residential development industry.

I am available to discuss any of this analysis if anyone in the news media wishes to explore the facts in more detail.

Bob Pugh
Co-Founder, Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth


From: Ralph Stephenson [e-mail address withheld] Sent: Sunday, April 07, 2013 2:03 PM
To: Stephenson, Ralph
Cc: Prince William County; GT_Dan Roem; GT_Tara Slate Donaldson;;;;;;
Subject: Falsities in Chmn Stewart’s Reply on Rez Development, Taxes, County’s Economy, etc; Stone Haven

Chairman Stewart, thanks for getting back to me but, regrettably, your answers below are not accurate.

  • Your first statement below about the real estate tax base (the residential-to-commercial ratio) is demonstrably false.    Per the county’s own records, in 2012 14% of real estate revenue came from commercial real estate taxes and almost all of the rest (82%) came from residential real estate taxes.  See the following hyperlink, pp. 24 and A9 (overall pp. 30 of 66 and 47 of 66, respectively) for details and historical statistics on the commercial-residential real estate tax ratio:    To better understand this topic generally, please click on the following link: County fostering low-wage service economy, tax-negative land development  Why does this matter?  Many Prince William County citizens, including Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth, believe that Prince William County is overly dependent on residential housing for tax revenues, which leads to unnecessarily high tax burdens for county citizens and a  limited, low-opportunity local economy with relatively few high-income jobs and few high-tax-revenue- producing businesses.
  • Below you state:  “Prince William County has been ranked #1 in Virginia, #3 in the country in job growth and our median incomes continue to increase dramatically.  Just this past year they rose by over $3,000 and we were listed as being the 7th wealthiest county in the United States.”  //  That’s all well and good, but very few of those high-paying jobs are located in Prince William County; a very large percentage of them have something to do, directly or indirectly, with the area’s #1 industry, the federal government and federal contracting, lobbying, etc.  You seem to be taking credit for the federal government’s presence in the region, which of course is patently absurd.  On the other hand, you seem reluctant to take credit for aggressive, high-density residential land development which is, in fact, fostering a low-wage service economy and tax-negative land development here.  That in turn ensures that for a very long time to come, PW residents will live in a commercially underdeveloped area and have to commute long distances to other communities that are more commercially developed and have almost all the high-paying jobs.
  • I’ve lived in the same middle-class neighborhood in Braemar since well before you became Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors in 2007.  Unfortunately, my real estate taxes have gone up 9.5% since 2007.   So whose real estate taxes have you cut, exactly?  I’m still looking for that refund check in the mail.
  • Below you state:  “There is currently only a 2.5-month housing supply in the county as our community continues to rapidly rise out of the great recession. Although we are seeing an uptick in the number of applications to build new retail, office, and residential projects, it is nowhere close to where it was in the early 2000’s.”  // While I have no idea what that statement means, I do know that there is a very large backlog in the county of approved, but not-yet-built homes, not to mention foreclosed and vacant homes.  As recently as about 18 months ago, even avidly pro-residential developer Supervisor Covington acknowledged that there were 30,000 approved-but-not-yet-built houses in the county.  Are you suggesting that in the last 18 months, the 30,000 home backlog has been cleared and thus, at the county’s average rate of 3 per house, PW County’s population has increased by 90,000?   As you must know, that has not happened, thankfully.
  • It’s good that the county has built more roads and schools.  The traffic situation in western PW County has definitely improved since the intolerable conditions that existed before late-2006.  However, the school situation continues to be marked by serious overcrowding, which is an obvious impediment to teaching and the effectiveness of our schools.   If the new Stone Haven development between Devlin and Linton Hall roads is built, won’t that return the whole area to the intolerable traffic congestion that existed before late-2006 and worsen the already serious school overcrowding?   Have you mentioned to anyone that the high school that is being promised by you and Stone Haven’s developers will, in fact, be empty land, and cost taxpayers over $100M?  Have you mentioned to anyone that if you weren’t pushing development of so many new homes in the area, existing schools wouldn’t be so overcrowded and we wouldn’t need another high school right now?  Have you mentioned to anyone that after Stone Haven is built we’ll need another high school in addition to the one already promised?  For more info on Stone Haven, click on the following hyperlink:  Stonehaven_Brentswood2
  • Also, if Stone Haven really is to contain as few as 600-1600 new housing units, why so much hoopla, effort, and study?  In fact, do you need a rezoning at all, or is there already zoning for about that many houses in the immediate or surrounding areas?  Or do you and the developers, in reality, plan to make this development many times larger than that — once “developers create a detailed plan”.  Perhaps closer to the size of the original Brentswood plan — 6,800 homes — which you fiercely opposed in 2006.  See: Stonehaven_Brentswood2
  • Building unneeded homes just because developers want them cannibalizes older neighborhoods and their property values and prematurely ages them, leads to indirect taxpayer subsidies of these unneeded and harmful new developments, and most importantly of all causes severe school overcrowding and traffic congestion.  Taxpayers, not developers, pay for the police, fire, water, sewer, roads, schools, and other government infrastructure and services that must support such new developments.  Since you frequently claim to be fiscally conservative, why do you continually support unneeded and harmful taxpayer-subsidized housing, while ensuring that developer proffers to PW county are among the lowest in Northern Virginia?  See:  Proffers (2007-12)
  • You’ve failed to seriously address any of my questions below about your 180-degree reversal of position on the still-harmful effects of high-density, tax revenue-negative housing on school overcrowding, traffic congestion, local taxes, the environment, etc.  Therefore, I’m assuming that you have no response.

And now that the fallacies and falsities of all the arguments and supporting data in your note below are known, are you willing to once again return to supporting balanced growth policies, as you did before you became chairman?   If not, since there’s no real policy reason for you to continue to support pro-developer, rapid residential development growth policies, what reason could possibly remain for you to do so other than your own political ambition for statewide office and need for developer money to fund it?  Click on the following for more info on your [Chairman Stewart’s] conflicts of interest.

Let me know if you’d like to change or add anything to your response below.  Ralph

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Questions for Chairman Stewart
Date: Thu, 04 Apr 2013 14:21:33 -0400
From: Stewart, Corey A. <>
To: Ralph Stephenson [e-mail address withheld]


The county has changed dramatically since I first ran for Chairman in 2006.

Seven years ago the commercial tax base in Prince William County was 16% of the county’s tax base, during the last seven years that percentage has jumped to 22%. This large increase in the commercial tax base has gone a long way in helping to lessen the tax burden on county home owners. Since I have been Chairman we have been able to cut taxes in the county by 8.5%.

There is currently only a 2.5 month housing supply in the county as our community continues to rapidly rise out of the great recession. Although we are seeing an uptick in the number of applications to build new retail, office, and residential projects, it is nowhere close to where it was in the early 2000’s.

Since I began serving as Chairman, the county has been able to catch up with the uncontrolled growth of the 90’s and early 2000’s by investing half a billion dollars in local road projects and building 12 new schools. At the same the Trails and Blueway’s Council was commissioned by the Board and many parks and playing fields were improved, lit and opened.

Recently, Prince William County has been ranked #1 in Virginia, #3 in the country in job growth and our median incomes continue to increase dramatically.  Just this past year they rose by over $3,000 and we were listed as being the 7th wealthiest county in the United States.

I am proud to have the support of the business community and have worked diligently with them and county staff to eliminate unnecessary government red tape that cut in half the time it takes to start or expand a business in Prince William County.


Corey A. Stewart
Prince William Board of County Supervisors
1 County Complex Court
Prince William, VA 22192
(703) 792-4640


——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Questions for Chmn Stewart About Stone Haven, Residential Development
Date: Sat, 23 Mar 2013 08:49:41 -0400
From: Ralph Stephenson [e-mail address withheld]
To: Stewart, Corey <>
CC: BOCS, Prince William County <>, GT_Dan Roem <>, GT_Tara Slate Donaldson <>,,,,,,

Chairman Stewart:

I have the following questions for you and would appreciate a response as soon as possible.

  • In a Washington Post article dated 20 August 2006 regarding Brentswood , you are reported to have said the following:  Stewart told delegates that the county must rein in high-density developments, which do not bring in enough tax revenue to cover the county services used by their residents. “When we approve large developments, we are essentially approving a tax increase,” he said.

Why are you now in favor of a large high-density development like Stone Haven which, in your words above would be “essentially approving a tax increase” to pay for housing that the county doesn’t even need (Stone Haven) — particularly considering that even Mr. Covington has recently acknowledged that there are already ~30,000 houses that have been approved by the county but not yet built?


  • In a Potomac News article dated 28 September 2006 and titled  “Pandak, Stewart Battle at Forum” you are reported to have said the following:   Stewart, the Republican candidate who represents the Occoquan district on the board, said the reason he wants to be chairman is to “Try and do something to slow down residential growth to improve our transit systems, our transportation systems, reduce our commute times.”  Stewart’s answer is to get more money from developers to pay for open space, transportation, schools and police. “We are over-planned, we have somewhere between 30 and 40 thousand units already in the pipeline ready to go,” the 38-year-old Stewart said of coming development in the county. Developers build the houses that need services and developers should pay proffers to offset the adverse effects their development has on the community. He has called on the board to raise the proffers developers pay by $9,000 per house. “If developers do not pay for development, you do,”‘ said Stewart, who was elected to the board in 2003.
  • In a Manassas Journal Messenger article dated 31 August 2007 and titled:  “Stewart Seeks To Raise Residential Proffers,”  you are reported to have said the following:  “We’re trying to encourage more office, high-end retail and other commercial development. We don’t want to discourage it,” Stewart said. “What’s really taking a toll on our infrastructure is residential development.”

Why are you now in favor of residential development like Stone Haven despite, in your words above,”the adverse effects their development has on the community”?  And since developers still do not pay for development costs (your efforts described above to get more money from developers failed), why have you changed your mind and now become willing to foist upon taxpayers those costs, which include school overcrowding, traffic congestion, higher taxes (for new schools, roads, etc), and reduced property values in older neighborhoods?


  • In a Washington Business Journal article dated 17 Mar 2008) you are reported to have said the following:  “The way I look at it, we have an oversupply of housing right now,” said Corey Stewart, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “We need to develop more office space and high-end retail. That being said, we do need to encourage more mixed-use developments with walkable communities.” …  Prince William leans too heavily on home­owners’ tax dollars, Stewart said. Only 14 percent of the county’s tax base is derived from commercial properties.  For comparison, Loudoun County receives about 20 percent of its taxes from commercial properties, and Arlington County gets about 45 from commercial uses.

Considering the ~30,000 unit backlog of already-approved-but-not-yet-built houses plus vacant and foreclosed homes, and considering that the roughly 85:15 residential to commercial tax revenue problem in PW County continues, why do you want to make the problem worse by building Stone Haven?

  • The following YouTube video from Aug-Sep 2007, describes in your own words how you apparently began to lose interest in controlling growth and the housing boom, in favor of a new hot-button, attention-getting issue:  “My issue up until the immigration issue came up was controlling growth, trying to preserve more trees and open space, and socking it to the development community. . . The housing boom has not helped the average person.  It’s hurt the average person. . .  In July Supervisor John Stirrup introduced this resolution against illegal immigration in the County.  I didn’t know about it . . . I supported [it] … and it took on a life of its own.”

It appears that there may be a connection between your apparent loss of interest in balanced, managed residential growth and the fact that you’ve set your sights on higher political office (you’re in the midst of your second campaign for VA lieutenant governor) and now need a lot of housing developer money to run for statewide office.  How would you respond to people who see a connection between your declared ambitions for statewide office and your recent embrace of large, unnecessary residential developer projects like Avendale and Stone Haven?
I will publish your response, or failure to respond to these questions within two weeks at and further publicize the info beyond that as appropriate.  Thank you.

Ralph Stephenson