by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

9 Aug 2013, p. 19

Rural Crescent graphic courtesy of Prince William Conservation Alliance

Rural Crescent graphic courtesy of Prince William Conservation Alliance

“What’s the future of the Rural Crescent, the 80,000-acre swath of land set aside for preservation by Prince William County in its 1998 comprehensive land use plan?

“Nearly 120 people who turned out to an information meeting Aug. 1 in Nokesville Elementary School want to know.

“Chris Price, county planning director, told the group a rural preservation study was approved last year by county supervisors to examine existing rural land use policies.  He added the county uses only some of the land use tools the state allows.

” ‘Most of our rural policies date from the late 1990s,’ Price said the day before the meeting.

“To help determine the future of the Rural Crescent, the county hired consultants from Environment Resource Management (ERM), Annapolis, MD, to do a study.  Price said July 31 he believed, without checking the paperwork, the consultants cost $60,000.  The project kicked off June 4 with a presentation by the consultants to the board of supevisors.

“Clive Graham, who heads the study from ERM, told his audience the study’s purpose was to evaluate the county’s rural policies and its preservation tools and to help the county develop clear rural policies and objectives, based on stakeholder input.  Price said all residents are considered stakeholders.

“Graham added, ‘we want to find out what’s working, what’s not and what to do about it.’  He said the purpose of the meeting was to ‘tell you about the study, introduce the team (of consultants), tell you about the process and how you can get involved.’

“Graham said stakeholders could provide input by taking a 20-minute survey on the study at  The survey will ask respondents how they feel about the county’s sewer policy, open land, recreation areas and farm areas.  He noted the county’s existing policies do not say what the goals are for the Rural Crescent.

“A draft report will be done in October, but stakeholder recommendations will be sought until November, when the project will be sent to the board of supervisors.

“For those who don’t want to take an on-line survey, Graham pointed out comments can be put on the planning department’s web page.  Comments and questions also can be addressed to Brian Wilson in the county’s planning department at 703-792-7615, or by email at

“Preliminary observations show the county has two development areas, one at each end of the county, with semi-rural land in the middle, the speaker explained.

” ‘The rural area is important because it is the outer edge of the DC metro area,’ Graham [said], adding that Quantico is doing a land use study in cooperatin with Prince William and Fauquier counties.

“The consultant reported 28 percent of the rural area is preserved today, and asked, ‘Is this too high, too low or right?’

“The Rural Crescent is 50 percent of the county, and today it has 7,600 homes, according to Graham. With current zoning, another 3,700 homes can be added.

” ‘Is this too high?  Too low?’ asked Graham.  He explained that water lines are premitted in the Rural Crescent, but sewer cannot be added, ‘unless there are special circumstances.’

“During the question and answer period, a woman in the audience noted Rural Crescent landowners couldn’t transfer development rights (TDR) becauses ‘there are no development rights in the Rural Crescent.’  Price explained that with a TDR, a builder/developer could go to a landowner and purchase the rights to build a certain number of homes.  He added the county would look to see if it could do TDRs here.

“A woman audience member noted the builder/developer would be paying for agricultural land, which costs less than other property.

“A man in the audience contended he couldn’t afford to sell as agricultural land.  ‘We’re in survival mode now,’ he added.

“A man who said he lives on Vint Hill Road reported someone had called the county to complain that he ‘had an animal with too much fur’ on his property.

” ‘It was a sheep,’ he told the meeting.

“On another occasion , he said someone called him to report there was ‘a cow in my field having a calf. “Do something,” ‘ he said the complainer demanded.

“Another man who said his family has farmed in the county 110 years contended he didn’t move to the rural area to live beside residential development.

” ‘You moved next to us,’ he asserted.  ‘Get us the hell out of the Rural Crescent, and we’ll get the hell out of your hair.’  He remarked that one of his animals was down in a field, sunning itself, and a neighbor thought it was dead.

“Patti McKay, Nokesville, told the meeting she’s against any development that’s going to cost her more money.  She added she hoped ‘we don’t fight the same ugly battle as 10 or 15 years ago.’  She noted there should be room for compromise.

“Another audience member opined, ‘We’ve lived here forever.  What’s left to preserve?  Forget the study.  The county is better now in paying bills than before development.’

“Michelle Trenum, Nokesville, reported that developers in Loudoun County give more money to the schools than developers do in Prince William County.

“Charlie Grynmes wanted to know whether the 120,000 people who move here in the next 20 years would be in the development area of the county, or ‘across the whole area.’

“Price explained more units would be added to the development area.  Grymes said the rural preservation study also should consider the financial impacts of added development.”