Delivered by PWCBG’s Kathy Stephenson
Hearings held 3 September and 7 October 2014, respectively
… In a “Washington Post” article from 20 August 2006 when Corey Stewart won the Republican nomination to succeed Sean Connaughton as Board of County Supervisors Chairman, Stewart reportedly told delegates that the county must rein in high-density residential 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. Remember that, Chairman Stewart?
If you ask Stewart about his statement above, he and county staff will likely reply that Stone Haven includes tax-positive commercial development, which will offset the tax-negative impacts of the residential part. There are three key problems with that argument. First, the development would be overwhelmingly residential and the commercial (even if fully built) would not offset the negative fiscal impacts of its massive residential component. Second, much of the proposed commercial development is retail. Retail is barely tax revenue-positive, if at all. It does not generate high-paying, career-oriented jobs. It is not the kind of commercial development we need to strengthen the local economy and tax base. Third, the Stone Haven plan includes no phasing. That means the developers can build whatever components of the development whenever they like. Obviously, we get all the tax-negative residential, and the additional pressure on our roads and schools, right away and commercial development much later. Moreover, developers often include a commercial component in their initial plans, get them approved, and come back later to have it changed to residential. The most recent example of that is Birkwood at Braemar. Furthermore, the developer proffers are largely greatly overvalued — empty land that the developer couldn’t use for anything else anyway.
Even more importantly, some might argue that the land that makes up Stone Haven MUST BE filled with houses and that we should all be pleased with the two-year-long, supposedly consultative, but actually rigged process in which the county and developers tried to coax a few of us local yokels into accepting their more or less foregone conclusion.
But that’s a false choice. Loudoun and Fairfax continue to get most of Northern Virginia’s best, tax-positive commercial development. Why? Because Prince William doesn’t try very hard to compete, and because the county is unduly influenced by residential developers and it’s not in those developers’ interests to have this land devoted to tax-positive commercial development.
Repeat, for the last two years citizens have been presented with a false choice on Stone Haven, a lie that says they may choose only between a few options THAT WILL ALL HURT THEM. But what’s the hurry? If tax-positive commercial development can’t be found yet, then don’t develop the land at all and keep it zoned agricultural for now.
When a criminal puts a gun to your head and says “give me what I want or something even worse than losing your money will happen to you,” the fact that you give up your money doesn’t mean that you like it or that a democratic consultative process to which you assented was involved. I KNOW that if you polled the vast majority of citizens in the area and asked them whether they want more TAX-NEGATIVE land development that overcrowds their schools, congests their roads, and eliminates more and more green space, they’d tell you emphatically that they don’t, and that they knew nothing about the two-year, so-called consultative process on Stone Haven described above. I KNOW they’d tell you that they’re sick to death of it and the PERVERSION OF PUBLIC POLICY FOR NARROW PRIVATE ENDS that it represents. WHY DO I KNOW? Because my husband and I and a few friends have been out delivering fliers to thousands of people in the affected area, talking to hundreds of them over the last several weeks, and that’s what the vast majority have told us.
Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (pwcbg.org) requests that you reject the Stone Haven CPA and rezoning request, or at least delay the vote until January when those most affected will have representation on the BOCS. No taxation without representation.