What happened? — Despite unanimous, outspoken opposition from local homeowners/ordinary citizens and HOAs at the 10 March hearing on the big 516-house Devlin Rd project, “Devlin 2,” all five Democrats on the Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) showed in their first major land use decision that corrupt pro-developer, anti-citizen land use policies are becoming, for the first time in at least 20 years, an entirely partisan issue.
At the 10 March BOCS hearing all the many reasons not to approve Devlin 2 were carefully laid out by a determined, educated, articulate public. By our count, 37 local homeowners/ordinary citizens and HOAs waited for four hours to speak against Devlin2 and a total of about six hours to hear the BOCS majority Democrats finally rule against them. Only 2 developers/ businessmen tied to the mostly poor-performing next-door Bristow Village Square, which is already surrounded by thousands of houses, spoke in favor.
But the 5 BOCS Dems were unmoved by, tone deaf to the overwhelming citizen opposition and the other 3 supervisors’ pleas. (See: https://pwcgov.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=23&clip_id=2690 , go to 9 hrs 28 minutes, 55 seconds into the video, 9:28:55 thru 9:54:20.) In fact, Chair Wheeler even went way out of her way to put every speaker, every agenda item discussion ahead of citizen input on Devlin2, even repeatedly inviting audience members who hadn’t signed up in advance to speak on non-Devlin topics anyway, including several non-county residents. (It is customary to sign up in advance to speak.) Though the public meeting started at 7:30 pm, Chair Wheeler forced citizens — commuters, workers, parents of schoolchildren — who wished to speak on Devlin2 to wait until ~11 pm to begin to be heard, and until after 1 am to know the BOCS’ final decision on Devlin2. (See: http://bristowbeat.com/news/supervisor-vega-condemns-approval-devlin-community-explains-vote/ Also, see Supervisor Lawson trying to prevent Chair Wheeler from forcing Devlin2 opponents to wait six hours: https://pwcgov.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.phpview_id=23&clip_id=2690 , 5:01:30)
The five Democratic supervisors who voted for the fat cat developers and against ordinary citizens are: Chair Wheeler (at-large), Vice Chair Angry (Neabsco), and Supervisors Bailey (Potomac), Boddye (Occoquan), and Franklin (Woodbridge). The three Republicans who voted for the ordinary people and against the fat cat developers are Supervisors: Lawson (Brentsville), Candland (Gainesville), and Vega (Coles.)
Chair Wheeler’s anti-citizen views on land use policy — As we repeatedly warned during the 2019 campaign and since, Chair Wheeler, who directly represents the county as at-large chairperson — including West County citizens — has adopted a virtually-all-residential-development-is-good land use policy. Her repeated communications during the 2019 election campaign, in official county documents and deliberations as BOCS Chair, and to Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG) and one of our allies in a private meeting with her on 5 March have all clearly illustrated her extreme, absolutist, elitist, pro-fat cat developer approach to land use. (See, for example: https://pwcbg.org/2020/02/10-mar-devlin-vote-tests-inclusivity-of-new-dem-majority-bocs-24-feb-devlin-rd-town-hall/ and https://pwcbg.org/2019/10/stopping-the-many-headed-monster-of-out-of-control-residential-development/ and https://pwcbg.org/2019/10/beware-preserving-rural-crescent-limits-on-residential-developers-no-longer-supported-by-both-parties-in-5-nov-elections/ More to come in future messages.)
Chair Wheeler’s every policy-related statement and action during the 10 March BOCS hearing was unquestioningly, ignorantly supportive of the developer, while dismissive and highly disrespectful to the 39 citizens who showed up to speak well before 7:30 pm and waited until after 1 am, not to mention many others who waited for several hours but had to leave before getting a chance to speak. (See https://pwcgov.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=23&clip_id=2690 .) As is true of all anti-democratic authoritarians and elites who are indifferent to ordinary citizens, Chair Wheeler knows what is best for her subjects. She knows better than you what is in your best interest. Yet despite her and their apparent certitude, Chair Wheeler and the other four Dem BOCS members never felt the need to explain to us why they support Devlin2, or why they were so disrespectful to all the anti-Devlin2 citizens and Devlin communities represented at the hearing, or why they opposed us, despite the overwhelming public outcry and arguments against Devlin2.
The unbearable phoniness of the BOCS Dems’ call to “work together” — Although Chair Wheeler and Dem BOCS members claim they want to unite the county, “work together,” and initiate a “new beginning” on land use, their true colors were on full display at the 10-11 March hearing on Devlin as they carelessly missed a golden opportunity to truly begin to unite the county. (See, for example, Wheeler’s state of the county speech on unity and other topics: https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/bocs-chair-wheelers-7-jan-2020-state-of-the-county-address/ See also: https://pwcgov.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?iew_id=23&clip_id=2690 , 9:28:55 thru 9:54:20.) In fact, so far this BOCS is looking very much like it will be worse than the very bad BOCS it just replaced, which nevertheless couldn’t quite bring itself to approve a residential development project as harmful and unpopular as Devlin2.
Citizens’ trust and respect, once betrayed, is very difficult to regain.
Who’s the next victim?— Watch out, opponents of the big Kline residential project and supporters of the Rural Crescent. You’re next… Chair Wheeler, very disingenuously, made it clear again at the 10 March Devlin2 hearing that she will not “kick the can down the road” on controversial residential development and land use projects. (See: https://pwcgov.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=23&clip_id=2690 , 9:28:55 thru 9:54:20, but especially starting at 9:45:20.) What does she mean? She is publicly saying and now publicly demonstrating that she considers it her job to approve all major pending residential development projects now, early in the BOCS’ four-year term. This will allow her to move on to what she considers more important, less troublesome, less pesky things than the concerns of her own homeowning constitutents, hoping that citizens will have short memories and forget about how she very intentionally, very willfully, and over their strong objections caused further overcrowding of their schools and roads, further increases in their taxes, and environmental damage and destruction around their communities.
Kenny Boddye — And the other four BOCS Dems will apparently continue to follow Chair Wheeler like automatons in lockstep — as they have done so far and did during the campaign on land use issues — with one exception, Kenny Boddye, who, unfortunately, has since fallen in line, too. In future messages we’ll talk more about Kenny’s duplicity and betrayal of those citizens whose support he until recently sought over land use issues, much like his predecessor as Occoquan Supervisor, Republican Ruth Anderson.
Do Not Forget — Chair Wheeler and the four other Dems hope you will forget about this latest disgraceful episode in the county’s land use history. But don’t. In fact, keep track of every new residential development and how many more houses this BOCS approves. Keep track of supervisors’ campaign donations at vpap.org . Share this info regularly and publicly on social media and other venues. If you know, share with the public how much face time each BOCS member has with residential developers … for this is the process by which most BOCS members become corrupted away from serving the interests of the public, instead acting as well-compensated tools (figuratively and often literally) of the residential developers.
Who knows best what ordinary citizens need? — After all the arguments against Devlin2 — increased overcrowding of roads and schools, higher taxes, school and transportation proffers that don’t even begin to cover the costs to taxpayers, flooding to nearby communities, which will worsen, etc. — here’s how we at PWCBG summed up our arguments:
“In authoritarian governments, the people exist to serve the government and its leaders, who know best. In democratic governments, the government and its leaders exist to serve the people, who know best what their own interests are. County citizens are tired of overcrowded roads, schools, and declining govt services … while our taxes rise much faster than neighboring counties such as Loudoun (which we track yearly because we used to live there.) Let’s slow down, let schools and roads catch up, and redirect residential growth — where the people want it for revitalization of underserved areas. Let’s all be democrats today, with a small d, vote for the people, and thus vote no on this very unpopular rezoning request as written.”
A corruption of government purpose — But as already noted, ordinary citizens’ pleas fell on deaf ears. This Democrat-run BOCS so far, possibly even more than the previous very bad BOCS, feels not like a protector seeking the greatest good for the greatest number, but like an enemy at war with its own people. Imagine a corruption of government purpose so extreme that it becomes the opposite of what it’s supposed to be.
The message from the Dem BOCS majority — to the people, to those who wish to slow down growth so that roads, schools, and the tax base can improve and catch up — is clear: You may be subject to abuse — such as four-hour-long waits to speak after everyone else possible is allowed to speak (even dozens of people who have not even signed up to speak), and perhaps six-hour waits to see the BOCS vote — if we don’t like who you are and what you’re saying. And most of all: You are unwelcome here. We know what is best for you; you do not. You are all deplorables. Sit down, move to the back of the line, and shut up or leave.
Congratulations, Chair Wheeler: You are fast becoming the county’s new Corey Stewart of land use. But it’s not too late… Perhaps Chair Wheeler and the other four BOCS Dems will catch themselves before they sink too far, before they are entirely channeling Corey Stewart on land use, before they become complete sellouts to residential developers. Perhaps the BOCS Dems will see fit to start trying to mend fences with West County citizens. Perhaps Chair Wheeler will clearly apologize to the citizens whom she so thoroughly and willfully disrespected 10-11 March. Perhaps two or more of the BOCS Dems will partner with Republican supervisors to vote down the upcoming Kline residential developer project. Perhaps the BOCS Dems will work with Republicans to pass a plan for the Rural Crescent that is supported by civic groups who represent a non-partisan coalition from across the county — regardless of what is proposed by residential developers, who represent only themselves and their already-very-fat wallets. Perhaps the BOCS Dems will partner with Republicans to ensure that the current rewrite of the county’s Comprehensive Plan is not once again a residential developer rewrite that is even worse than the original. … And perhaps politicians don’t actually do, once they can, what they’ve been strongly signalling they’ll do — through campaign statements, through their speeches as elected officials, through their private conversations, and through policies they’re already starting to implement. And perhaps we’re not merely dreaming after all. And perhaps unicorns and mermaids really can be found if one knows where to look. And perhaps there really are leprechauns and pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. Or maybe not…
Please feel free to share this message on social media and elsewhere and to protest this decision to the 5 BOCS Democrats who are included as cc addressees above. Here’s a link to this message on pwcbg.org: https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/bocs’-5-dems-unite-to-insult-west-county-citizens,-force-516-more-devlin-road-houses-on-them/
Ralph & Kathy Stephenson Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth
Only in the bright light of public scrutiny can the common good be secured,
while in darkness and obscurity the interests of the powerful and affluent prevail.