[Speeches by PWCBG’s Kathy & Ralph Stephenson at 10 March 2020 Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) hearing on Devlin rezoning: propose ‘better way on land use policy’; urge BOCS attentiveness to citizen concerns and decreased density on Devlin; debunk developer myths on proffers, lawsuits.]
Kathy’s speech — I’m Kathy Stephenson of Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG) and reside in Brentsville District. I urge the Board to reject the 516-house Devlin Rd. proposal, which would greatly harm ordinary citizens.
Let’s try a better way on land use policy, a better way in which the Board refocuses its residential development/revitalization plans from the western to the eastern side of the county — if citizens there want it and to support underserved areas.
We oppose the Devlin proposal – let’s call it “Devlin2” — as we opposed its three predecessors at the same location since 2005 (Devlin1, Stone Haven, and Brentswood.) Here’s why.
Devlin2 will make school overcrowding and road congestion worse and, like most other residential development, will probably be tax-negative. (For more info, see our recent posts at P W C B G DOT org)
At the Jan. 29 Stanley-Martin-sponsored “Devlin Road Rezoning” meeting and again at the Feb. 24 town hall on Devlin2 sponsored by Supervisor Lawson, neighbors of Devlin2, including Sheffield Manor residents, complained about flooding from the high ground on which Devlin2 will be built. This periodic flooding has worsened since the property owner removed most trees (i.e., watershed) after Stone Haven was defeated in 2015. Current flooding will likely worsen as the watershed becomes mud during construction and then concrete, asphalt, and home-building materials upon completion.
In a December 2018 update on the toxic waste site located about one mile from Devlin2, the EPA noted ongoing problems: “Contaminants remain in soil at the facility above residential risk-management levels and at concentrations above risk-based standards in groundwater.” And what if construction blasting and/or heavier runoff frees up and washes some of these toxins into low-lying surrounding communities and industrial parks?
The developer refuses to compromise on Devlin2 or consider impacts to the community. Stanley-Martin’s Truett Young was asked the following question after (and similar questions during) the Jan. 29 meeting: “If opposition were to diminish or disappear if you built about half as many houses on the same space and acreage, would you agree to that?” He said “no,” noting that he refused to waste 4 years of work and planning, apparently heedless of overwhelming citizen opposition to Devlin2.
PWCBG, like the developers and undoubtedly the Board, would like to see the 15-year controversy over this parcel of land settled. We would cease to oppose this project if it were reduced by half to 258 houses covering the same parcel of land.
Ralph’s speech — Good evening, supervisors. I’m Ralph Stephenson of Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth. I’d like to dispel some myths about the Devlin rezoning proposal; let’s call it Devlin2.
Myth1: The Devlin2 proffers cover the costs of this proposal to taxpayers. False. The transportation proffer is $13M versus $50M required to widen Devlin from Jennell to Linton Hall. Simple math shows the one-time $10.7M school proffer falls way short of covering multi-year costs of an estimated 357 new students, thus the School Board is opposed to Devlin2. Furthermore, all proffers would be unnecessary if Devlin2’s 516 houses were not built. Also, a special thanks and shoutout to the developer for its 56-acre nature park consisting of high-tension power lines.
2. Myth2: The proffers for Devlin can be used elsewhere in the county. False. By law, transportation proffer funds dedicated to a specific project but not used (because other sources of funding are used) may be used only for other transportation improvements in the same Magisterial District, according to the Transportation Department.
3. Myth3: Because the land is designated in the county’s Comprehensive Plan as residential, if Devlin2 is not approved, the developer will sue…. Or maybe the land will be used for some terrible purpose – …. ?A purpose worse than the 50-year-old toxic waste site next door?
A), the county should never allow itself to be held hostage to the possibility of residential developer legal action. B), this is a developer trope anyway. Legally, comp plans are guidelines – heavily influenced by developers — that change regularly and without item-by-item review by the county and citizens … unlike the rezoning process. Comp plans do not have legal force. Other Virginia county guidelines on land use and academic studies we’ve seen are unanimous on this. Only zoning has legal force. Devlin2 requests that land be rezoned from agricultural to residential. Normally, developers are working against their own interests in multiple ways if they sue in cases they’re likely to lose. If a county occasionally loses such a case, the negative result is likely not much different than actually approving the developer’s proposal.
C), any agricultural or other purpose for which the Devlin2 parcel could hypothetically be used must comply with public health, private property, and environmental safety laws.
… 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 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. 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.