[24 March 2020 open letter by Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth, PWCBG, to county citizens and five members of the new Board of County Supervisors (BOCS): Kenny Boddye, Margaret Franklin, Andrea Bailey, Victor Angry, and Chair Ann Wheeler]
Why PWCBG is writing now — With a global pandemic upon us, many of us sheltering at home, and county offices largely closing, this may seem like an unusual time to talk about county land use issues. However, we’re sending this message now because there’s still a chance to improve the Devlin residential development project rezoning approved by the BOCS on 10 March (Devlin2). As you know, Devlin2 is the high-density, highly unpopular, and harmful developer proposal to build 516 more houses along the southwest side of Devlin Rd. As is true of most county residential development projects, it will further overcrowd our roads and schools, likely be tax negative, and further damage the environment. Other problems are discussed below.
The BOCS is not currently holding meetings, but at their next meeting, whenever that may be, they can vote to reduce the density of the already-approved Devlin 2 project, ensure appropriate and not just minimal/sub-standard flood control measures, and ensure adequate phasing of Devlin2 so that roads and schools will be less overcrowded. If the BOCS officially approved some or all of these provisions, as several of the five who voted for the project (particularly Supervisors Boddye and Franklin) claimed they wanted to see happen, then the project will be improved. If changes are not made at the next BOCS meeting, it will be too late and the very flawed Devlin2 project will be finalized as currently written.
ACTION for CITIZENS: Please write to BOCS and sign online petition — One of the purposes of this message is to help expose the flawed arguments developers used to persuade five new members of the BOCS to push through Devlin2. We encourage county citizens to contact the BOCS (BOCS@pwcgov.org), asking them to at least improve a project that should not have been approved in the first place. Ask Chair Wheeler and Supervisors Boddye, Franklin, Bailey, and Angry to explain to you why they supported the project. And don’t be satisfied with the incorrect, fallacious excuses they’ve already used that are discredited below. Also, sign the online petition linked here: http://chng.it/57d9SJBQyf Help get the word out via social media, email, etc., ask people to share all this info and the online petition with their friends, and ask them to sign the petition. Many thanks to Lisa Schumann who created the online petition. (Here’s a link to this message: https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/second-chance-for-5-new-bocs-members-deceived-by-developers-on-devlin2-pwcbg-suggests-tax-relief-for-local-employers-employees-facing-layoffs/ ) This is a last effort to get the BOCS to make a motion to reconsider and improve the Devlin rezoning.
We hope and pray that all of you will make it safely through this difficult time. We know Americans, as a whole, will once again respond the way they always do in crises — with optimism, a can-do attitude, and compassion for those less fortunate. Stay safe.
Defending the indefensible: the developer fallacies that won Occoquan Supervisor Boddye’s heart — Over the past couple weeks, Occoquan Supervisor Kenny Boddye has, unfortunately, used straight-out-of-the-developers’-mouths rationalizations and fallacies to defend his support for Devlin2, though he should know better.
Here’s Kenny’s after-the-fact explanation on his Facebook page of his 10 March vote for the Devlin2 proposal, after clearly indicating days before to PWCBG that he would vote against it:
Note that on his Facebook page Kenny displays far less skepticism and critical thinking regarding residential developers and development proposals than he displayed when fighting Ray’s Regarde with us in 2019, when speaking out with us for the Rural Crescent in 2019, and when running for office for the first time in 2019. Here’s a late-February 2020 email we sent to Kenny, reminding him of all that and his pre-election opposition to residential development projects very similar to Devlin2:
PWCBG’s response to Supervisor Boddye — Here’s PWCBG’s response to Kenny’s Facebook page on Devlin2, which was largely covered by our speeches to the BOCS, including Kenny, at the 10 March BOCS hearing before the Devlin vote. We start with our 10 March speeches linked here:
A couple final points of clarification in response to Kenny’s Facebook post: 1) The county may have awarded the contract for the Balls Ford Road realignment, but the state of Virginia is paying for the Balls Ford realignment and widening of Devlin to Jennell Rd. 2) The developer’s timeline for adding new homes is purely voluntary and entirely dependent on market conditions. It is in no way legally mandatory now that the rezoning has been approved. In other words, now that the rezoning has been legally approved by the BOCS, the developer’s pace of adding new homes is in no way contingent on completion first of the Devlin Road widening or of available space in county schools, unless there is a clear statement in the builder proffers by which the developer promises to do that. But we have seen no such developer promise in the official developer proffers or staff reports; only a vague, subjective, estimated developer Powerpoint timeline, as presented at the 10 March Devlin rezoning hearing. And that timeline can change, according to the desires of the developer.
The big lie that has apparently won Chair Wheeler and Supervisors Boddye, Franklin, and Bailey’s hearts — In sum, Supervisor Boddye’s arguments have relied on the following misrepresentations: the threat of legal action by developers, supposedly generous proffers and supposedly mandatory phased construction, and that the current BOCS’ decision on 10 March 2020 is the fault of the previous BOCS. This blame-everything-on-the-previous-officeholders argument, is essentially the same as the “let’s not kick the can down the road” argument that has now been publicly used by at least four of the five BOCS supervisors as the main stated reason for their pro-developer, anti-citizen vote: Chair Wheeler (the first to use it), then Supervisor Franklin after the vote, indirectly by Supervisor Boddye above as noted, and indirectly by Supervisor Bailey when she talked at the 10 March hearing about resenting being left with this decision by the previous BOCS.
However, is it not indeed “kicking the can down the road” to approve a deeply-flawed developer project and leave the mess for homeowners, taxpayers, school officials, county transportation and flood control officials, lawyers, and civic groups to try to clean up? Is it not “kicking the can down the road” to set a very bad precedent for future land use decisions? As bad as the previous BOCS was, it never collectively had the votes or the ill will toward West County citizens to approve Devlin2 as is, against ordinary citizens’ rigorous and virtually unanimous dissent. Is it not “kicking the can down the road” to hurriedly, carelessly get past these “pesky” local land use cases (like Devlin2, Kline upcoming, and the ongoing Rural Crescent deliberations), making hasty and bad decisions along the way, to get to more essential BOCS responsibilities? And what would those more essential responsibilities be, other than the county budget (to the extent that it’s discretionary) and the real estate tax rate?
Standard residential developer lies — BOCS members: We know that it is often difficult to discern the lies and flattery that residential developers and their allies endlessly use to recruit you — as they loiter around your offices and meetings, cozy up to you until they gain your confidence, and gradually habituate and assimilate you into their way of thinking, convincing you that you’re not betraying your main constituency, ordinary citizens, even when that’s exactly what you’re doing. They’re good at it; it’s their full-time job. Too often they don’t see it as their job to worry about the greatest good for the greatest number. But without a doubt, that is your job. So it’s important to understand the developer arsenal of half-truths, propaganda, and outright lies that are regularly deployed against you and against citizens by developers and pro-developer BOCS members. The purpose of these misrepresentations is to confuse ordinary citizens who are unacquainted with time-tested residential developer tactics. Here are just a few examples of PWCBG’s recent messages unmasking other, standard residential developer lies and obfuscation:
TWO MODEST PROPOSALS to the BOCS:
Fix Devlin2 — BOCS members: Here’s how you can largely make this right. Fix the Devlin rezoning proposal in writing. Reduce density, ensure flood mitigation back to pre-logging watershed standards (thanks, Supervisor Boddye, for emphasizing that at the 10 March hearing), and make the necessary road improvements but first take into account citizen concerns about eminent domain land seizures. Also, how about getting the developer to proffer land from the west side of Devlin and not stealing it from the east side for Devlin improvements from Jennell Rd. to Linton Hall Rd.? If you’re worried about lawsuits, worry about the lawsuits you are LIKELY to get (and we do not say this lightly) if, for example, by seizing land on the east side (the Sheffield Manor side) of Devlin for road widening, the county endangers the safety of property owners and/or their children there. (See: https://eservice.pwcgov.org/documents/bocs/agendas/2020/0310/14-F.pdf, “Eminent Domain” section of applicant/developer’s “Proffer Statement” pp 11-12.) Or do you intend to entirely condemn relatively new houses that were recently built along east Devlin Rd. and forcibly remove their inhabitants?
Provide tax relief to private employers, employees in face of probably massive pandemic-driven layoffs — Instead of planned big real estate tax increases in 2020, if the county wishes to have any businesses left after the pandemic other than behemoths like Amazon Web Services and Wal Mart, it should consider real estate tax relief, especially for small businesses, but also for homeowners, many of whom are already financially stressed by the deepening economic crisis. That would help protect jobs and the county’s fragile commercial tax base, which as you know has traditionally been 15% or less of the real estate tax base, and which Chair Wheeler says she wishes to increase and improve.
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.