[30 Sep 2020 mass email from Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth, PWCBG, to county citizens]

Fellow Prince William (PW) County citizens, parents with schoolchildren, commuters, and taxpayers, please be advised of the following:

Ignoring Rule of Law, Democratic Principles — Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) Chair Wheeler began her tenure glorifying the county’s rapid population growth and promising more of the same.  She did so with no acknowledgement of or sympathy toward citizens in the western half of the county who have actually experienced this rapid growth very negatively — as increasingly overcrowded roads and schools, damage to the environment, and concurrently rising taxes and declining services due to excessive tax-negative residential development.  (See:  https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/bocs-chair-wheelers-7-jan-2020-state-of-the-county-address/)  She then attempted to unilaterally supersede federal 2d Amendment law with county resolutions, much like pre-Civil War Southern nullificationists and post-Reconstruction segregationists who believed that states could ignore federal laws they didn’t like.  Following that, because of her intolerance toward views other than her own, she began an assault, unprecedented in modern PW County history, on citizens’ 1st Amendment freedoms and the rule of law.  (See, for example: https://pwcbg.org/2020/07/summary-updates-bocs-chair-wheeler-undermining-our-freedoms-prosperity-11-examples/ and https://www.insidenova.com/headlines/lawsuit-five-prince-william-county-supervisors-violated-open-meeting-laws-in-wake-of-protests/article_704036dc-d8cc-11ea-a3ea-af3a51cd6720.html)

Chair Wheeler has undoubtedly convinced herself that her anti-democratic, authoritarian, elitist attitudes are serving a higher purpose that the public does not properly support or understand as well as she does.  But isn’t that how tyranny always starts, justifies itself, and endures?

Chillin’ with the Shills — Now Chair Wheeler is pivoting back to a more traditional form of BOCS corruption:  shilling for residential developers.  With the help of the county’s former and still-de-facto Planning Director Rebecca Horner and hurried, slipshod residential development planning work by Planning Staff, Wheeler is proceeding hastily to get housing for over 100,000 more people into the county planning pipeline, approved, and built as quickly as possible.  Yes, you read that right:  > 100,000 people.   (As a prime example of what we’re describing immediately above, see the following email exchange between us and Ms. Horner:  https://pwcbg.org/2020/09/pwcbg-planning-commission-planning-chief-e-mail-exchange-regarding-slipshod-obfuscatory-non-citizen-friendly-innovation-small-area-plan/Note that Horner says, per her and Wheeler’s plan, that Innovation Park, which was supposed to be a commercial area, now “would have between 2,377 and 4,073 dwelling units” and 5,360 to 9214 people. (Innovation Park is approximately bounded by Hornbaker Rd., Wellington Rd, Godwin Dr., and Rte 28.)  Imagine that much overcrowding and tax-negative development in your backyard, and the impact on schools, traffic, and taxes.

County-wide there are already over 12,000-approved-but-not-yet-built houses in the residential development pipeline, and just under 24,000 more that Wheeler and Horner want approved as soon as possible, according to the county’s just-released 2020 development “build-out analysis.”  36,000 new housing units with a traditional county average of about 3 occupants per unit = ~108,000 new residents coming soon to a county already coughing and choking on its current residential development exhaust fumes.  (See the full build-out analysis here, especially pp 6-7:  https://eservice.pwcgov.org/planning/documents/buildoutanalysis/2019_Publication.pdf)  

Tactics Chair Wheeler and her allies are frequently using to achieve the explosive, out-of-control residential development growth described above are as follows, with examples included in the sub-headed sections following the four bullets immediately below:

  • not divulging agenda items until the very last minute without the required advance notice, or with no notice at all;
  • suppression of public comment at BOCS meetings (regarding, for example, residential development items on the meeting agenda) until after it’s too late and the vote has already been taken; and
  • increasingly putting items of great public interest on the 2 pm BOCS meeting agenda when most people are at work, so the working public will be unable to respond in a timely fashion.
  • Also, for examples of how the county attorney’s extreme risk aversion and pro-developer lens helps residential developers & Wheeler thwart the people’s interests, see:  https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/open-letter-holding-pw-county-attorney-accountable-on-land-use-covid-19/)

To further boost the out-of-control residential development planning above, some residential developers and their allies are already claiming that today’s somewhat lower commuter traffic volume will outlast the pandemic and become permanent.  But that’s a highly-speculative, self-serving bet by developers — with no risk to them but high risk to commuters and taxpayers.  This developer bet is based on no reliable evidence whatsoever regarding the future.  Instead, why not wait until the economy continues its revival over the next year or two, until the dust settles and we have more information about traffic volume and flows?  Why not wait until then before foolishly rushing off and committing to thousands of new, mostly tax-negative houses that the county can ill afford, or before committing to extremely expensive roads such as the Wheeler/Godwin Bypass, as its ability to improve end-to-end traffic flow (Manassas and points south to the Rte 28-I-66 junction and beyond) is highly questionable.

Working for big Fairfax and Loudoun County residential developer interests — In March 2020, Chair Wheeler forced through the 516-house Devlin Rd residential proposal, despite unresolved flooding, toxic waste, eminent domain, road funding, and school overcrowding issues.  This was to please Stanley-Martin Homes, based in Fairfax County, and owned by foreign (Japanese) interests.  (See:  https://pwcbg.org/2020/02/secrets-of-devlin-road-that-developers-will-never-tell-you/  and  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/)

Wheeler also invited her Democratic Loudoun County counterpart and NoVA transportation (NVTA) chief to the Prince William (PW) BOCS 8 Sep 2020 meeting to lecture and threaten the county that it would lose funding if it didn’t do the bidding of Fairfax, Loudoun, and other non-PWC development interests, leading the other four BOCS Dems, in lockstep with Wheeler, to overturn the previous unanimous BOCS decision to widen Rte 28, choosing instead the proposed Godwin Rd bypass (red option 2B in map below.) 

Though required, there was no advance notice of this proposal given in the BOCS agenda.  The Wheeler/Godwin Bypass will open up more opportunities for residential developers, especially along the southern reaches of Rte 28 (between Manassas and Rte 17), while destroying the low-cost houses of many residents for whom “fair market” remuneration will probably not be enough to find livable housing in the area and who thus have nowhere else to go.  The bypass will also destroy a large wetland area.  And this from a BOCS Dem majority that incessantly, sanctimoniously, and hypocritically claims that helping the underserved, ensuring low-cost housing, and protecting the environment are among its top priorities.  (See:   https://pwcbg.org/2020/07/summary-updates-bocs-chair-wheeler-undermining-our-freedoms-prosperity-11-examples/  and  https://pwcbg.org/2020/06/letter-to-bocs-on-19-may-bipartisan-vote-ending-lockdown/)

We wonder if dumping PW and Fauquier county commuter traffic on Rte 28 north of Yorkshire will even improve congestion, or just move the chokepoints to Godwin Dr. and north to another highly congested area (Rte 28 just south of the Compton Rd intersection and Rte 29 and I-66 interchanges), making that area almost completely impassable during peak traffic periods.  In other words, will Wheeler’s Bypass really solve the problem, or be more like rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic?   If the Bypass fails to solve the problem in the long-term, not just for a few months or a year or two — as we think is likely, especially if developers build thousands of new houses along Rte 28 in PW County — then Chair Wheeler and the four lockstep Dems will have wasted somewhere between $200 and $300 million in taxpayer-approved road bonds.  So why are Chair Wheeler and her four Dems taking such a risky gamble with so much taxpayer money?  Is it perhaps not so much to improve traffic as it is to open up Rte 28 to more residential development —  i.e., to do the bidding of fat-cat residential developer friends and their bigwig Democratic Party friends outside the county?

Ann…toinette Wheeler says:  Let them eat cake (“them” meaning poor minorities she is needlessly, cruelly making homeless) — Equally troubling, and distressing, is the treatment of local PW residents by Chair Wheeler on 15 September when they tried to protest losing their irreplaceably-low-cost homes due to the BOCS Dems’ decision a week earlier.  They were locked out of the BOCS meetingplace and not allowed to speak.  (Please see:  Prince William Conservation Alliance leader and former county Planning Commissioner Kim Hosen’s editorial here https://www.princewilliamtimes.com/opinion/letter-county-board-s-reversal-on-bypass-broke-trust/article_c921da9a-f84c-11ea-a2b6-e3bc6fb21617.html and Potomac Local reporting here  https://potomaclocal.com/2020/09/16/angry-residents-stand-to-lose-homes-shut-out-of-county-meeting/  and here  https://potomaclocal.com/2020/09/08/prince-william-reverses-course-opts-for-godwin-drive-extension/)

It’s hard for us to comprehend how anyone, even Chair Wheeler, could be capable of such hypocrisy and cynicism, such cruelty toward her fellow citizens, especially underserved citizens that she and the BOCS Dem majority endlessly claim they want to protect — though apparently only when its politically convenient or when it first suits their fat-cat residential developer friends’ interests.   Chair Wheeler seems to have great difficulty accepting the adult responsibility of respecting the First Amendment rights of others with whom she disagrees, but instead seems to see them as undeserving “deplorables.”  Abuse and displacement of ordinary citizens is, of course, commonplace in China, Russia, and other police states around the world, but are we now comfortable with it happening in the United States, the birthplace of almost 250 years of ever-broadening freedom, education, and prosperity for the masses and a mecca to the world of freedom and prosperity?  Are we comfortable with it happening in our county?   Remember that a violation of the rights of one group is a violation of the rights of all, and today’s oppression of others can become tomorrow’s oppression of you or me.

Ever-obedient and obsequious to the Party Komissar — We wonder why the other four members of the Dem majority, with only occasional exceptions on usually symbolic votes, continue to obediently and robotically follow Komissar Wheeler over the cliff of abusive policy decisions that damage ordinary people, including those whom they repeatedly — but increasingly hollowly — claim to be protecting.  The Wheeler/Godwin Bypass decision discussed above was a 180-degree reversal so embarrassingly abrupt that it must have given even the BOCS Dems whiplash.  It also showed, once again, as do many other examples above and below, how direspectful the BOCS Dem majority is, under Wheeler’s leadership and influence, toward ordinary citizens and their rights, including those who, despite their busy lives, take the time and trouble to come address their elected representatives on policies and issues that directly affect them as ordinary taxpayers, parents, commuters, homeowners, etc.  (See:  https://pwcbg.org/2020/09/sup-candland-dem-majority-continues-to-block-devalue-public-comment-free-speech-before-bocs-votes/)

The four Dem supervisors are accomplished people, each with undoubtedly much to offer in his/her own right.  Do they wish to be known for that and as individuals, or instead as sycophants and witting accomplices to the sort of Chair Wheeler-inspired madness described above and below, mere cogs in her machine?   Or are they now, as they were earlier this year, focused on other issues, possibly even uninterested in land use and budget/taxes issues, even though land use and budget/taxes are their core BOCS responsibilities?  (See:  https://pwcbg.org/2020/04/bocs-majoritys-incompetence-vindictiveness-false-pride-devlined-west-county-tax-increases-despite-growing-business-jobs-meltdown/)

BCP advocacy + shameless hypocrisy on low-cost housing Wheeler’s sneaky Godwin Bypass victory emboldened her at the time to further lecture county citizens on one of her, former BOCS Chair Stewart, and residential developers’ most cherished, fetishistic visions of all:  building the Bi-County Parkway (BCP).  (See:  https://potomaclocal.com/2020/09/08/prince-william-reverses-course-opts-for-godwin-drive-extension/ )  County commuters, who have suffered for decades with increasingly congested I-66 (West-East) and I-95 (South-North) commutes, may be surprised to learn that what they really need is a route from south county to Dulles Airport in the west.  But while BCP is a road to nowhere for commuters and industry, just like Chair Wheeler’s last-minute Godwin reversal it’s a stairway to heaven for residential developers who want to force open the Rural Crescent to thousands of new houses.  In the coming months, watch for Chair Wheeler to try to sneak the BCP back into county planning and then deny involvement or responsibility (in a process over which she has complete control), as she’s already done once recently.  (See:  https://pwcbg.org/2020/09/our-13-july-exchange-w-sup-boddye-confirming-his-opposition-to-bcp-wheeler-proposal/)  She owes it to her NoVA developer buddies and Virginia Democratic Party bosses, and to her obvious ambition for future statewide office.

We met with Wheeler on 5 March to discuss our and other local citizens’ virtually unanimous disagreement with the Devlin Rd. residential proposal, which attracted over 1,000 petition signatures in opposition.  It’s interesting that instead of courteously listening to our request and rationale, Wheeler chose instead to cut us off almost as soon as we had begun and to instead launch into two very emotional tirades.  One Wheeler tirade was in support of the BCP.   In her other tirade, she accused west county residents of elitist opposition to low-cost housing near our neighborhoods.  (See this link for a Democratic friend’s explanation last year of this nonsensical red herring argument/ad hominem line of attack by residential developers and their Democratic Party allies:   https://pwcbg.org/2019/10/stopping-the-many-headed-monster-of-out-of-control-residential-development/  Also, more in paragraph below on this topic.)   So in the fever swamps of Chair Wheeler’s imagination, west county residents are elitists because … we’ve had the temerity to increasingly oppose ongoing developer efforts for the last 20 years or more to further overcrowd our roads and schools, damage our environment, and then via tax-negative housing force us to indirectly subsidize the very things that are tormenting us.   (According to very reliable sources, Potomac Supervisor Bailey is afflicted by an even more intolerant version of this prejudice toward residents of the western half of the county.)

How the 1% lives + more shameless hypocrisy on low-cost housing — Well now, about that elitism Chair Wheeler mentions, immediately below are overhead shots of her ritzy five-acre estate on 13931 Shelter Manor Dr, Haymarket VA 20169, with above-ground swimming pool to the right.   Notice that there’s no low-cost housing anywhere nearby.  On the other hand, to our knowledge, west county citizens have rarely, if ever, seriously opposed new apartment construction when it came before the BOCS for approval.  Many of us have friends/family/fellow church congregants in nearby subsidized and/or relatively low-cost apartments, people who we know well and with whom we fellowship often.  We count at least three such complexes within about a mile of our house; many more within three miles.  However, we see no such low-cost housing near the multi-acre estate houses and country clubs, respectively, where Chair Wheeler has been living.  But, you see, Chair Wheeler (who typically praises herself several times a week via her emails and county website) knows what’s best for you, what you should think and do — while exalted elites such as herself are above such petty considerations as the expectations, policies, and decrees they like to put upon others.  (For more info on at least some of Chair Wheeler’s wealth, see:  https://www.pwcgov.org/government/bocs/Documents/WheelerSOEI20.PDF   See two paragraphs below for info on her second Haymarket-area domicile.)

Note:  Virtually all tax-negative housing being built in the county — other than apartments– is nowhere near sufficiently low-cost to be affordable to the poor.  In recent years, say 2014-18, a house/dwelling unit has been “tax-negative” if it’s in the ~$450K per unit or lower range; the $450K number is, undoubtedly, higher now with ever-rising county taxes and rising house prices.  (Serious developer proffers — not the typical short-term kind with $ values highly overstated by developers — can somewhat improve the tax negative equation for the county.)

Chair Wheeler’s amply documented behavior above, including toward poor and minority citizens who are in her way and who she’s making homeless, her uncaring and police state attitudes and behavior toward all who were suffering during the economic shutdown and those publicly protesting out of desperation, and her contempt toward her constituents in the western half of the county are beyond comprehension to us, especially in a free country like ours with freedom-loving people.  But maybe Chair Wheeler’s attitudes and behavior become more decipherable if one realizes that she may not even be living in PW County much, if at all, anymore.  By her own account, in July she sold her five-acre Haymarket estate and supposedly moved into a much smaller rental-unit townhouse located at 6206 Lawson Drive, Haymarket, VA 20169 next to a golf course.  Note that she is thus apparently no longer paying the county real estate taxes which she was so quick to increase — along with business taxes — even during the economic meltdown that began in March.  By the way, her estate sold for $956K, $200K above its assessed value, and $414K more than what she paid for it in 2001.

But one can always make time for a little mob rule — Although we’ve noted that Chair Wheeler has recently pivoted to land use issues, mostly, she has not entirely left behind her affinity for mob rule tactics and implicit threats of violence — by proxy — against her opponents.  For example, on 14 July a single senior citizen trying to routinely enter the county’s McCoart building was violently assaulted by a gang of young “social justice warrior” activists and other groups — blocking the entrance — who have repeatedly allied themselves with the BOCS Dem majority and visa versa.  (See:  https://potomaclocal.com/2020/07/21/surveillance-video-shows-mob-attack-man-outside-prince-william-government-center/ )  This followed the 16 June incidents we reported earlier in which Wheeler tolerated screaming, foul-mouthed verbal assaults on the two female Republican supervisors, which clearly flouts BOCS rules and procedures … and normal civilized discourse.  (See: https://pwcbg.org/2020/07/summary-updates-bocs-chair-wheeler-undermining-our-freedoms-prosperity-11-examples/)

Because of Wheeler’s toleration (and the BOCS majority’s at least tacit support for) the first incident on 16 June, participated in by purported members or advocates of an organization which she publicly supports and visa versa, we believe she is at least partly to blame for the second incident on 14 July.

Speaking of the 16 June incident (see video immediately above), we would like to believe that those involved who appropriated and abused CASA’s name were doing so without CASA’s assent.  However, if you were a leader of CASA and saw this misuse and mis-appropriation of your name to support goon-like public threats, wouldn’t you issue a statement showing convincingly that there was no connection between them and you, unequivocally distancing your organization from them?  Or if there were a connection, wouldn’t you ensure that organizational disciplinary action was taken against them and apologies made to the public and the two supervisors?  Yet, we are unaware of any such political distancing and/or apologies.  (If we missed such an event or events, we’d love to hear about it.)  Nevertheless, on 14 August Chair Wheeler proudly reported that she and the BOCS rewarded CASA with $110K in Covid funds, which to us implies redoubled tacit support for the lawless disruption of the 16 June BOCS meeting by alleged representatives of that organization.  (See:  https://www.alliancegpw.org/disasterfund)

Chair Wheeler is, in our view, an utterly unprincipled politician who will say or do almost anything to further her agenda.  She is driven by authoritarian intolerance and exclusion of others with differing views, driven by extremist ideologies which she states as declarative truths, as givens, though in our experience they do not withstand even the slightest scrutiny, nor is she inclined to even try to defend them with rational arguments.

Wheeler supporters have in recent months contacted us and either warned us never to criticize Wheeler or anyone else in the BOCS Dem majority in any way and/or resorted to adolescent name-calling.  We reminded the first one of why the First Amendment is first, and chided the second on her outrageous bigotry thinly disguised as its opposite.  (Friends who’ve publicly opposed Wheeler have shared with us similar experiences with her street-mob supporters.)  If, like those just described, you’re among the perhaps 5-10% of county voters who approve of Chair Wheeler’s anti-rule-of-law, anti-democratic, Orwellian mindset and methods and believe that everyone else and their rights as Americans should be suppressed if you disagree with them, then you’re in luck.  However, if you’re among the rest of us who love America’s freedoms and opportunity and wish to form an ever-more-inclusive, ever-“more-perfect union”– including, undoubtedly, the majority of those who voted for Wheeler but never expected that she would make it her mission to try to reduce or eliminate those rights as they relate to our county government — then you should closely monitor this BOCS Dem majority, especially Chair Wheeler.  Regularly make your wishes known to and, when necessary, criticize her and them.  Try to convince them to do better, to listen to something more than their worst instincts and residential developers, and to be more respectful of others’ differing views and constitutional rights.  Same goes for any of the BOCS Republicans if they ever start shilling for residential developers, as many Republican supervisors (Stewart, Nohe, Covington, Connaughton, and others) routinely did in past Republican-run BOCS.

First Amendment rights and news media censorship in PW County — It’s your government, your county.  Sadly, it’s also your First Amendment rights that are at stake now; use them or lose them.   In other words, use them or wait for a time not far distant when it may become completely unacceptable socially, culturally, politically, and professionally for all but a few politically-favored groups — to which you may not belong — to do so.  Case in point: Potomac Local reports on 28 September (through publisher Uriah Kiser) that it has been barred from Facebook “after 10 years of continuously posting content to the site,” apparently because of the very reporting we reference above, due to “political activists who have taken to Facebook to call for ‘defunding’ our local news organization.”  A deeply disturbing act of political censorship, abridgement of freedom of the press, and McCarthyism in our very own Prince William County.  We wonder if the local news media will complain to Facebook on Potomac Local’s behalf, or if they, too, believe that the First Amendment, including freedom of the press, is no longer as important as other political and business considerations.  We also wonder if Chair Wheeler and the BOCS Dem majority, to ensure freedom of the press and the other First Amendment rights to all of us, will insist on the same, even from their street mob allies.

Here’s a link to this item:  https://pwcbg.org/2020/09/wheeler-shills-big-for-developers-in-west-county-continues-assault-on-rights-rule-of-law-low-cost-housing-residents-leading-local-news-org-muzzled/   Please share via email, social media, etc.

Yours truly,

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