Citizens for Balanced Growth

Author: Ralph Stephenson (Page 1 of 29)

ACTION: Taxes, 1st Amendment, Devlin Rd., and BOCS Chair’s Hamster-Wheel of Government

[Mass e-mail to county citizens by Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth]

Fellow county voters, taxpayers, homeowners:

Since taking office in Jan 2020, Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) Chair Ann Wheeler is off to a decidedly undemocratic start by:  

  • Officially attempting to restrict citizens’ First Amendment rights at BOCS meetings in March;
  • Planning to raise on 28 April, rather than reduce, government spending and private employer & homeowner taxes during a severe economic recession that threatens to bankrupt tens of thousands of county residents and businesses; and
  • Forcing the big Devlin Rd. residential development project upon West County citizens on 10 and 31 March, ignoring virtually unanimous local opposition, including over 1,000 petitioners, while also ignoring BOCS rules and procedures and unresolved flooding, eminent domain, phasing, and housing density problems. 

(For info on what you can do to oppose Chair Wheeler’s attempt to raise taxes on 28 April, see:  https://www.facebook.com/144935038911635/posts/3723679831037120/?sfnsn=mo …  You’ll need to sign up before 5 pm 27 April.   Also, see Coles Supervisor Yesli Vega’s message below and this message posted at:  https://pwcbg.org/2020/04/action-taxes-1st-amendment-devlin-rd-and-bocs-chairs-hamster-wheel-of-government/ )  

An already clear, well-established pattern — In attempting to deflect near-universal criticism of her gambit to restrict First Amendment rights at BOCS meetings, Chair Wheeler denied involvement — a lie that convinced no one, since calling, controlling the agenda for, and leading BOCS meetings is solely the BOCS chair’s responsibility.

At the 10 March hearing on Devlin and thereafter, Chair Wheeler, followed by other members of the BOCS Democratic majority, blamed the pre-2020 BOCS for her own regime’s abusive decision on Devlin.  This was yet another lie followed by an attempt to avoid responsibility for her own bad decisions and unethical behavior.  But she who thinks nothing of trashing another’s neighborhood, leaving behind a mess for others to clean up, would clearly think nothing of then lying about it to try to avoid responsibility.

Leading up to and during the 21 April BOCS budget markup, Chair Wheeler repeatedly attempted to avoid responsibility and divert attention from her tax increases on businesses and ordinary citizens who are already in jeopardy from the ever-deepening recession.  She also repeatedly attempted to deflect efforts to cut spending anywhere.  (See county government’s video archive of 21 Apr BOCS meeting at https://pwcgov.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=23&clip_id=2706, from about 2 hrs 30 minutes to the end.)

On multiple occasions over the last two months, Wheeler and other BOCS Dems implied they could not have known the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and its effect when they approved the county’s 1.17% advertised real estate rate (at least a 4% overall increase, depending on property value increases) and that they all along intended to lower the tax rate to 1.145 or 1.125.  Besides ignoring that a politician’s alleged and unexpressed state of mind and intent never trumps his written record, the problem with that argument is that Chair Wheeler and other members of the BOCS Dem majority were sending messages to county citizens and beyond throughout March and April taking credit for how up-to-date they were on the pandemic and how much the county government was supposedly doing to alleviate the effects of the pandemic.  But they can’t have it both ways.  Per their own claims, they were very sensitive to the health aspects of the pandemic — regarding which they have little or no expertise or ability to do anything — but completely missed, didn’t understand (economic incompetence), didn’t care about (economic neglect), or ignored the economic effects on county employers, employees, and homeowners of their decision to raise taxes during the economic collapse (economic abuse.) Anyway, a smaller tax increase is still highly inappropriate and should not even be considered at this time.

Furthermore, during the 21 Apr markup, Chair Wheeler chose to focus her frustrations at badly mishandling the tax issue, and being thwarted on raising taxes even more, by claiming that Republicans, particularly Supervisor Lawson, were working to “inflame” their constituents by earlier reporting to constituents how much the proposed tax increases were going to cost them, especially at this perilous economic time when the BOCS should be reducing taxes.  So, according to Chair Wheeler, by doing part of their core jobs, reporting tax issues to constituents, Supervisors Lawson and Vega were supposedly inflaming them, while Chair Wheeler, by not doing her job, is, once again, blameless.  (Chair Wheeler should consider the reality that she is the one inflaming much of the county with her hubris and flippant disregard for anyone but those who think just like she does.)

So just four months into her term of office, Chair Wheeler has established a clear, well-established pattern of lying and avoidance of responsibility.  Apparently for Chair Wheeler, the buck stops nowhere … or at least anywhere but with her.

The evil twin — Corey Stewart, our least favorite BOCS chair before Chair Wheeler, raised taxes over 35% in 12 years, while home values declined, in order to fund the mostly tax-negative residential development of which he became so fond.  Taxes increased dramatically while services to ordinary citizens declined dramatically — as evidenced by increasingly overcrowded roads and schools, increasing environmental damage, and little or no improvement in the very small commercial tax base.  Chair Wheeler apparently wants to become Stewart’s evil twin by not only approving as much tax-negative residential development as possible, but also by mindlessly expanding county government — because the hive, the collective, the government, not the individual worker bee, is what matters, what lasts, at least in the fevered minds of big-government ideologues.

The “fabric of our community” — Chair Wheeler remains cloaked in unfounded confidence, supported by no evidence whatsoever, in what she has repeatedly called “the fabric of our community,” the part of the county government that is run by the BOCS.  No wonder she cares so much about the government and continuing to feed that beast, while caring so little about what happens to businesses small and large, families, and other private groups that are the real fabric of our county.  Collectivism requires sacrifice by and of people and smaller groups, the worker bees, for the good of the government and the ruling party, the hive, which is what really matters … not the other way around.

The wheel — When we see Chair Wheeler frenetically sending scores of messages and press releases about what the county is doing about Covid-19, about which it can do very very little, including one message to the Vice President of the United States … while abusing ordinary citizens on 1st Amendment, tax, and land use issues, we’re reminded of something else:  A hamster on a wheel.  The similarities are striking.  The cage, the county is littered with Wheeler press releases and other stuffing and trash, which covers up the really nasty stuff that falls on top of the ordinary citizens, taxpayers, homeowners, private employers and employees at the very bottom of her cage.

Chair Hamster-Wheeler

Sincerely,

Ralph 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.

———- Forwarded message ———
From: Yesli Vega <yesli.vega@yestoyesli.com>
Date: Thu, Apr 23, 2020, 2:05 PM
Subject: 25,000 Lost Jobs & A $177 Tax Increase
To: Ralph <stephenrkg@gmail.com>



Now Is NOT The Time To Be Taking Even More Money From our Citizens

At a time when nearly 25,000 of our citizens have lost their jobs (a number that will increase this week) the Democrat majority on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors is poised to raise the average residential property tax bill $177 (in addition to increasing vehicle fees).

If you’ve paid attention to this year’s budget process my colleagues in the majority have argued repeatedly that we must increase your taxes because they don’t have enough of your money to spend.

These two graphs speak for themselves:


The blue axis shows how your home values have decreased since FY2008 (the reason I chose FY2008 is because it’s still the closest our homes have gotten to pre-recession values). Even so, the average home value is still almost $27,000 less  than it was 13 years ago – assessed pre-COVID.

It would be fair to assume that as a result your tax bill would also be less.

Wrong.

The red axis is how much your bill will have increased over that time. If the current proposal passes (the vote is scheduled for April 28th) the average residential tax bill will increase by an additional $177 on average meaning your average yearly bill has increased by over $1,200 – or 35% – while your home value has gone down 6.5%.

Home values down. Taxes up. Way up. And going higher.

The second graph shows how county spending has increased over the last decade compared to population growth.


Assuming the Board majority forces through their current budget next week county spending will have increased by almost $500 million over the last 10 yearsa 56% increase.

Meanwhile, our population has only increased by 16% in that same period.
When the size of the government bureaucracy grows 3.5x population growth it becomes pretty clear why your taxes have increased so much.

Yet the Board majority thinks this is perfectly reasonable. In fact, they think you should be grateful that they’re only increasing your taxes by $177 – indeed, their initial proposal raised your taxes by twice the amount.

I hope the cake is good at least.

I think it is downright immoral to forcefully take more money out of your pocket than last year in a time of such economic turmoil.

You ALREADY pay the second highest residential tax rate of any county in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.

And the worst part is, this tax increase will be felt as equally by the single mom having increased rent payments passed down by her landlord and lower income homeowners as the wealthiest citizen in our county.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum, you have my word that I will NOT vote to take even more money out of your pocket next week.

I believe you’re taxed enough already.

For Coles,

Yesli Vega Coles District Supervisor 



Follow Yesli on Twitter and Facebook @yestoyesli.

Paid for and Authorized by Friends of Yesli Vega

Friends Of Yesli Vega | yestoyesli.com

Chair Wheeler’s Fake Reversal, Under Pressure, on Real Estate Tax Increase, Replacing It With Even Higher Business Taxes

[13 April 2020 mass e-mail to county citizens by Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth, PWCBG]

Under pressure, Chair Wheeler backs off the 4% real estate tax increase — In her message this morning to county residents, Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chair Wheeler, under intense public pressure, backs off from her late-Feb-March 4% real estate tax increase, but then immediately proposes an 8% increase on businesses in the next paragraph. Continue reading

What You Can Do 11-16 Apr Re: BOCS Dem Majority’s Callousness in Proposing Tax Increases Amid Employer/Jobs Meltdown

[11 April 2020 mass email by Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth, PWCBG]

 

All:  As you know, Prince William County and much of the country is in a far-reaching economic lockdown of still indefinite duration.  If  small- and medium-sized businesses and the most at-risk households in our county are to economically survive, the county government should be freezing spending, cutting taxes, or even declaring tax holidays until the economic crisis passes — not raising taxes. Continue reading

BOCS Majority’s Economic & Land Use Incompetence, Vindictiveness , False Pride Endangers County; Tax Increases Despite Growing Business/Jobs Meltdown

[Mass e-mail to county citizens by Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth]

Fellow citizens, taxpayers, voters:

Chair Wheeler kicks the can down the road — Here’s how the Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) Democratic majority closed the door on bipartisan requests to fix major defects in the residential developer/Stanley-Martin Homes’ Devlin Rd. rezoning request on 10 and 31 March, and how the BOCS majority thus unnecessarily kicked the can down the road, leaving a major mess for others to clean up after them — homeowners, taxpayers, commuters, schools, flood control officials, lawyers, etc.  We’ll also discuss the longer-term implications of that and other BOCS-majority tendencies that have become increasingly noticeable in the last three months, following strong initial indications that we warned about repeatedly during the 2019 election campaign. Continue reading

Urgent Plea to BOCS Dem Majority Regarding 31 March Chance To Fix Defects in Devlin Rezoning

——– Forwarded Message ——–

Subject: Urgent Plea to Victor, Kenny, Andrea & Margaret Regarding 31 March
Date: Mon, 30 Mar 2020 13:26:44 -0400
From: Stephenson, Ralph & Kathy <email address>
To: Angry, Victor S. <vsangry@pwcgov.org>, Franklin, Margaret <mfranklin@pwcgov.org>, Bailey, Andrea <abailey@pwcgov.org>, Boddye, Kenny <kboddye@pwcgov.org>
   

Victor, Kenny, Margaret, Andrea (info Doug Widener/Citizens Alliance of Prince William):

We and the thousands of people with whom we correspond and/or who have made their concerns and wishes known regarding the Devlin rezoning proposal were deeply disappointed by the BOCS’ 10 Mar Devlin rezoning decision.  On the other hand, you undoubtedly believed that you were doing the right thing by instructing the developer to work with Supervisor Lawson to cover many of the concerns raised by citizens at the hearing. Continue reading

Open Letter: Holding PW County Attorney Accountable on Land Use, Covid-19

[Open letter to Prince William chief County Attorney Michelle Robl and county leadership and mass email to county citizens]

Ms. Robl:

Rapacious residential developers — We have lived in Prince William County for 20 years.  For the last 15 years we have been working to defend our district, and other districts of the county as well, from rapacious residential developers who:  overcrowd our roads and schools, increase our taxes through mostly tax-negative residential development, damage the environment, and corrupt our politics.  As residents of the county, in recent years we have watched the quality of education decrease while our taxes have greatly increased, much faster than inflation and than in Loudoun, for example, where we used to live.  We have experienced the traffic gridlock caused by inadequately planned residential development.  In short, we live with the reduced quality of life caused by out-of-control residential development. Continue reading

Civic Associations — Holding Public Hearings During Pandemic with ‘Greatly Reduced Public Participation’ Will ‘Undermine the Public Process’

Prince William Conservation Alliance (PWCA)
Woodbridge Potomac Communities Civic Association (WPCCA)
Lake Ridge Occoquan Coles Civic Association (LOCCA)
Mid County Civic Association Of Prince William (MIDCO)

Date: March 26, 2020

To: Prince William County Government Partners

Dear elected officials and staff:

Since the organizations listed above are engaged in promoting transparency in government, we have to take exception to the county’s plans to continue to hold Public Hearings during the health emergency. Whether or not the county is bound by the state’s restrictions on public gatherings, holding meetings at this time will result in greatly reduced public participation due to the current pandemic, and therefore will undermine the public process. Continue reading

Chair Wheeler Holding Semi-Public 31 Mar BOCS Meeting To Suspend ‘Public Comment,’ Assume Greatly Increased ‘Emergency’ Powers

All:

This is an open letter to Prince William County citizens and the Board of County Supervisors (BOCS.)  It concerns Chair Ann Wheeler appearing to put politics and greater power for a BOCS “quorum” (typically, five of eight members) above public safety, good governance, and liberal democratic principles by:

  • Holding a semi-public meeting on 31 March amid the Covid-19 pandemic and thus likely contributing to the spread of the virus (see see BOCS meeting agenda attached or at https://www.pwcgov.org/government/bocs/Pages/Meeting-Room.aspx ; also see https://thederecho.blogspot.com/2020/03/pwc-foregoes-public-health-concerns-in.html);
  • Using the 31 March meeting, ostensibly focused on the pandemic, to propose granting any BOCS quorum that can be mustered sweeping “emergency” powers, following the Virginia governor’s emergency declaration, through four “procedural matters” on the attached BOCS agenda (see items 4A thru 4D — 4b, #14, for example) that would potentially give five BOCS supervisors power to make controversial budget and land use decisions with little or no transparency, opposition, or public comment and review, and possibly with a shortened, expedited approval process;
  • Proposing suspending “public comment time” (i.e., “Citizens Time”) at all BOCS meetings until further notice and proposing to make this permanent even after the pandemic passes (see our colleagues Tammy Spinks and Bob Weir’s 27 March messages to the BOCS linked here .. https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/bocs-urged-to-ensure-banning-of-public-comment-does-not-become-permanent/ and here, respectively ..  https://thederecho.blogspot.com/2020/03/a-warning-from-history.html , as well as the joint letter of four county civic associations here ..  https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/civic-associations-holding-public-hearings-during-pandemic-with-greatly-reduced-public-participation-will-undermine-the-public-process/. )
  • Undoubtedly using the second and third bulleted items above to stop growing momentum and pressure for the BOCS to pass a motion to reconsider the 10 March Devlin rezoning approval.  (Chair Wheeler and the BOCS majority strongly — unquestioningly and thoughtlessly, in our view — supported the Devlin rezoning.)  The motion to reconsider can only happen at this, the next BOCS meeting on 31 March.  Please note that mounting pressure for the motion to reconsider the Devlin decision follows numerous irregularities and mistakes by the BOCS at the 10 March hearing.  (See:  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/  Also see our colleague Doug Widener’s 24 March message to the BOCS below.)   We can see nothing in the four “procedural” emergency measures above that would prevent the BOCS quorum from passing the controversial Kline residential developer proposal or implementing controversial planned big real estate tax increases or approving harmful policies regarding the Rural Crescent — all without transparency and serious public comment and scrutiny.

We’ve noted recently that in an authoritarian system, the ruler knows what is best for his subjects, and they must serve him.  On the other hand, in a democracy, the citizens know what is in their best interests, and elected representatives serve the citizens and their interests.  We fear that Chair Wheeler may be inadvertently moving closer to the former and farther away from the latter, and is unaware that she may also be exhibiting too much of a need for control, too much intolerance of dissent.

We hope that our worst fears are not realized.  Please give Chair Wheeler lots of feedback to help her see that we support her when she does well, supports ordinary citizens’ interests, is tolerant of dissent, listens to and learns from criticism, and supports our most fundamental democratic rights (including the three of the five core First Amendment rights that most directly apply here — petitioning the government, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.)  But when she does the opposite and shows elite indifference to ordinary citizens’ freedoms, needs, interests, and concerns, she will earn our relentless opposition.

ACTION FOR CITIZENS:  If you have not already done so, please sign the online petition supporting the motion to reconsider the Devlin rezoning decision here and urge your friends to do the same:  http://chng.it/57d9SJBQyf  Please help get the word out via social media, email, etc.  (Feel free to use an online link to this message at https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/chair-wheeler-holding-semi-public-31-mar-bocs-meeting-to-implement-greatly-increased-emergency-powers-suspension-of-public-comment/) 

And let’s also urge the BOCS to “first do no harm” by keeping its actions during the pandemic to the bare minimum necessary, not using the pandemic as an excuse, in the absence of public scrutiny, to abuse power, as it has already done, though hopefully unintentionally, in its first major land use case, the 10 March Devlin rezoning. Please send that feedback to Chair Wheeler and the other BOCS members at  BOCS@pwcgov.org and/or the cc addresses above.

Best wishes to all and stay safe,

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.


[Note:  Per Doug Widener and Citizens Alliance of Prince William (CAPW), the following “March 24, 2020 email is an unpolished, interim message to BOCS members to let them know” CAPW’s preliminary findings, “so far, of an unfinished in-depth review and analysis of the Devlin Road public hearing video” posted on the county’s website.  A “final report will be written and published” by CAPW, but possibly not in time for the 31 March BOCS meeting.  Italicization of passages below added by Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth, PWCBG.]

———- Forwarded message ———
From: Doug Widener <citizensalliancepw@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 3:04 PM
Subject: Update on Reconsideration of Devlin Road Decision
To: Andrea Bailey <abailey@pwcgov.org>, Ann Wheeler <awheeler@pwcgov.org>, Candland, Pete <gainesville@pwcgov.org>, Kenny Boddye <kboddye@pwcgov.org>, Lawson, Jeanine M. <jlawson@pwcgov.org>, Margaret Franklin <mfranklin@pwcgov.org>, Yesli Vega <yvega@pwcgov.org>, Victor Angry <vsangry@pwcgov.org>

Prince William Board of County Supervisors:

Since my email message with an attached letter to you on March 15, regarding the need for a reconsideration of the new board’s decision on March 10 to approve the Devlin Road project, research continues, including a second-by-second analysis of the video recording of the public hearing.  Findings, so far, significantly add to the reasons why a reconsideration appears to be necessary.  Unfortunately, many of those reasons do not reflect well, to say the least, on individual members of the board who voted to approve Devlin Road.  Here’s an overview of some of the reasons identified, so far:

  • School overcrowding, the most important issue that should have been considered during the hearing, was largely ignored.  A reconsideration is the new board’s opportunity to correct that big mistake.  Count how few minutes of the hearing were devoted to schools.  Was the fact that the School Board stated in writing that it was opposed to approval of Devlin Road even mentioned?  Why wasn’t someone there from the school division to answer any school-related questions?  Are you aware of how your attention was distracted from the fact that the 13th high school will be overcrowded in five years (and 10 years) according to the School Division/School Board Development Impact Statement (DIS)?  Was that fact even mentioned during the hearing?  Are you aware of how you were misled about the 14th high school?  It’s not even mentioned in the DIS, since it’s not been funded and it’s location, which is highly controversial, has not been finally determined.  If it’s built in eastern county, it will not significantly help overcrowding in western county.  Did you read the document I sent you on March 8, regarding just one example of how the school division’s CIP projections do not work to address overcrowding?
  • Widespread false statements during the hearing by new board members who mistakenly believed that Supervisor Lawson could continue to work with the developer after the board approved Devlin Road.  No one seemed interested in the correct explanation by Supervisors Lawson and Candland as to why that is not possible.  The new board members’ reliance on that false belief was a big mistake that can be corrected with a reconsideration.
  • New board members appear to have allowed themselves to be misled by the applicant’s use of words such as “intends” and “assumes” with regard to issues such as the construction timeline and house prices.  Another big mistake that can be corrected with a reconsideration.
  • Misunderstanding by new board members about how the land planning process actually works (e.g., “kicking the can [Devlin Road] down the road”, unfairly “inheriting” projects, etc.)
  • No mention of any consideration of the Devlin Road project in relation to the potential negative impact of the huge, already BOCS-approved housing inventory “pipeline” on school overcrowding and traffic congestion.
  • Failure of new board members to recognize the need to have the current Planning Commission review this case, as was recommended to them, since the last review was by the former Planning Commission in 2018, and the concerns of the Brentsville District’s Commissioner from that review have not been adequately addressed.      
  • No recognition of the precedent-setting impact that approval of the Devlin Road project will have on DAPS overall (and the Kline Property proposal by Stanley Martin, in particular).    
  • New board members appear to have either been misled or followed false beliefs or assumptions with regard to the Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Ordinance, density, house types, lot sizes, proffers after the 2019 VA Code changes, the saving of mature trees, the ineffectiveness of stormwater management (even when done in accordance with local and state standards), etc. 
  • Huge discrepancy between what new board members actually said at this hearing — and at other public hearings — about the need to have infrastructure in place before development, etc., and how those members voted on Devlin Road

With regard to the issue of “project denial would mean a winnable lawsuit”, please read the material in my letter of March 15 regarding that, and consider this short description of the Fairly Debatable Rule:  https://definitions.uslegal.com/f/fairly-debatable-rule/. Ask the County Attorney for case law examples that prove her theory regarding a lawsuit in this matter.  What do the supervisors who voted to deny Devlin Road know about this issue that you don’t?

Many of the reasons that justify a reconsideration are understandable “rookie mistakes” by new board members with little or no development-related experience or background knowledge, other than what they’ve been told by lobbyists for the building industry and Chamber of Commerce, Planning Office staff focused on job protection, certain members of the previous Planning Commission who never met a proposed development they didn’t want to approve, the ever-present “Land Lawyers” in this and most other land use cases over the last four years and a County Attorney too fearful to put anything in writing. The influence of these biased information sources on new board members + Devlin Road being the first major land use case considered by the new board members + A vote to approve Devlin Road that didn’t take place until well after midnight during a board meeting that began at 2:00 PM + The appearance that all but one new board member intentionally ignored the advice of the two experienced board members during the hearing, apparently for politically partisan reasons = What looks like a recipe for “Devlin Road disaster”, cooked up by new board members from eastern county and served to western county supervisors and residents on March 10.

The negative impacts of the Devlin Road approval — unless formally reconsidered (but not necessarily changed) — will be far-reaching and long-term for both countywide residents and the new board members.  Considering all this, why would a competent new board member who intends to serve the best interests of all county residents not take the opportunity for Reconsideration to review the Devlin Road proposal again and determine — in light of facts, not reliance on misleading statements, misinformation and unfounded assumptions/beliefs — whether or not the project should be approved?  Reconsideration is available for a reason. The Devlin Road approval is the perfect illustration of that reason.

Citizens — especially those who worked tirelessly to help elect new board members they thought would focus on fixing school and traffic problems, not making them worse with more new home development — deserve to be made fully aware of this situation and the opportunity the new board members have to correct it, no later than the next meeting of the board.  Once this analysis is completed and published, this overview may be looked upon as only “the tip of the Devlin Road iceberg”.       

Doug Widener Citizens Alliance of Prince William (“Putting Children and Families First”)

BOCS Urged to Ensure Ban on Public Comment Does Not Become Permanent

—–Original Message—–
From: Tammy L. Spinks
To: awheeler <awheeler@pwcgov.org>; jlawson <jlawson@pwcgov.org>; yvega <yvega@pwcgov.org>; kboddye <kboddye@pwcgov.org>; gainesville <gainesville@pwcgov.org>; mfranklin <mfranklin@pwcgov.org>; vsangry <vsangry@pwcgov.org>; abailey <abailey@pwcgov.org>; bocs <bocs@pwcgov.org>
Sent: Fri, Mar 27, 2020 5:39 am
Subject: March 31 Board Agenda Item 4D Public Comment Time

[Note that bracketed passages such as this one and underlining of passages were added by Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth, PWCBG]

Dear Supervisors,

Please know I applaud your efforts to limit the public’s exposure to COVID-19 and the possible continued spread by tightening up procedures and access to the Board [Board of County Supervisors, BOCS] meetings, including postponing unnecessary public hearings.  Thank you!  However, the resolution to remove Public Comment Time is troublesome to me.  The resolution is written in such a way that [ending] Public Comment Time will become permanent unless you take action to reinstate.  I fear that is the real purpose of the resolution.  

Please understand that Public Comment Time, formerly known as Citizen’s Time, is ingrained in our political culture.  It is a time-honored and treasured tradition.  I’ve heard several of you say it’s time to change tradition, and maybe it is — but not by silencing your constituents.  Many of you haven’t had the opportunity to experience [what you might consider] a positive Public Comment time.  Things have moved fast and furious since your first January meeting.  But it is not always this way.  Public Comment Time is used by many groups for varied reasons.  Student groups will appear to invite the Board to participate in activities such as suicide prevention seminars, teachers speak to advocate on behalf of educational causes, PTA groups appear pleading for funding or other issues, local social service activists speak on behalf of the poor and underserved, and some appear to announce activities or functions the public would enjoy such as plays or fun runs.  The list goes on and on as you can well imagine.  And of course, the time is used to speak about things you might not agree with.  But that is not a reason to remove it from your meetings.

Public Comment time is important to us.  To think that our opportunity to speak to our public servants in person and on the record may no longer be an option is unconscionable to me.  I respectfully ask that at least one of you make a motion to amend the resolution to restore Public Comment time immediately upon the expiration of this declared emergency and associated executive orders.  It’s simple and quick, resolves the immediate need to limit contact, and maintains the integrity of the public’s right to participate in their government.  A suggestion to amend follows:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Prince William Board of County Supervisors hereby waives its Rules of Procedures to remove Public Comment Time under Section F(4) at all Board meetings until such time as Executive Order No. 51 (2020) DECLARATION OF A STATE OF EMERGENCY DUE TO NOVEL CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) and Executive Order No. 53 (2020) TEMPORARY RESTRICTIONS ON RESTAURANTS, RECREATIONAL, ENTERTAINMENT, GATHERINGS, NON-ESSENTIAL RETAIL BUSINESSES, AND CLOSURE OF K-12 SCHOOLS DUE TO NOVEL CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) expire or are rescinded by further executive order.

Please consider making this a temporary, not permanent restriction.

Tammy L. Spinks Brentsville District

Second Chance for 5 New BOCS Members Deceived by Developers on Devlin2; PWCBG Suggests Tax Relief for Local Employers/Employees Facing Layoffs

[24 March 2020 open letter by Prince Willia 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:  

https://occoquandistrict.net/devlin-road-perspective/?fbclid=IwAR3WPg3_icSmeotrX2iE2AlOYagzVhWH7pPyU8_viSMrYHkTEiVs2CbIwTQ

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:

https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/supervisor-boddyes-help-requested-in-defeating-devlin-kline-projects-to-protect-west-county-revitalize-east-county/

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:

https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/pwcbg-speeches-propose-better-way-decreased-devlin-density-debunk-developer-myths-on-proffers-lawsuits/

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 liesBOCS 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:

https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/bocs-5-dems-unite-to-insult-west-county-citizens-force-516-more-devlin-road-houses-on-them/

https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/pwcbg-speeches-propose-better-way-decreased-devlin-density-debunk-developer-myths-on-proffers-lawsuits/

https://pwcbg.org/2020/02/secrets-of-devlin-road-that-developers-will-never-tell-you/

https://pwcbg.org/2019/10/stopping-the-many-headed-monster-of-out-of-control-residential-development/

https://pwcbg.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/StoneHavenFlier.pdf

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.


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.

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