Citizens for Balanced Growth

Category: Reporting (Page 2 of 2)

“New Commercial Space Facilitates Job Growth”

from Prince William County Reports published by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors

Winter 2012 p. 3

“Six new commercial buildings totaling more than 323,000 square feet, were completed in Prince William County during 2011 [as published]; and we are at the lowest commercial vacancy rate in the past three years, according to the most recent data. Prince William County was recently rated number one in Virginia and number three in the United States for job growth by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Keeping the County working and growing is one of the Board of County Supervisors’ goals. To do this, the County’s Economic Development Department has been working hard to bring new business to the County, and has had great success seeing new products come online for the growing job market. The following is a list of new office and industrial buildings that were established in 2011.

•   “Three new office buildings were built on the eastern side of the county totaling 124,508 square feet.

•   “Town Center Professional Building was completed in Woodbridge, which fills the need for medical, dental and professional office jobs in the vicinity of Sentara Potomac Hospital.

•  “Reid’s Prospect, a mixed-use development located off Prince William Parkway adjacent to the County Government Complex, completed its third office building to bring its total office space to 80,000 square feet. The newest building provided the space needed to attract Land Design Consultants corporate headquarters.

•   “Across the street from Reid’s prospect, the new Bayview Professional Building was completed to provide 23,537 square feet of new office space to serve the growing medical professional job sector.

•   “A new 124,800 square-foot industrial warehouse building was brought online near the Manassas Regional Airport. It provides a new home for a major distribution center in the county.

•   “In Innovation Technology Park, a new 45,000 square-foot, class A office building is going up, and a sister building is planned for future development. Also, George Mason University has begun construction on two new buildings for its growing campus. The first will be adjacent to Discovery Hall and provide laboratory space for the university’s dynamic life science research. The second building will be located near the Hylton Performing Arts Center and provide ground floor retail and upper level graduate residential housing.”

“Prince William County: sleepy suburb of 400,000”

by Michael Neibauer, Washington Business Journal

18 January 2012

Prince William County is a jurisdiction of 400,000-plus residents, the second largest county in Virginia, and yet it remains a sleepy suburb. People eat there. They shop there. They rest their weary heads there.

And then they wake up and go to work someplace else. Despite its exploding population, recently released data suggests Prince William is very much a bedroom community.

According to the county’s 2010 Citizen Satisfaction Survey, roughly 70 percent of Prince William County residents commute outside of the county to work — 23.1 percent in Fairfax County, 10.3 percent in D.C., 6.9 percent in Arlington, 6.4 percent in Alexandria.

Commercial and industrial property accounts for less than 15 percent of Prince William County’s real estate tax base, half that of Arlington and 8 percent less than Fairfax County.

And then there’s Prince William’s top 10 employers. Three are retailers, reports the 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report: Wal-Mart, Target and Wegmans. One is Potomac Hospital. Another is Minnieville Private Day School. The remaining five are local or federal government-related.

In other words, except for government work, the top employers in Prince William are either places where people shop, drop off their kids for school, or go when they’re sick.

What does it all mean? It means that Prince William County is a place where people want to, or have to for the more affordable housing prices, live, but is not yet a place where big business sees a future. It means Prince William is more dependent on residential real property taxes to fuel its annual budget, and it suffers a swifter, harsher blow when the housing market turns sour.

Nevertheless, confidence is high among Prince William leaders. The county reports having a total of 45.1 million square feet of commercial space, including retail, as of the 3rd quarter of 2011, a .4 percent increase over the prior year. Vacancies were down as existing space was absorbed and developers slowed their construction. At-place employment was up 7.8 percent in 2011 over 2010.

“Expectations are that the commercial real estate market will continue to improve over the course of the next few years as the local economy grows,” County Executive Melissa Peacor and Director of Finance Steven Solomon noted in the annual financial report, released in December.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments projects Prince William to hit 555,000 residents by 2030. Perhaps by then the county will have shed its sleepy image, or at least welcomed some big time employers into the fold. I-95 and I-66 may never be wide enough to handle the traffic if it doesn’t.

Michael Neibauer covers economic development, chambers of commerce, transportation and politics.

“PW earns highest credit rating”

The Gainesville Times

21 July 2011, p. A3

“Standard and Poor has announced that it has given a ‘AAA/Stable’ rating for Prince William County on its Virginia Public School Authority (VPSA) bond issuances. With this new rating, Prince William has now received AAA status from all three of the major credit rating agencies (Fitch, Moody’s and S&P) – a measure that only 72 out of the 17,669 local governments throughout the country have achieved.

“Credit ratings are tied strongly not only to the financial management of a local government, but also to the economic climate. To this end, S&P noted, ‘The county’s financial position is, in our view, strong and has remained consistent throughout the recession owing to conservative financial management. The county’s revenue stream is diverse, with property taxes accounting for approximately 70 percent of general fund revenues.’

“Regarding the stability of the AAA rating, S&P reported, ‘The stable outlook reflects our opinion of the county’s consistent financial performance throughout the recession, despite a significant decline in [real estate] assessments in 2009 and 2010. We expect the county’s capable management team will maintain a solid financial position, as it beings to see growth in the tax base and economically sensitive revenues.

” ‘The county’s strong wealth and income levels, continued economic development, and participation in the diverse Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) are also stabilizing factors. We do not anticipate changing the rating within the two-year outlook parameter.’

“Prince William County continues to be viewed by rating agencies as a key economic engine in the Metropolitan area, and throughout the nation. ‘Anchored by the military and government, the county’s economy continues to show above average employment indicators,’ reported Fitch Ratings.

“Moody’s reported that it ‘believes that Prince William County’s efforts to diversify the economy and resulting commercial development will partially offset the impacts of the region-wide real estate downturn … Industries targeted for significant expansion include life sciences and data storage, as well as the defense-related sector as Quantico Marine Base is located within the county.’

“The county’s finances and budget are managed by County Executive Melissa Peacor, Deputy County Executive Chris Martino, Budget Director Michelle Casciato and Finance Director Steven Solomon.”


“PW earns bond upgrade”

by Tara Slate Donaldson, The Gainesville Times

6 May 2010, pp A1, A11

“A lower interest rate saves you money every time you borrow.

“That simple truth highlights Prince William County’s big announcement Tuesday — that the county’s bond rating has been upgraded.

“The bond rating agency Moody’s upgraded the county’s status from Aa1, which is good, to AAA, which is excellent.

“The news caused major excitement for county officials this week. And while it may result in bewildered looks from residents, the results will be tangible.

“A good bond rating means the county can borrow money at a lower interest rate. That will save the county taxpayers money in the long run as the county borrow to build schools, roads, and other facilities.

“County Executive Meslissa Peacor said that if the county had achieved the AAA bond rating earlier, it would have saved $44 million over the course of its 20-year building projects.

“Supervisors credited Peacor and her staff with the upgrade.

” ‘It’s a huge feather in their caps,’ said Coles Supervisor Marty Nohe (R).

“Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart (R) said Moody’s cited county officials’ good financial management as the reason for the upgrade.

“Spending cuts, stable tax rates, a hefty reserve fund and the continuity of management were listed as the county’s strong points, Stewart said.

“By ‘continuity of management,’ the rating agency meant that when County Executive Craig Gerhart retired last summer, the board replaced him with Peacor, who had served as his deputy and the county’s
budget director.

“Other executive vacancies within the county government have also been filled by promotions of longtime county staffers recently.

” ‘This validates the efforts of this Board of County Supervisors and the management staff we have put in place to run county government,’ Stewart said.

“The chairman noted that even during the economic downturn, the county has lowered its crime rate, added money to its reserve fund and cut taxes from 2007.

” ‘We now have been rewarded with a bond rating that most jurisdictions long for but never attain,’ he said.

“In addition to the Moody’s upgrade, the county also got an upgrade from Fitch. That rating agency had already listed Prince William as AAA but had given it a ‘negative watch’ status.

“A county official likened that to AAA-minus.

“On Tuesday, Peacor announced that the negative watch had been dropped by Fitch, giving Prince William its perfect AAA back.

“Only seven other localities in the state have AAA ratings from both agencies.”

“The Daily Grind: America’s Worst Small Towns for Commuters; Those in the country’s little spots don’t necessarily have easy trips to work”

by Jon Bruner, Forbes.com

9 December 2008

“New York City’s subway system irks travelers on a daily basis. But it’s likely less frustrating than the roads those in Linton Hall, Va., take to work.

“The 21,118-person town is 35 miles from Washington, D.C., and the 78% of residents who drive alone each day take an average of 46.3 minutes to get to work. That’s seven minutes longer than New Yorkers and 17 minutes longer than Angelenos.

“In fact, the Washington, D.C., area is by far the worst part of the country for small-city commutes. Of the 100 small towns with the longest commutes, 18 are in Maryland and 10 are in Virginia–all of which are in the suburban sprawl radiating from Washington and Baltimore.

“Illinois comes in second, with 16 suburbs of Chicago making the 100 worst cities list.

“Brentwood, Calif., Fort Washington, Md., Los Banos, Calif., and Clinton, Md., round out the top five.

“Behind the Numbers
“We compiled our list using data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. It ranks cities, towns and Census-designated places by the average amount of time it takes for residents to get to work. The data, of places with populations between 20,000 and 64,999, come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s three-year American Community Survey, which, between 2005 and 2007, asked respondents across the country how long it took them to get to work in the previous week.

“The results show that many of the worst commutes begin in towns on the fringes big cities. Take Linton Hall, Va. With areas closer to D.C. growing more crowded and expensive, boom-time buyers looking for affordable new construction found themselves in this little town.

” ‘The developers out here did a really good job of selling a lifestyle,’ says Linton Hall Realtors owner and broker Ashley Leigh. Linton Hall is especially popular with military contractors, he says, many of whom brave the 35-mile drive to the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., in order to live in new, spacious houses at low prices.”

“Related Stories
 “Linton Hall’s commutes fall in line with the typical fringe-development pattern, says Robert Dunphy, senior resident fellow for transportation and infrastructure at the Urban Land Institute. Developers build housing on the outskirts of metropolitan areas, and residents take on long commutes to distant jobs. Employers gradually move outward and commutes shorten, but those new jobs draw housing development into even more distant areas.

“In Depth: Worst Small Towns For Commuters

“In Depth: Best Small Towns For Commuters

“The longest commutes tend to be car-centric: More than three-quarters of Linton Hall’s workers drive to work alone, for instance, and only 4% take public transportation. The exception to that rule is Bainbridge Island, Wash., served by ferry from Seattle. Commutes there average 42 minutes, but 29% of commuters take public transportation to work.

“Many cities with short commutes are also among the most walkable. In State College, Pa., where the average commute takes 13 minutes, 45% of workers reported walking to their jobs. More than 30% of commuters walk to work in the college towns of Athens, Ohio, and Oxford, Ohio, where commutes all average less than 15 minutes.

“Aberdeen, S.D., had the shortest commutes on average–just 10.4 minutes. Two forts are also among the places with the easiest commutes: Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Hood in Texas. There, like in those college towns with short commutes, residents live very close to work.

“That type of arrangement is likely to remain rare in many of the nation’s exurbs. Though the recession might seem to help commutes–traffic congestion typically eases during downturns–new jobs aren’t appearing in fringe towns, so residents will need to stick with the far-away jobs they have.

“This has been the case with Linton Hall. Since the economy has cooled and the development cycle slowed, home prices in the town has declined roughly 40%, compared with 25% to 30% drops in suburbs closer to Washington.

” ‘The jobs just haven’t materialized out here,’ says Leigh. Still, he points to new Lockheed Martin and FBI offices nearby and hopes that more employers will move toward the western suburbs.

“To counteract this situation, Dunphy says that rapidly growing areas need to take a regional approach to limiting fringe development.

” ‘People are taking on long commutes in part because of what’s being provided,’ he says, noting that compact, walkable housing is underprovided.

“Better planning will also need to involve limits on how far out of the city employment centers can move, he says, in order to slow the cycle of jobs moving outward and pushing housing development even further. Barack Obama has promised to create an Office of Urban Policy, which could help direct regions and states to formulate healthy development policies.

“But until these regions find some direction for their development, the cycle will likely continue–with attendant long commutes.

“As Dunphy says, ‘The easiest development is always on the edge.’ “

“Commercial Developers Happier With County Permit Process”

by Cheryl K. Chumley, News and Messenger

15 Oct 2008, p. A2

“It’s like night and day, Prince William supervisor Martin Nohe, R-Coles, said Tueday, in reference to constituents’ feedback since the county implemented a program to speed the permitting process for commercial development.

” ‘I got a phone call the other day [from a constituent] just to tell me how much happier he was with the new permitting system,’ Nohe said.  ‘That’s such a dramatic, refreshing change from what I normally get when he calls.’

“Apparently, this constituent was a frequent complainer of the county’s perceived handling of business permits — but all that’s changed, according to Susan Roltsch, with the office of executie management.

“Since May, when the board first directed staff to look into ways of hastening commercial permits, the county has completed several goals, from forming an early assistance policy that brings to light ‘what all the issues are before we get too far into the process,’ Roltsch said, to cutting red tape for business owners who are trying to relocate into a building or space already zoned for their requested use.

“Two separate customer satisfaction surveys rating the weeks between July 1 and Sept. 26 seem to be giving thumbs-up to the new system, too, she said.

“The first, an over-the-counter brief questionnaire, has returned satisfaction results of 95 percent, according to background documenbts presented [to] the board.  And a more in-depth mailed survey found 91 percent of respondents found customer satisfaction — a key component of the new program — was favorable.  That’s up from the period ending June 30, when customer satisfaction with staff service regarding commercial permitting was only rated at 71 percent, the survey results read.

” ‘[It’s] never, never saying, it’s not my job,’ Roltsch said, referring to lessons learned from recent training to improve customer service for permit applicants.

“Other tell-tale signs of seeming success:  The staff report finds that 79 percent of commercial building plans were reviewed within six weeks; 73 percent of all site plans within the proper time frames.

“Still in the works are plans to create a customer bill of rights ‘so our customers know what to expect,’ Roltsch said, and speed the process of other permits related to commercial development, like those regulating signs.”

“Once Again, the Winds of Change: New Supervisors May Revisit Growth Policy”

by Sandhya Somashekhar, The Washington Post

11 November 2007, p. T1

“The overwhelming victory of a slate of slow-growth candidates in the Loudoun Board of Supervisors race last week raises the specter of another abrupt shift on a board that in recent elections has swung dramatically between pro- and slow-growth philosophies.

“The swings have been criticized by developers and smart-growth activists alike, who say the members bring a measure of uncertainty to a land-use process that ought to be consistent and fair.

” ‘Here we go again,’ said developer John A. Andrews II, after voters Tuesday ousted four incumbents who had won office in 2003 on a pledge to loosen controls on growth. ‘Every four years it’s the same thing.’

“Board Chairman Scott K. York (I), one of eight winning candidates who campaigned on a promise to rein in ‘overdevelopment,’ said Thursday that it is premature to put ideological labels on the new board, which includes four Democratic newcomers whom York said he barely knows.

“He said he hopes the panel will continue the legacy of the 2000-04 board, which sought to control development in the county’s rural west, concentrate most of the building in the suburban east and preserve a semi-rural zone in between. Several of the candidates who won seats Tuesday concurred with that approach during their campaigns.

” ‘What I hope occurs with this board is that we will end up taking an approach that is a little sturdier [than the current board], following up on what the previous board did and not salivating to open up much of the county to a higher density of residential growth, which is what some members of the current board wanted to do,’ York said.

“York cited protection of the ‘transition area,’ which serves as a buffer between the east and the rural two-thirds of the county, as a high priority. The board last year considered opening up the transition area to suburban-style development, but the proposal to allow as many as 33,800 houses in the area known as Dulles South ultimately failed.

“When the pro-growth Republican majority swept into office in 2003, one of their main goals was to turn back the previous board’s stringent restrictions on building in western Loudoun. The Republicans said those rules, which had reduced the total number of houses allowed in the rural west from about 37,000 to 10,000, impinged on landowners’ rights to do what they wanted with their properties.

“After the Virginia Supreme Court threw out the regulations on a technicality, the Republican-led board approved rules allowing the development of about 18,000 houses. York was among those who favored a stricter set of regulations.

“Asked last week whether the new board would revisit that policy, York said it was far too early to know how the board would handle any specific issue. But he added that he expects ‘nothing radical in nature’ when the board takes office in January.

“The eight successful slow-growth candidates were part of a slate endorsed by Voters for Loudoun’s Future, a nonpartisan organization. But the eight are a diverse group: five Democrats, two independents and a Republican who was elected on a pro-growth platform in 2003.

“To underscore that they were not ‘anti-growth,’ York and the other candidates on the slate said during campaigning that they favored more commercial development in Loudoun to strengthen its tax base.

“Andrea McGimsey (D), who unseated Bruce E. Tulloch (R) in the Potomac District, said Thursday that she supports manageable and well-planned growth. McGimsey has been portrayed by critics as a hard-liner on the growth issue because she led a group affiliated with the Piedmont Environmental Council.

” ‘This whole characterization of slow-growth versus pro-growth, I think, really misses the mark,’ she said. ‘I ran on reasonable growth. This board kept trying to turbo-charge the growth.’

“McGimsey said she hopes to stay true to the guidelines that created the transition area between the east and the west.

“She said she also hopes to focus on the county’s existing communities. As one of her first orders of business, she said, she wants to look at whether the roads and other amenities in Loudoun’s suburban communities meet county guidelines. For example, she said, Ashburn has tens of thousands of residents but no county-run recreation center.

“Eugene A. Delgaudio (R-Sterling), the only pro-growth incumbent who was reelected, said he is ‘keeping an open mind’ about the new group. But he would be willing to fight his colleagues if they proposed extreme environmental measures, he said.”

“Stewart Touts Economic Prowess in ‘State of County’ Talk to Chamber”

by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

19 January 2007, p. 43

“Transportation, education and public safety are the major goals for Prince William County, Corey Stewart, chairman of the county’s board of supervisors, told a packed luncheon meeting of Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce January 17 in Holiday Inn, Manassas.

“In his state of the county address, Stewart noted that Prince William County ‘made headlines as we were ranked seventh in median household incomes’ across the nation.

“The chairman noted ‘transportation continues to be one of the county’s top priorities, needs and challenges,’ which was the reason the county created a department of  transportation.

” ‘The commonwealth still does not commit the financial resources to meet the transportation needs of the region, so Prince William County has had to find ways to fund and build much needed transportation projects within our community. The county has become an example to other localities on how to build roads,’ he contended.

“Stewart reported county residents approved a $300 million bond referendum in 2006, to improve and add new roads.

” ‘This is the sixth bond referenda since 1988, totaling more than $476 million approved by voters for transportation projects in Prince William County.  The residents are sending a clear message to the commonwealth that something has to be done to fix the transportation issues in this area,’ he said.

“In discussing education, the speaker explained the county’s population growth is a challenge to the public schools.

” ‘The total student population for the 2006-2007 school year is 70,723, an increase of nearly 2500 students from last year,’ he said.  To meet growth demands and keep the level of excellence ‘for which it is known,’ the school district hired some 800 teachers, opened Buckland Mills Elementary School, Rosa Parks Elementary School and Potomac Middle School and expanded full-day kindergarten to two-thirds of all elementary schools.

“In the public safety arena, Stewart pointed out the county opened the Western District Police Station, broke ground for the expansion of the adult detention center scheduled for completion in August 2008, expanded facilities at the public safety training center, added 24 more police officers, added 26 new fire and rescue technicians, trained 575 fire and rescue personnel and began the implementation of a multi-year emergency vehicle traffic light priority system at 80 county intersections. The traffic light priority system permits emergency vehicles to reach an incident quicker and safer, he said.

“Stewart reported the county also upgraded its emergency operations center’s communication abilities by adding satellite phones and a new web system to facilitate quicker and more reliable communication with neighboring jurisdictions.

“During the past year the county also began a county pandemic influenza and continuity of government plan for all county departments to ensure the continuance of government in the event of a disaster.

“Stewart pointed out the county’s economic development program ‘is one of the most successful in the nation…and further confirms Prince William County as a prominent, thriving and growing business location.’

“During 2006, 28 companies said they intended to invest nearly $200 million in the county and add 1200 new jobs.

” ‘We ranked among the fastest growing job markets in the nation.  Unemployment is at a five-year low of two percent  for October 2006, less than half of the national rate of 4.1 percent,’ the speaker said.

“He added the commercial real estate market added almost three million square feet to the commercial building inventory.

” ‘We welcomed six companies at Innovation Technology Park that announced their intentions to invest $93 million and add 225 employees at Innovation,’ the chairman explained.

“In the past five years, 111 companies decided to invest $1.5 billion in the county and add 6775 new jobs. The commercial building inventory increased by 51 percent in the past five years.

“Stewart said the decision of Eli Lilly not to continue with plans for a plant in Innovation probably was due to ‘projections being. a bit too hopeful,’ adding the county is working with Lilly to make the site ready for marketing. He called Lilly’s pullout ‘the only dark spot’ in the year’s economic picture.

“In looking to the county’s future, the speaker said the board of supervisors ‘took a stand and voted to defer consideration of residential rezoning applications until the 2008 comprehensive plan is adopted, or until the state passes a comprehensive transportation plan.’  He added the board also came out against Dominion Virginia Power’s plan to erect a power line through Western Prince William County.

“Stewart remarked the board recently ‘voted to leave the tax rate alone,’ despite a possible $20 million budget shortfall. He said the county’s budget will be up for approval in April, and the final rate will be set then. The decline in residential real estate values is responsible for the decline in tax revenues, he added.

“He said he hopes the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s planned facility at Innovation will bring an opportunity ‘to get homeland security business. On the east end (of the county), we are trying to attract defense contractors.’

“The chairman pointed out the county must not address the budget shortfall by ‘implementing quick fixes. Rather, we need to examine programs and services that we can eliminate or reduce, while still serving the needs of our community to ensure our economic strength over the long haul.’

“Stewart noted he also wants to make the permit process easier for small and home-based businesses, calling the current system ‘archaic.’ “

“Developer Sues Over Rejection of Housing Proposal”

by Amy Gardner, The Washington Post

15 December 2006, p. B9

“The national home building giant Toll Brothers has sued the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors for rejecting a proposal to allow high-density planned communities in a largely undeveloped area west of Dulles International Airport.

“Toll Brothers is one of at least four developers hoping to build planned communities in Dulles South, a 9,200-acre swath of farmland and two-lane roads in the southeastern corner of the county.

“The company’s proposal, dubbed Westport, calls for more than 1,800 houses, townhouses and condominiums on a 734-acre tract in Dulles South. But its passage is unlikely now because the Board of Supervisors voted last month against a sweeping blueprint opening the entire area to that kind of dense development.

“In its lawsuit, filed in Loudoun Circuit Court last week, Toll Brothers argues that the county failed to provide proper notice for public hearings by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors before it rejected the Dulles South blueprint.

“According to the suit, the county’s decision to combine the Westport application with five others created an ‘unmanageable’ process in which supervisors failed to give proper consideration to Toll Brothers’ application, which called for the provision of a recreation center, several road improvements and a variety of housing, including affordable units.

“And the suit alleges that the county failed to conduct adequate fiscal impact and traffic studies, which were necessary to properly assess the proposal.

” ‘The process undertaken by the board has denied the citizens of Loudoun County the opportunity to plan for the development of the area around Westport and to assure that growth will provide sufficient roadways, utilities and other public improvements,’ said the suit, which was prepared by land-use lawyer John H. Foote of Prince William County.

“Foote did not return a phone call seeking comment about the suit. Loudoun County Attorney John R. Roberts confirmed he had seen the complaint, but he declined to comment on it.

“It is the first suit to be filed as a result of the county’s decision last month to reject plans to open Dulles South to planned communities. The 6 to 3 vote ended proposals for thousands of new homes in several large planned communities along Route 50 in southeastern Loudoun. The outcome delighted opponents, who had said the new residences — ultimately as many as 33,800, according to county estimates — would have overwhelmed an inadequate road network and sent county property taxes soaring to support new demand for such services as education and public safety. Regulations allow 4,600 residences to be built in Dulles South.

“Opponents also had said the planned communities would ruin a part of the county known as the transition area, where small subdivisions with houses on one or more acres sit alongside farm fields and where zoning rules protect the area as a visual buffer between Loudoun’s dense suburban east and its rural west.

“But developers and other supporters of the Dulles South blueprint said the government had squandered an opportunity to exact hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure investment from the private sector, including roads, schools and parks, in exchange for the right to build more homes.”

“3 Counties Attempt To Put Brakes on Growth – Va., Md. Acts Aimed at Land-Use Limits”

by Alec MacGillis, The Washington Post

6 December 2006, p. A1

“The map of land available for new homes in the Washington area shrank yesterday as officials in three suburban counties took major steps toward restricting development in the strongest statement yet of the anti-growth sentiment that has seized the region.

“In Virginia, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted for a one-year freeze on most subdivisions to protest the lack of transportation funding from the General Assembly. And in Loudoun County, the Board of Supervisors approved a long-debated move to restrict new housing in the rural western section.

“In Maryland, Montgomery County’s new council president introduced legislation to impose a temporary moratorium on most large developments to allow for an assessment of land-use policies that some say have become too pro-business.

“Together, the actions underscore that the pendulum of public sentiment has swung strongly against development in one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country. Local governments that only a few years ago boasted of their burgeoning economies are now billing themselves as guardians of open space and eliciting howls from builders, some of whom may challenge the measures in court.

“But whether yesterday’s measures mean real relief for residents and commuters who are demanding more controlled growth in a region riven by sprawl and traffic congestion remains to be seen. Advocates of ‘smart-growth’ policies question whether the steps taken yesterday will accomplish nearly as much as promised in directing development to the areas best suited to absorb it.

” ‘Of course it’s appropriate to link land use and transportation. The question is, how do you get it done?’ said Gerrit Knaap, director of the National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education at the University of Maryland. ‘I don’t think just shutting things down is the right way to go.’

“As greater Washington has expanded, so has the public clamor for better growth and transportation planning. The region’s traffic congestion now ranks among the country’s worst. Loudoun and Prince William are among the fastest-growing counties in the country, having added a combined 160,000 people in the past five years.

“Suburban areas closer to Washington, such as Fairfax and Montgomery counties, are struggling with how to focus growth in already developed ‘infill’ areas without overwhelming roads and schools.

“Recent elections have reflected the anti-development tide. Last year, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) was elected in Virginia on a platform to better link transportation and land use. Last month, Democrat Isiah ‘Ike’ Leggett won the race for Montgomery executive after saying that he would do more than his opponents to slow growth. And Republican Corey A. Stewart was elected chairman of the Prince William board after accusing his opponent of being soft on developers.

“The newly elected officials have wasted little time in acting on their campaign pledges, but those tracking them say that their actions might be designed more for public consumption than for real impact.

“In Prince William, Stewart and his allies on the board say that a freeze on subdivision rezonings is needed to get the attention of Richmond lawmakers who haven’t provided the transportation funding that local officials say they need. But the move’s backers acknowledge that it is intended mostly as a symbolic action, because, with the housing market slowing, there are few major rezonings on the horizon. New homes that don’t require rezonings could still be built.

“The moratorium nonetheless provoked sharp opposition yesterday from some builders, who said that the freeze would halt several projects in their tracks, hurt the local building community and result in a housing shortage down the line.

” ‘It’s going to affect [builders’] ability to be in a position to keep moving forward and stick to their business plans,’ said Shawn Cody, president of Cherokee Homes, a small-scale custom builder. ‘A significant portion of our county is based on this industry.’

“Ed Risse, a land-use consultant based in Warrenton, said that the moratorium could have the unwanted effect of bogging down the county’s land-use policy in court. What Prince William and the rest of Northern Virginia really need is more control over funding and building roads, he said.

” ‘It’s nice that Prince William’s evolved to the point where it can put its foot down, but it will take some reallocation of powers for transportation planning until something happens,’ he said.

“In Loudoun, the new building rules, which would reduce by about half the number of homes allowed in the west, were the culmination of a drawn-out process to replace a 2003 downzoning that was struck down on technical grounds by the state Supreme Court. Supporters of the compromise passed yesterday say that it would go a long way toward protecting the county’s rolling piedmont.

“But smart-growth advocates are much less enthusiastic, saying that the rules, although stricter than the limit of one home per three acres allowed now in the west, will allow many more homes than what was struck down in court.

” ‘This is not a compromise. This is considerable density for a rural area,’ said Malcolm Baldwin, a Loudoun sheep farmer and member of the Piedmont Environmental Council, a slow-growth group. ‘It’s a backward step in terms of what the board tried to do in its last life.’

“In Montgomery, the temporary moratorium, which has a long way to go before becoming law, would cover all major residential and commercial projects except those near Metro stations. In reassessing its land-use rules, the county is expected to consider an approach used in other Maryland counties: banning new homes in areas without the school or road capacity to handle more residents.

“That approach, based on the state’s ‘adequate public facilities’ ordinance, had been adjusted in 2003 by former county executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) in favor of charging developers’ fees to pay for added infrastructure.

“Knaap, of the University of Maryland, released a study this year criticizing the adequate-facilities approach for pushing new homes out of developed parts of the state and into more rural areas. It would be better, he said, if the state and counties built more schools in developed areas rather than cut off new homes.

“But with many residents in Montgomery saying that growth was too rapid under Duncan, that approach is now back on the table. To Susan Matlick, director of the Maryland-National Capital Building Industry Association, it’s an unfortunate reversal.

” ‘As far as we’re concerned, it’s just pandering to the electorate,’ she said. ‘It’s to show they’re doing something, without any real relation to the facts.’ “

“Davis Acknowledges Gainesville Traffic Is Worst in the State”

by Catherine Hubbard, Bull Run Observer

22 September 2006, pp. 1, 3

“Reducing congestion at the U.S. 29-I66 intersection is the ‘highest priority’ of Rep. Tom Davis (R-11), the congressman told a Sept. 7 citizens’ gathering at the Nokesville fire hall. He called the traffic reaching from Linton Hall Road to I-66 each morning ‘the largest backup in the state.’

“Davis, who secured funds for the I-66 expansion, Virginia Railway Express (VRE) expansion and funds to benefit Nokesville, Buckland and school programs, emphasized he must earmark money to keep it in this area.

” ‘When the money goes to Richmond, it never gets back to Northern Virginia,’ he said. The money, he added, is well spent in Prince William County, which self-funds many projects and has declining tax rates. ‘It’s a well-run county,’ he said, during a meeting of the Nokesville Civic Association.

“Wally Covington, Brentsville’s representative on the Board of County Supervisors, said he would like to see a VRE stop in the Gainesville area. ‘We need to move VRE in that direction,’ he said, adding that future ridership is in the Linton Hall corridor. Moreover, he said the Broad Run station is difficult for people who live in the Linton Hall corridor to drive to during rush hour, and the crowded parking lot cannot be expanded.

“The expansion of VA 28 will help ease traffic and make it easier for commuters to reach VRE, Covington said. …

“Eventually, the Metro rail will run along the Dulles corridor; however, for budgetary reasons, cars will run above ground, Davis said. Still he anticipates the expansion will help reduce traffic and provide a boost to the economy. ‘Anytime you can get cars off the road, that’s a good thing,’ he said.” …

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