[7 Mar 2020 updated version of mass e-mail by Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth, based on updated information from Prince William County government]Fellow Prince William County citizens:
In a recent email, we noted that on 10 March 2020 the Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) will vote on the over-500-house Devlin Road residential development proposal. For reference, here’s that message: https://pwcbg.org/2020/02/10-mar-devlin-vote-tests-inclusivity-of-new-dem-majority-bocs-24-feb-devlin-rd-town-hall/
(See also: https://www.princewilliamtimes.com/opinion/letter-supervisors-urged-to-deny-new-homes-on-devlin-road/article_b3f2f01e-5fbd-11ea-a15b-9f34fcf85c0f.html )
Our county government and other very reliable sources tell us that in their private conversations with BOCS Chair Wheeler, she clearly supports the Devlin proposal. We conclude that the only way she would vote against Devlin is if citizens and/or the other BOCS members could persuade her. Furthermore, so far Chair Wheeler’s words and deeds have given us every indication that she supports a virtually-all-residential-development-is-good land use policy.
A better way — We urge Chair Wheeler to reconsider, and for the rest of the BOCS to reject this destructive and unpopular land use policy, which greatly harms ordinary citizens. We urge the BOCS instead to slow down and fundamentally re-focus its residential development/ revitalization plans from West County to East County, if citizens there want it, and primarily to support any underserved residential areas.
Secrets of Devlin Rd. that developer Stanley Martin doesn’t want you to know — Here are some of the reasons we oppose this Devlin Rd. Project, let’s call it “Devlin2,” as we opposed its predecessors at the same location over the last 15 years (Brentswood, Stone Haven, and Devlin Rd. 1) — secrets of Devlin Road that residential developers will never tell you.
1. Devlin2 will make school overcrowding worse, especially at middle schools and high schools. As noted in the 20 Feb 2020 InsideNOVA article linked below, “the school board opposed the proposed development, which would mean about 376 more students enrolled in the division. The proposed development would impact Chris Yung Elementary, Gainesville Middle, and Stonewall Jackson High. Currently, Gainesville Middle is 15.3% over capacity and Stonewall Jackson High is 2.7% over capacity.” (See: https://www.insidenova.com/news/politics/prince_william/developer-planning-homes-in-bristow/article_eb175f14-53fe-11ea-8d5b-87a165828f01.html .)
2. Devlin2 will make local road congestion much worse. Per Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson’s office and county planning staff, there will be 5,000 more vehicle trips on Devlin per day. Furthermore, the road building bond approved on the November 2019 ballot by voters doesn’t necessarily mean the additional taxes to be raised from county taxpayers will be used any time soon or at all for Devlin Road improvements. There are many projects, including in East County, where this money could be used, and the BOCS may thus decide to use the money elsewhere.
Bottom line: The state is already planning to build an interchange at Rte. 234 and Balls Ford to improve traffic flow and to widen and improve Balls Ford and Devlin roads to Jennell Road. Stanley-Martin has offered $13M in transportation funds, apparently to help fund the widening of Devlin Rd. between Jennell and Linton Hall roads if Devlin2 and its 516 houses are approved. What Stanley-Martin doesn’t want you to think about is that Devlin would probably not need to be widened at all between Jennell and Linton Hall roads, at least not soon (and it wouldn’t happen soon anyway, under any scenario) — with millions of dollars in new taxpayer debt incurred — if the Devlin Road2 project and its 516 houses were not built. (Residential developers like to dangle phony giveaways and other disinformation in front of the public to confuse those unfamiliar with their tactics.)
3. Environmental problems, including downhill flooding and nearby toxic waste site — At the 29 Jan 2020 Stanley-Martin-sponsored “Devlin Road Rezoning Community Meeting” and again at the 24 Feb 2020 town hall on Devlin2 sponsored by Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, neighbors of the proposed Devlin Rd development, including Sheffield Manor residents, complained about flooding from the high ground on which Devlin2 will be built. This flooding has worsened since the property owner Edith Hunter Rameika removed most of the trees (i.e., watershed) from this land after the Stone Haven proposal to develop her land was defeated in 2015. The flooding will worsen … as the watershed is turned into mud during construction of Devlin2 and then turned into concrete, asphalt, and home-building materials as Devlin2 is completed.
There is currently no clear solution for the soon-to-worsen flooding problems if Devlin2 is approved. When Truett Young of Stanley-Martin was asked about this repeatedly at the 29 Jan 2020 meeting, he seemed to miss the real question about flooding from Devlin2 to surrounding low-lying communities and focused on how draining water off the Devlin2 property will be successfully handled.
Likewise, when asked at the same meeting if he was concerned about the proximity of Devlin2 to the EPA Superfund toxic waste site, on the north side of Wellington Rd, roughly across the street from Jiffy Lube Live, he was unconcerned. He said that Aerojet/Atlantic Research Corporation had done some great work in California and here in Prince William County. When asked if he would buy a home about one mile away from an active toxic waste cleanup site, he said “yes.”
Our hope is that blasting from nearby construction and heavier runoff and flooding in recent years doesn’t disturb the ground so much that remaining below-ground toxic wastes are freed up and become part of downhill runoff from higher-elevation land into surrounding communities and industrial buildings.
In an early report on this toxic waste site dated July 1990 from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) titled: Multi-Media Compliance Investigation: Atlantic Research Corporation (ARC), Gainesville, Virginia, the EPA expressed concern on page 21 that the following actions required by law “had not been completed”: “1. Reduction of all VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in surface streams leaving ARC property to maximum contaminant levels (MCLs)” and “3. Disposal or treatment of contaminate soils that are a factor in possible off-site migration of organic hazardous waste constituents.” A recent report dated 13 Dec 2018 noted that there are still problems: “contaminants remain in soil at the Facility above residential risk management levels, and at concentrations above risk-based standards in groundwater,” although landowner “Gainesville Associates has indicated that it intends to make the entire Facility suitable for unrestricted use.” (See: https://www.epa.gov/hwcorrectiveaction/hazardous-waste-cleanup-atlantic-research-corporation-gainesville-va . Make the entire Facility suitable for unrestricted use??)
4. Still tax-negative after all these years — We believe the “$600,000 per house” value promised by Stanley-Martin’s Truett Young is unrealistic, most of all for the postage-stamp-sized 7000 sq foot lots some of the houses will reportedly be built on. Expect net tax-negative actual housing prices for this project ultimately, as is true of most residential developments in the county. Tax-negative housing means that you pay higher taxes for the additional county services required (schools, roads, fire, police, libraries, etc) but not covered by the additional real estate taxes, and thus you indirectly subsidize the developers.
5. Stanley-Martin unwilling to compromise on Devlin2 or consider impacts to community — Stanley-Martin’s Truett Young was asked the following question after the 29 Jan 2020 Stanley-Martin-sponsored meeting noted above: “If opposition were to diminish or disappear if you built about half as many houses on the same space and acreage, would you agree to that?” He imperiously brushed off the question, similar to repeated requests during the meeting for fewer houses and bigger lots, with the same explanation he made during the meeting — that he was not going to waste four years of planning just to satisfy local citizens.
Elite indifference to ordinary people — This response is, of course, similar to Mr. Truett Young’s indifference noted above regarding impacts from greater flooding to existing Devlin Rd. communities such as Sheffield Manor and potential dangers from the toxic waste site about one mile north of the Devlin2 site. But that shouldn’t be too surprising; his company, Stanley-Martin, is a Japanese company (Daiwa House USA.) Companies with absentee owners rarely respond with much compassion or concern for people thousands of miles away to whom they are completely unaccountable… Just like Brookfield Homes, based in western Canada, showed no concern for the interests of the Prince William County natives who would’ve been greatly harmed by that massive residential development along Devlin Rd in 2006…
Just like Chair Wheeler seems to show little concern for the interests of much of Prince William County, for ordinary people, when she repeatedly exults in her state of the county address about a 150% increase in the county’s population in the last 20 years (from ~188,000 to over 468,000 today) and further inevitable rapid growth in the future, while in other venues giving every indication that she has adopted a “virtually-all-growth-is-good-growth” view. (See first link above.) Chair Wheeler makes only brief mention and shows no apparent understanding of the harmful effects of such rapid growth. She seems unable to connect the harmful effects to their cause — overly rapid growth — and appears oblivious to the disruption and great harm it has done to ordinary people: county school children, commuters, taxpayers, and lovers of the county’s fast disappearing natural beauty. (See: https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/bocs-chair-wheelers-7-jan-2020-state-of-the-county-address/ Also see: https://www.pwcgov.org/government/bocs/Documents/WheelerSOEI20.PDF , especially pages 12a-c and 15. Let’s be clear: Chair Wheeler is not just a very politically powerful person, an elite person, but also a very wealthy one, a multi-millionaire.)
The attitudes we so abhor when we read about them in history books about times past, are clearly alive and well in our current day when the elite, when those in positions of power show no regard for the greatest good for the greatest number, or minority rights, but instead are quite happy to unnecessarily force their unquestioning faith in their own views on unwilling majorities or minorities.
6. Reprising developer lies regarding Stone Haven — At the 24 Feb 2020 town hall on Devlin2 noted above, during the Q&A session a friend of Stanley-Martin’s Truett Young brought up some of the old residential developer lies regarding Stone Haven to justify Devlin2. For the record, here is our refutation back in 2015 of similar developer lies then regarding Stone Haven: https://pwcbg.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/StoneHavenFlier.pdf
What’s next? — Please forward this info to others via social media, email, etc. Also, please contact your BOCS supervisor via email (see cc addressees above and/or use BOCS@pwcgov.org) and come speak at the McCoart Center at 1 County Complex Court in Woodbridge on 10 March at 7:30 pm. Arrive a little early to sign up to speak. A brief 30-60 second statement is all you need to make. Something like “I oppose the Devlin Rd. development because it will further overcrowd our roads and schools, likely increase our taxes, further damage the environment and harm nearby property owners.” Or, if you would like to speak longer, citizens are normally allowed 3 minutes.
It’s your neighborhood, your community, your county. What happens to it, what land use decisions the county makes regarding it depend on whether you make your voice heard and protest policies that harm you … or leave the field to residential developers alone.
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.