Citizens for Balanced Growth

Category: Major land use debates/votes (Page 2 of 12)

Board of County Supervisors remove Bi-County Parkway from county comprehensive plan in 4-3 vote; former supporter Stewart absent; Principi claims ‘dirty politics’; Candland calls vote ‘big win’ for citizens

by Jill Palermo,, 18 March 2016

Bi-County Parkway presser
[Pictured:  “Alan Johnson (left) and Philomena Hefter, both residents on Pageland Road in Gainesville, hold a banner that says ‘Say “No!”  to Tri-County Parkway’ during a 2013 protest. Behind Johnson is state Senator Dick Black (R-13th).”]


“The controversial planned Bi-County Parkway was dealt yet another blow this week.

“In a surprise move Tuesday, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 3 to remove the future 10-mile roadway from the county’s long-range planning blueprint, known as the ‘comprehensive plan.’

“The vote was unexpected because the board verbally agreed March 8 to open a public hearing on matter Tuesday but delay their vote until April 5 because Chairman Corey Stewart, R-At Large, said he would be traveling for business and would not be able to attend the March 15 meeting.

“But those plans apparently changed when the road’s opponents realized they had the votes needed to extract the Bi-County Parkway from the comprehensive plan.

“The vote split mostly along party lines, with Republican Supervisors Ruth Anderson, Occoquan, Maureen Caddigan, Potomac, Pete Candland, Gainesville, and Jeanine Lawson, Brentsville, voting to nix the road, while Supervisor Marty Nohe, R-Coles, joined Democratic Supervisors John Jenkins, Neabsco, and Frank Principi, Woodbridge, in voting against it.

“Candland said Thursday several supervisors believed the parkway had been debated long enough and that many believed their voices  ‘would be diminished’ if the vote were delayed.

“ ‘It was time we addressed it,’ Candland said.  ‘The vote was a big win for the citizens of Prince William County who have been held hostage by this poorly designed Bi-County Parkway routing plan.’

“Principi said he tried to protest the vote by reminding his fellow supervisors of their public statement March 8 promising to move the vote to their first meeting in April.

“But County Attorney Michelle Robl advised that because the board never voted on the delay, the verbal agreement was not binding.

“ ‘That is just dirty politics,’ Principi said Thursday. ‘It’s just not good for our community.’

“The parkway, which has been on state and local long-range transportation plans since the 1980s, would extend Va. 234 north to U.S. 50 in Loudoun County. The road is planned to be a four-lane, limited-access parkway that would ease trips between Prince William and Loudoun counties and open up another access point to Dulles International Airport.

“The road is considered key to accommodate current and future population growth and as well as economic development. For that reason, it is widely supported by business and development groups.

“But the road is also planned to skirt the western edge of the protected Manassas National Battlefield Park and is considered a threat to the county’s rural crescent, where residential development is limited to one home per 10 acres. Both are key points of contention for the road’s many opponents.

“Caddigan has been a vocal critic of the parkway because residents in neighborhoods along Va. 234, including Montclair and Ashland, fear it would draw heavier truck traffic between Dulles and Interstate 95.

“Supervisors were cautioned against removing the parkway from the comprehensive plan, however, by both the Virginia Department of Transportation and their own transportation department, because of the effect to other roads in the county.

“According to VDOT projections, the loss of the parkway would exacerbate congestion on nearly every other main north-south artery in the county, including Va. 234, Prince William Parkway, U.S. 15, Sudley Road and Pageland Lane.

“VDOT also predicts 20 percent increases in traffic on several secondary roads, including Waterway Drive and Joplin, Spriggs, Delaney and Hoadly roads.

“Also, the move could come with a big price tag. VDOT has already purchased right-of-way property along Va. 234 for which it could now ask the county for reimbursement, according to a VDOT staff report.

“It is not immediately clear how much the county might have to pay the state, however, since those details were not included in the report.

“It also remains unclear what effect the supervisors’ vote will have in the long term, considering the parkway remains on state long-range plans as well as those in Loudoun and Fairfax counties.

“Principi said he, too, has ‘issues’ with some aspects of the Bi-County Parkway as planned, but contends that taking it off the county’s transportation blueprint is not the responsible way to deal with those challenges.

“ ‘The vote on the Bi-County Parkway was a vote to stop that other conversation,’ Principi said.  ‘The system is broken if we don’t build this road.’ ”

Planning Commission votes unanimously in support of removing Bi-County Parkway from county’s comprehensive plan

by Jill Palermo, InsideNOVA, 23 February 2016

“For the past 30 years, the controversial Bi-County Parkway has existed only as a line on local and regional transportation planning maps.

“Last week, the Prince William Planning Commission voted unanimously to remove it from the county’s long-range blueprint, formally called the ‘comprehensive plan.’

“The proposed 10-mile roadway would extend Va. 234 north about 10 miles to U.S. 50 in Loudoun County, skirting the western edge of the protected Manassas National Battlefield Park.

“The road has been the subject of hot debate in recent years, as opponents have argued it would spoil the protected battlefield without providing enough relief to Prince William County commuters, who would be better served, they say, by improvements to Interstate 66 and Va. 28.

“Supporters, meanwhile, say the future four-lane road is critical to accommodate population growth and facilitate economic development in both Loudoun and Prince William counties.

“The matter was before the planning commission Wednesday because of concerns among some members of the Prince William Board of Supervisors that the Bi-County Parkway could amount to an ‘outer beltway,’ that would direct heavy truck traffic from Dulles International Airport to Interstate 95 along Va. 234 through Manassas and Dumfries.

“Supervisors voted last year to begin the process of removing the road from the comprehensive plan and undoing plans to widen Va. 234 from the current four lanes to six lanes from Country Club Drive to Bristow Road. The move is considered another means of discouraging the construction of the new parkway.

“On Feb. 17, the eight-member planning commission took the first step toward removing the parkway from the comprehensive plan, but declined to reverse course on Va. 234, citing the need for more study.

“In the same vein, the commission called on supervisors to initiate a study of county’s overall transportation grid to identify alternatives to the Bi-County Parkway.

“ ‘The Bi-County Parkway is hypothetical and has been hypothetical for a very long time,’ said Planning Commissioner At Large Don Taylor.

“ ‘My feeling is, let’s wipe the slate clean and quit arguing about this abstract thing and take a look at what we really need here to solve our transportation challenges.’

“The planning commission vote moves the matter to the board of supervisors, which has the final say on removing the road from the comprehensive plan. The board is expected to take it up in March or April, Taylor said.

“At this point, removing the parkway from the county’s comprehensive plan is largely symbolic. The road remains on the regional long-term planning map as well as state transportation plans for the Northern Virginia corridor.

“Still, opponents of the road consider the step an important acknowledgement that the road was never a good deal for Prince William County, said Page Snyder, an outspoken critic who lives beside the battlefield.

“ ‘It’s gratifying to see our planning commission unanimously recognize the negligible benefits and the great cost of the Bi-County Parkway to our county as opposed to the huge benefits to Loudoun County,’ Snyder said.

Official county information on “Stone Haven”

 Official county information on “Stone Haven” residential development which reprises unpopular 2006 Brentswood project.

County Planning Staff report on Stone Haven presented at Prince William County Planning Commission hearing on Stone Haven 3 September 2014

Official information on Stone Haven from Prince William County Government website

County’s pending comprehensive plan amendments (CPAs), including “Stone Haven,” “Wheeler Estate Property,” “Bell Property”

Nov 2015 Email To Citizens Re. Stone Haven: More Houses, Ever-Increasing Taxes, Ever-Worsening Services … Had Enough Yet?

Text Excerpts
——– Forwarded Message ——– Subject: 8 Dec Stone Haven: Marching to 4,000 More Houses, Ever-Increasing Taxes, Ever-Worsening Services? Date: Sat, 21 Nov 2015 12:04:24 -0500 From: Stephenson, Ralph & Kathy <> To: Stephenson, Ralph & Kathy <> [+ BCC addressees] CC: Stewart, Corey <>, Caddigan, Maureen <>, Candland, Peter <>, Jenkins, John <>, May, Mike <>, Nohe, Marty <>, Principi, Frank <>, Lawson, Jeanine <>, <>, Ruth Anderson <> Had Enough Yet? PW Roads Now (already VA’s most crowded; 70-mile roundtrip commute to Fairfax Co. = 3-4 hrs/day) Future PW Roads (After Corey Stewart, developers, and their allies build over 4,000 more houses in Linton Hall corridor) 1 2 3 4 PW Schools Now (already VA’s most crowded) Future PW Schools 5 6 Property taxes 2007 Property taxes 2015 (up 26.5%) Our home in Braemar along Linton Hall Rd. was valued @ $120K more in 2007 than it is now in 2015, yet our real estate taxes were only $3,669 in 2007. Nov 2007 Corey Stewart-R elected Chairman of PW Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) on the strength of promises to be fiscally conservative, reduce taxes, and control residential growth, noting that “when we approve large developments, we are essentially approving a tax increase.” See: Stewart begins to seek statewide political office, becomes strongly pro-residential development, and consequently raises over $1M from developers 2008-present. See: Ralph & Kathy Stephenson Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth In 2015, our real estate taxes are $4,642, up 26.5% despite low inflation since 2007. The quality of county services continues to decline (increasingly overcrowded schools, roads, etc) while taxes go up. Why? Because large residential developments are almost always tax-negative. Incompetence and misuse of funds is the only other logical explanation for dysfunctional county services despite large tax increases. In either case, Chairman Stewart is ultimately responsible. Stone Haven Returns 8 Dec, Just as Bad as Before County public notice signs — the little white signs that are too small to read as you drive by — went up around the Stone Haven property 20 November afternoon. The signs announce that the Stone Haven vote by the Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) will be held 8 December 7:30 pm at the county’s McCoart Building in mid-county off the Prince William Parkway @ 1 County Complex Ct, Woodbridge, VA As you all may recall, on 13 January 2015 a final vote on the big Stone Haven residential development project just south of Jiffy Lube Live was “deferred to date uncertain” as at least 4 of 8 supervisors (Maureen Caddigan, Mike May, Peter Candland, and Jeanine Lawson) expressed their intent to vote against the project, with Frank Principi a possible swing vote against as well. (5 of 8 BOCS votes are needed to approve a proposal.) Deferring the vote was Prince William Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) Chairman Corey Stewart’s way of avoiding imminent defeat and buying some time so he and his developer allies could twist one or two more supervisors’ arms enough to get them to vote in favor of Stone Haven after the 3 Nov 2015 elections. PWCBG remains opposed to Stone Haven; nothing of significance has changed in the “new” proposal. The changes that we know of are merely cosmetic: holding back 150 acres (4 homes per acre) from this 1,000-house proposal that could and will be submitted later as a second proposal that will bring the total number of houses — 1,600 — right back up to virtually the same level as in 2014. (Click here for more info on Stone Haven: ) Watch the Dominoes Fall — At Least 4,000 More Houses Even worse, if Stone Haven succeeds, Prince William (PW) Station, whose owners are closely watching the Stone Haven fight, is next and will likely bring another 2,000 houses. (PW Station is just north of Stone Haven.) Pioneer Assemblage to the south would add another ~450 houses. So watch the dominoes fall if Stone Haven wins. This is really not only about 1,000 or 1,600 houses on the Stone Haven property. It’s about 4,000 more houses within a couple miles of each other, tax negative, putting about 8,000 more cars on I-66 and other local roads, and probably 2,000-4,000 more schoolchildren in local schools (figure 0.5-1 school child per average 3-person household), where PW already has the worst traffic and the most crowded classes (in terms of teacher: student ratio) in the state. BOCS’ Responsibility for the Current Mess + Corey Stewart, the Million-Dollar Man The Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) should change the entire county Comp Plan (they created it in the first place several years ago) to be more in line with current zoning — if they’re worried that it’s drifted too far away from zoning realities and thus their activities regarding it may be open to legal challenge. They should also slow down residential development overall to improve the roughly 85:15 residential: commercial tax ratio (note your ever-rising real estate property taxes), and stop dumping so much of the county’s residential development on the Linton Hall corridor. We’re sick of it and disgusted by some of the BOCS members’ corrupt and inexcusable behavior on this issue, the worst of all being Sellout-Chairman Corey Stewart, the county’s million-dollar man (over $1M in developer campaign contributions and counting.) Good News: Two More Victories for Citizens; You Can Make a Difference At the last BOCS meeting on 17 Nov, the BOCS announced that it has withdrawn the Blackburn residential development proposal from consideration. That would have put 415 more high-density residential units along Balls Ford Rd. The one potentially good thing about this proposal — the carrot of some commercial development being included to help improve the county’s tax situation — was phony because the commercial development was not “phased,” meaning it didn’t have to be built until after the residential housing was almost entirely completed, and thus the commercial would almost certainly have never been built. Also, Pioneer Assemblage, aka Strathmore, has reduced its housing request from the maximum allowed in this case, 800, to 465 which, though still high-density, is half as high-density as it would’ve been. The BOCS and developers are beginning to hear you. We particularly appreciate the sensitivity of BOCs members Maureen Caddigan (Dumfries), Mike May (and soon Ruth Anderson, Occoquan), Pete Candland (Gainesville), and Jeanine Lawson (Brentsville) to ordinary citizens’ concerns about residential development and bad land use policy, as well as the potential of a growing partnership with Frank Principi (Woodbridge). You can make a difference. Make sure the entire BOCS continues to hear your voice, loud and clear. What Can You Do To Help? If we can get to and finish it well before 8 Dec, we’ll send you an updated Stone Haven flier that continues to tell an ongoing Prince William County story: residential developers have no truly compelling public reasons for high-density housing projects. In fact, these unnecessary tax-negative residential developments overcrowd our roads and schools, corrupt our politics, and needlessly damage the environment. So the residential developers must rely on lies, hoping that those who are gullible, uninformed, and/or have a vested interest in residential development will be able to shout down everyone else. Here are links to the last flier we did on the lies being told to sell Stone Haven: and .) It’s important for local citizens to hold their ground on Stone Haven and pressure their local representatives to do likewise. We’ll get from the county the kind of government we’ve worked for and earned through either our vigilance or neglect. If we don’t hold our ground, after this comes the deluge: 4,000 more homes, 8000 more cars added to the most crowded roads in the state, thousands more schoolchildren added to the most crowded schools in the state, higher taxes for everyone, and very possibly ultimately lower property values as PW County’s livability continues to decline. Specifically, what can you do to help? E-mail the BOCS at and tell them what you think. Feel free to use info from this message in contacting them and getting this info circulating on social media sites and elsewhere online. If you know of others who are willing, ask them to help as well. If you feel comfortable doing so, also please lobby in person any of the BOCS members that you can. Here’s their contact info: And come to the 8 December 2015 vote by the BOCS on Stone Haven and sign up to speak against it. We promise you that the residential developers and their allies will be there in force, trying to drown out your voice. If you let us know, we’ll sign you up early to speak. BOCS members judge public opinion on a given issue on this: turnout at the public decision meeting, particularly those speaking for or against the given proposal, as well as ordinary citizens contacting them before the vote. Let us know if you have questions. We’ll be in touch. PWCBG Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG) stands for the following principles: PWCBG periodically sends out alerts warning citizens of major land use issues affecting them that will be coming before the Board of County Supervisors for decision. We do not use your e-mail for any purpose other than that, and we hide your e-mail address from other recipients (bcc:). If you do not wish to be contacted, please respond to this address ( asking that your e-mail be removed. Remember that the kind of county government we get will be what we’ve worked for and earned through either our vigilance or neglect. It’s up to us to either take back our government, or stand idly by and watch while well-heeled residential developers and their political allies, including some BOCS members, continue to destroy our quality of life through harmful land use policies that negatively impact our roads, schools, taxes, property values, and quality of life. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead Ralph & Kathy Stephenson Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG)

“Prince William considers Nokesville Mosque”

by Michelle Baker,

20 August 2015

Rural Crescent graphic courtesy of Prince William Conservation Alliance

Rural Crescent graphic courtesy of Prince William Conservation Alliance

“As the afternoon sun shone on the barn rooftops and the storm clouds gathered on the horizon, community members gathered together to discuss plans for a mosque in Nokesville on Aug. 12.

“The site, which is likely to continue to generate controversy over the next few months, is a 14-acre tract of land at 12655 Vint Hill Road.

“The All Dulles Area Muslim Society, known as ADAMS, met with neighbors at the Nokesville Volunteer Fire Department last week to discuss plans to build the 22,000-square foot ADAMS Greater Gainesville Masjid and Islamic Community Center on the site.

“The Prince William Board of County Supervisors, including Supervisor Wally Covington who was present at the meeting, will have final say on whether the use fits the property.

” ‘It is pretty early in the process,” said Covington. ‘I told them early on, you are not picking the best location.’

“Covington stressed transportation is the largest issue facing the project. While repairs will be coming to Vint Hill Road in the next few years, Covington said he didn’t see anything on Schafer Lane in terms of funding.

“Prince William County has denied permission to exit onto Vint Hill Road so the mosque would front to 2125 Schafer Lane.

” ‘That’s the bigger issue,’ said the supervisor. ‘The Comprehensive Plan allows religious places of worship in the Rural Crescent.’

“The property, which at once time was assessed at $522,900, has a currently assessed market value of $232,100 according to the Prince William County real estate assessment.

“Because the property is zoned for agricultural use, owners would need an obtain a special use permit for a building of this size in the Rural Crescent. The project has been reviewed once.

“Peter Dolan, a land use and zoning lawyer, knew the issues his client were up against and came prepared. Dolan and Jonelle Sanders Walker, attorneys for Walsh Colucci Lubeley and Walsh, opened the meeting with a brief Power Point about the proposed building.

” ‘The county gave comments,’ said Sanders Walker, adding that the proposal is being revised in light of county planners’ feedback. ‘Access to Vint Hill is not going to be a possibility.’

“The property currently owned by the New Hope Christian Church of Manassas is under contract to ADAMS with a continuance clause for the special use permit. Prior to New Hope Christian Church obtaining the land in 2012, the property belonged to Antioch Church of Christ trustees.

“ADAMS board member Rizwan Jaka who serves on the board of Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, introduced audience members and shared the group’s plans before opening the floor to questions.  He and other ADAMS representatives were peppered with questions from how many women are key members to what is the religious holiday Eid.

“In the end, the meeting was primarily about homeowners’ concerns regarding property values and traffic.

” ‘It’s too small a space and we have too much traffic.’

” ‘I can’t get out of my driveway anymore,’ said a woman who lives directly across from the proposed mosque on the tiny lane that was flooded that day from the rains.

” ‘All the locals will be hosed’ announced Michael Ochs who lives on Schafer.

” ‘Why did you focus on Vint Hill and Schafer Lane,’ asked an elderly woman.

” ‘Why did you pick Nokesville?’

“Stepping up, Walker said the reason Nokesville was picked is because the land was available.

“Some 80 people, most of whom live in the immediate vicinity, engaged in a hour-long discussion over lighting, parking, traffic patterns, noise and wildlife.

“Was all of the talk really covering for the elephant in the room?

“One local woman felt so and said it.

” ‘I’m from Gainesville … Muslims are your neighbors,’ she said. ‘We live up and down Vint Hill and 29. We’re part of your community. Treat us like you would any other church … Treat us the same way.’

” ‘Treat us with less suspicion…it’s really bothering me,’ said the woman who wished to remain anonymous when asked her name later.

“The woman said while it was not said in the general meeting, she had overheard anti-Muslim remarks around her so she felt she had to speak up. ‘I didn’t say, I didn’t hear anyone say anything about Muslims,’ answered one man in the audience.

“While some of the discourse was loud with people talking over others to make their point, no one was openly disparaging about Muslims. Behind the scenes however, the woman was not alone in her assessment.

“Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the day after the meeting that he’d gotten reports that attendees had been ‘a bit biased’ and that people could be heard ‘criticizing the faith of Islam.’

“The meeting was held the same day in which a Manassas mosque was found vandalized with spray paint and a broken window.

“Police are investigating that as a possible hate crime but have no conclusive evidence that hate was a motive or that the Nokesville mosque is related.

“At the meeting itself, traffic was the primary issue for most residents.

“One woman said she didn’t need any more traffic coming through Nokesville. ‘I think it is too small a space … I hope they turn it down,’ she said.

” ‘We are at the beginning stages,’ said Sanders Walker, adding they would listen to questions and concerns and have a follow-up.

” ‘Some good questions came out of the meeting,’ said Covington referring to the timing of the schools. ‘That’s a big issue and something we need to talk a little big more about.’

“Several residents said they were already bombarded with after school traffic on Schafer Lane and they don’t like the possibility of adding hundreds of cars. The facility seats 500.

“According to information distributed to the meeting attendees, ADAMS provides religious services, education, and social activities to several thousand people a week throughout the region. The Power Point presentation described a variety of civic activities including one of the largest Cub Scout, Boy Scout and Girl Scout programs in the metro area.

” ‘We have 300-400 families living in the area including Gainesville, Bristow, Nokesville, and Haymarket,’ stated the handouts.

“When asked about a construction timeline, the ADAMS representatives said they do not currently have the funding to build but have started fundraising. They did not give an anticipated time of occupancy. However, Covington later said the county looks at the project as if it is shovel-ready. ‘We have to make that assumption,’ he said. ‘We have to think like it’s happening virtually tomorrow.’

“Tara Slate Donaldson contributed to this report.”

“Stone Haven vote waiting on new Brentsville supervisor”

by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

17 Oct 2014, pp. 10, 28

“Saying they needed more information on school projections and a representative of Brentsville District elected, Prince William Board of County Supervisors unanimously deferred to Jan. 30 a vote on the controversial 864-acre Stone Haven subdivision near Jiffy Lube Live.  The action came at the board’s Oct. 7 public hearing.

“A new supervisor to replace Brentsville supervisor Wally Covington will be chosen at a special election Dec 23.  Covington recently was named a county judge and had to give up his supervisor’s post.  The Stone Haven project is in Brentsville District. Continue reading

E-mail titled “Next Steps After Stone Haven Deferral, Including Rivergate 14 Oct” sent to local citizens and news media

by PWCBG’s Ralph Stephenson

12-13 October 2014

THANK YOU — Thanks to all of you for your support as we try to ensure better land use policies in this county that don’t overcrowd our roads and schools, increase our taxes, decrease property values, and unnecessarily reduce open/green space.  Thank you for your support in working to ensure that our county leaders represent ordinary citizens, and not just fat cat residential developers and their allies who pay big money to keep some county supervisors under their influence.  Particular thanks to those of you who contacted the Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) and/or spoke at the 7 October hearing on Stone Haven, and who will help Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG) as we continue our recent efforts to make common cause on all the above issues with other districts and supervisors outside Brentsville (Bristow area), Gainesville, and Coles District where most of you live.  (I’ve included info on atmospherics from the 7 October hearing and next steps below.  For more info on Stone Haven, see:  land-use-proposals–stonehaven)

COMMON CAUSE WITH OTHERS IN COUNTY — Just like our districts, Woodbridge District is trying to avoid the same sort of bad land development policies that have led to the problems noted above and in earlier e-mails.  There is an opportunity for us  to make common cause with Woodbridge and other districts – gaining support from them in our balanced growth efforts as we support them in theirs.  In that light, I’m passing on to you a summary of e-mails that Woodbridge Supervisor Frank Principi is sending to his constituents to get them to contact the BOCS to oppose proffer amendments to Rivergate, a high-density development in Woodbridge that will have the same negative effects on the local area and entire county that Stone Haven, PW Station, and other upcoming residential developments will have on us.  I encourage you to take a few moments now to contact the BOCS (cc addressees above)  and tell them that you oppose unneeded big residential developments throughout the county – including Rivergate – for the same reasons that you oppose Stone Haven. If you can speak 14 Oct, Tuesday at 7:30 pm at the BOCS hearing against Rivergate, I would encourage you to do that as well.  And remember that the entire county budget and school situation is affected by poor land use choices by the BOCS in any district.  Here’s Supervisor Principi’s message to Woodbridge constituents that his office has asked PWCBG to pass on to you:

RIVERGATE — I need your help in protecting the quality of our children’s education and our quality of life as it relates to traffic congestion. Next Tuesday 14 Oct, there will be a public hearing and vote on proffer amendments to the Rivergate Apartment development that will pave the way for overcrowded classrooms for Belmont Elementary, Lynn Middle, and Freedom High schools.

As we all know, classroom sizes continue to be an issue in Prince William County.   Elementary classes in Prince William have climbed to an average of 23 students and secondary school classes topped 30, making them the largest in Virginia and in the Washington region. This overcrowding cripples our ability to provide our children with the world class education they not only deserve but will need to compete in the workforce of tomorrow. Studies have shown that smaller class sizes reduce the achievement gap, especially with low-income and minority students.

The Rivergate Apartment development will also pave the way for increased traffic congestion on Interstate 95, Route 1 and our neighborhood roads.
As we all know, traffic congestion continues to be an issue in Prince William County.   According to a 2013 report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia have the worst commute in the country. Commuters in the nation’s capital needed almost three hours for a trip that should take 30 minutes without traffic, according to the report.

The developers of Rivergate are not willing to proffer what is needed to mitigate the negative impacts on our school and transportation system. The amount proffered by the developer to the school system is based on proffer guidelines written a decade ago. It means nearly $5.7 million less for the public school system than we would require for a similar development project proposed under current guidelines. I tried to encourage them to do more to mitigate the impact on area schools, but they refused. Why should taxpayers subsidize developers?

If you do not speak out against the Rivergate apartments next Tuesday, October 14 at 7:30 pm., the Board of County Supervisors will approve this development causing our local schools to exceed capacity and reduce the quality of education our children will receive. To learn more, call me at 703-792-4646 or visit

GOVERNMENT BY THE PEOPLE — We get the kind of government we as a people have worked for and earned.  When we are informed and hold our government accountable and responsible, our government becomes more responsive and representative.  Otherwise, the opposite is true: it becomes captive to narrow vested interests.  The price of liberty and good government is eternal vigilance.

WHAT’S NEXT – As most of you undoubtedly already know, on 7 October the BOCS decided by a 7-0 vote to defer its deciding vote on Stone Haven until Brentsville District has a seated representative on the BOCS, sometime in January.  This outcome was a direct result of the citizen outcry against Stone Haven and the possibility that it would be decided by the BOCS without Brenstville representation.

So mark your calendars for two big dates upcoming.  First is the 23 December 2014 special election for a new Brentsville District supervisor.  Apply now to vote absentee if that’s what it takes to make sure your voice is heard.  Here are instructions:

Here is more information on the two candidates, Jeanine Lawson-R and Scott Jacobs-I — their views, in their own words, on balanced growth: LawsonStatement2PWCBG and JacobsStatement2PWCBG. Here’s more on their positions on Stone Haven: .

Second is the January 2015 BOCS final/deciding vote on Stone Haven (currently 1,650 houses.)  Date TBD.  We’ll let you know when we know more.  Third, watch for upcoming votes in a few months on Prince William Station (currently 2-2,500 houses next to Stone Haven) and Pioneer Assemblage (currently looks like ~800 houses on 200 acres next to New Braemar.)  Dates TBD.

ATMOSPHERICS – At the 7 October hearing, the arguments in favor of Stone Haven seemed to  fall roughly into three groups.  The first group will personally benefit financially from Stone Haven or large residential developments like it and is thus in favor of virtually all such developments.  The second group seems to be interested in land gifts from the developer for one specific thing only and seems unable to delink that from more residential development.  The third group is convinced that they must accept thousands of homes next door or they’ll get something far worse.

The problem with the first group is that they’re seeking an entitlement from the government (tax-subsidized development) that is not only unnecessary (with no shortage of housing in PW County and 30,000 already-approved but not yet built houses in the pipeline), but also harmful to taxpayers who get overcrowded schools and roads, lower property values, and less open/green space in return.  Subsidies from taxpayers, if you believe that sort of thing is sometimes necessary, should at the very least give taxpayers some sort of value in return, don’t you think?

For the county to just buy empty land for the second group when necessary (for example, for ball fields and schools) would be far cheaper in the long run than getting the empty land from residential developers in exchange for thousands of tax-negative houses costing the county millions of dollars per year.

School Board Chairman Milt Johns is concerned that if Stone Haven isn’t approved now, he won’t have an already-overbooked new high school in time.  But since Stone Haven alone, by his estimate at the 7 Oct hearing, will produce 1,000 students, and the soon-to-follow PW Station is ~50 percent larger, won’t we need at least another high school anyway – just for Stone Haven and PW Station alone – so we’ll be even more overbooked by the time those two developments are built.  It seems that Chairman Johns is just buying into the vicious-cycle that currently exists, and asking that we continue to buy into it, too, with no end in sight, apparently in return for as-yet-unclear quick-fix gains.  In fairness to Chairman Johns, who has also recently noted, in his words “the impact of overdevelopment and uncontrolled growth on our classrooms,” the School Board has been dealt a pretty weak hand by the BOCS, which is the source of the “overdevelopment and uncontrolled growth” to which Johns refers.

The third group, apparently unaware of zoning and other realities, as well as negative impacts (schools, traffic, property values, etc), is apparently allowing itself to be misled by developer scare tactics.  The Stone Haven land is currently zoned agricultural and the county comprehensive plan calls for it to be suburban residential low (SRL), meaning 1-4 houses per acre.  (Note that zoning has the force of law, while comp plans are recent statements of long-term BOCS policy and intent, and in the case of the land around Stone Haven, the zoning and comp plan are at variance.)  The only way high-density housing such as Stone Haven can ever exist there is for both the current zoning and comp plan to be amended.  Why is either outcome inevitable, especially as many of us are fighting these outcomes, and so far winning, and the future political composition of the BOCS looks to be far less welcoming of such land use? Furthermore, Stone Haven already includes 1 million sq ft of commercial.

COMMERCIAL — Next to Stone Haven (but not part of the Stone Haven development) much of the land is designated “flexible employment center” (FEC) per the comp plan, which allows not heavy manufacturing or dirty industries, but instead office buildings, light manufacturing, and start-up businesses, all of which would predominantly produce high-paying jobs and be tax positive.  The county should be pressured to keep this land zoned agricultural OR follow the comp plan and at some point in the future, when it decides to take commercial development seriously, allow commercial development that is properly bermed and tree-screened.  At least such commercial development wouldn’t produce the negative effect on schools that Stone Haven, PW Station, and Pioneer Assemblage would.  And if those three residential developments were approved, we’d now be up to at least 4,450-4,950 new houses multiplied by 3 people and about 2 cars per house, most of which would probably join the current west-to-east morning and east-to-west evening commutes. On the other hand, if planned reasonably well, commercial development of the area would be far more likely to spread out and diffuse traffic flows and make more efficient use of area primary and secondary roads than automatically adding 5-10,000 more cars to our morning and evening commutes to/from Fairfax and DC.

TAX-NEGATIVE CHALLENGE – Rather than unquestioningly parroting the pro-developer party line, those such as Bristow Beat who express skepticism that big residential developments in PW County are tax negative should do their own analysis of county residential tax revenues and costs, document how they arrived at their results as PWCBG has done, and see if they can somehow honestly come to a different conclusion than we have.  For more info, see:  Speech delivered to Prince William Committee of 100 Forum

I am also a bit dismayed that in the Bristow Beat 8 Oct article in question, by my count only 8 paragraphs discuss balanced growth and/or anti-Stone Haven views, while 22 are devoted to pro-Stone Haven views and/or seem to support relatively unrestricted residential growth.  So much for balanced, evenhanded journalism.  I wonder if this one-sidedness has anything to do with a large percentage of advertising revenues coming from residential developers.   Go to the following link and do your own count:   |   pdf version

Ralph Stephenson
Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG)

Stone Haven rezoning, comp plan amendment from BOCS agenda (see p. 7)

“UPDATED: Prince William supervisors defer vote on Stone Haven”

by Jill Palermo,

7-8 Oct 2014

“For months, opponents of Stone Haven have complained about the additional traffic and school overcrowding they’re convinced will occur if Prince William County officials approve another 1,650 new homes in Brentsville.

“But the recent resignation of former Supervisor Wally Covington offered another reason to object Tuesday when the project was up for a final review before the county Board of Supervisors.

“The Brentsville supervisor’s seat on the dais is currently empty, meaning the vote was poised to occur without formal representation of those who live closest to the proposed development.

“During a two-hour public hearing on the matter that included more than 60 speakers, Patty McKay, president of the Nokesville Civic Association, was among many who declared the situation unacceptable to Brentsville residents.

” ‘I believe it’s unprecedented that such an important vote take place when we have no representative for our citizens,’ McKay said. ‘Whether that’s legal or not, it is right that this vote be deferred until we have a representative.’

‘That sentiment – as well as some confusion about whether Stone Haven would relieve or exacerbate high-school overcrowding – prompted Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart to call for the vote to be deferred until Jan. 20, about a month after a Dec. 23 special election to fill the Brentsville seat.

“The motion, approved unanimously, came after Stewart called on school staff to explain student projections for west-end county high schools, which are already overcapacity by hundreds of students.

“The issue is particularly important to Stone Haven because the project’s major selling point is the donation of an 85-acre site for the county’s 13th high school, which landowner E.V. Hunter Trust is offering in lieu of cash proffers for schools.

“In total, E.V. Hunter Trust is offering more than $91.2 million in land donations for schools, parks and playing fields as well as three miles of road improvements that would extend University Boulevard and Rollins Ford Road though the proposed subdivision, which would be located just south of Jiffy Lube Live near the intersections of Linton Hall, Wellington and Devlin Roads.  [For more info on this, see the following link:   You’ve Been Lied To Again And Again]

“The project’s many perks – as well as the landowner’s efforts over the past two years to consult area residents in a series of community meetings – won praise from about half of those who spoke during the meeting Tuesday.

“Brentsville resident Bob Talbert said he liked the idea of having another well-planned neighborhood on the now vacant land instead of an industrial complex, shopping mall or office building, which is what county zoning rules would currently allow.

” ‘This piece of land is the last piece of the puzzle and you have an opportunity to get it just right,’ Talbert said. ‘And I think this site plan does that.’

“Although some supervisors agreed that Stone Haven’s plan for a mix of homes, townhomes, parks and commercial space looked appealing, their questions about the project focused on school overcrowding and whether the development would improve or worsen conditions for county high school students.

“Early in the meeting, School Board Chairman Milt Johns gave a lengthy statement in which he told supervisors the school division does not have another site under consideration for the 13th high school and is counting on the land donation to open the new school as scheduled in the fall of 2019.

“When supervisors asked Johns if the school division needs the site with or without Stone Haven, Johns’ response was emphatic.

” ‘Yes, we need it yesterday,’ he said. ‘I’m trying to be flip, but Patriot is full. Battlefield is filling up again… all of the schools on the west end are full.’

“After the public hearing, Stewart, R-At Large, and Supervisor Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, pressed school planning supervisor Dave Beavers about whether Stone Haven’s new residents would result in the new high school being immediately overcrowded.

“Beavers said the school division expects existing west-end high schools to be at least 1,600 students overcapacity by the 2018-19 school year even without the addition of new residents. Add Stone Haven into the mix, and that number would likely rise to 1,800, Beavers said.

” ‘So, effectively, on day one of the 13th high school, we will be at or over capacity?’ Principi asked.

” ‘That would be a reasonable statement,’ Beavers answered.

“Stewart said the board would have to have ‘some better numbers’ from the school division before its final vote.

” ‘Because one way or another, the Board of Supervisors can’t just look at the school system and say, [school overcrowding is] your problem,’ Stewart added. ‘Ultimately, it’s all our problem.’

“Both Jeanine Lawson and Scott Jacobs, the only two candidates vying to fill Covington’s seat in the Dec. 23 election, attended the meeting. But only Lawson spoke from the podium to urge a delay in the vote.

“In an interview after the meeting, Lawson said she remains undecided about the project and needs more information about whether the school division is prepared to purchase a school site if Stone Haven is not approved.

” ‘It sounds like [school officials] need to come back with more answers,’ Lawson added. ‘Clearly a lot of people in the Brentsville District are tired of having their kids in trailers and oversized classrooms.’ “

Speech to Prince William BOCS hearing on Stone Haven

Delivered by PWCBG’s Ralph Stephenson

Hearing held 7 October 2014

I’m Ralph Stephenson, Brentsville District, Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG).

1.  FISCAL IMPACT – Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth has updated its 2012-13 fiscal impact analysis on the effects of residential development.  It shows that Stone Haven will be almost $1,400 tax negative per house per year, compared to PWCBG’s 2012-13 analysis that showed residential developments in the county on average about $1,500 tax negative per house per year.  (See, County Supervisors’/Proffers section).   Thus, Stone Haven – zoned agricultural and therefore assuming almost no by-right development — will cost the county an almost $2.3M tax deficit per year, while it and the soon-to-follow, next-door project Prince William Station (a grand total of 3,650-4,150 houses for both) together will likely create about a $5.1-5.8M tax deficit per year.   We’re getting empty land for a school from the Stone Haven developer, but will almost immediately need at least one more additional school to accommodate all the new students from it and PW Station.  Wouldn’t it be much cheaper to reject more tax-negative houses and instead just buy this or other land for one school (not two) and ball fields?  Beware residential developers bearing gifts — Trojan horses, that is; county taxpayers can’t afford such gifts.

2.  COMMERCIAL — The Stone Haven Comp Plan Amendment eliminates potential employment/job creation of 4,324-7,333 jobs.  The vast majority of these jobs would be in the higher-paying office and industrial sectors — EVEN THOUGH that kind of commercial development tends to be the most tax-positive, while retail, at least in this county, is often, effectively, tax-neutral.  Remember that once commercial land is rezoned to residential, the commercial potential is effectively gone forever.

If we don’t attract more professional, high-wage commercial development, the county will continue its slide toward an irreversibly low-wage, commuter economy.  Currently, 82% of county property tax revenues come from residential, only 15% from commercial.  I strongly urge the county to clean house at its Economic Development Department, first firing its director who appears to have done nothing to seriously attract commercial development, and may even prefer residential development.  Then increase its size, clout, and oversight by (and partnership with) the BOCS.  According to one supervisor, it currently has about 15 employees, and is nowhere near full-service in a way that it can compete with Fairfax, Loudoun, Arlington, etc.  How about, for the first time, competing seriously for and investing in hi-paying, hi-tax revenue commercial businesses?

3.  PROPERTY VALUES — Property values in surrounding communities will go DOWN, NOT UP if Stone Haven and/or PW Station are built.  When supply increases, all things being equal, prices go down.  That can lead to early deterioration of existing neighborhoods.

Because it will hurt commuters and schoolkids by further overcrowding our roads and schools, and also hurt taxpayers, homeowners, and workers, as noted above (also see, I request that you reject  the Stone Haven CPA/rezoning, or at least delay the vote until those most affected will have representation on the BOCS.  No taxation without representation.

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