[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/
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.
“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
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 http://www.NewWoodbridge.org.
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: http://sbe.virginia.gov/index.php/casting-a-ballot/absentee-voting/
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: http://bristowbeat.com/news/covingtons-resignation-leaves-brentsville-district-without-representation-during-stone-have-vote/ .
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: http://bristowbeat.com/news/prince-william-bocs-defers-stone-haven-vote/ | pdf version
Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG)
“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.’ “
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 pwcbg.org, 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 pwcbg.org), 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.
Note: At a meeting of the Nokesville Civic Association the evening of 25 September 2014 attended by PWCBG representatives, the Association adopted by unanimous voice vote a resolution that it will formally request the Prince William Board of County Supervisors to delay the Stone Haven vote and any other votes significantly affecting Brentsville District (Bristow-area) until a new supervisor for Brentsville District is seated.
——– Original Message ——–
|Subject:||The Outrageous Lies Developers Are Telling To Sell Residential Development|
|Date:||Sat, 20 Sep 2014 21:24:29 -0400|
|From:||Ralph Stephenson <email address withheld>|
|To:||Stephenson, Ralph & Kathy <e-mail address withheld>|
|CC:||Stewart, Corey <email@example.com>, May, Michael C. <MCMay@pwcgov.org>, Caddigan, Maureen <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Covington, Wally <email@example.com>, Nohe, Marty <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Principi, Frank <email@example.com>, Candland, Peter <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Jenkins, John <email@example.com>, Haynes, Austin B. (Chairman) <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Burgess, Ron <email@example.com>, Vanegas, Alex <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Arnold, Fran <email@example.com>, Holley, Edgar Bruce <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Hosen, Kim <email@example.com>, Fry, Rene <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Bryant, Russell <email@example.com>|
Residential developers and their allies on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) and Planning Commission (appointed by the BOCS) have cultivated a thicket of lies around Stone Haven, the high-density residential development that will place 1,650 houses and 5,000 people behind Jiffy Lube Live. Soon to follow and next door to Stone Haven will be at least 2,000 houses, per Supervisor Mike May’s office, and 6,000 people at Prince William Station. Are you ready for 11,000+ new neighbors in a two square mile-plus area, increasingly overcrowded schools and roads, much higher taxes than necessary, and less green space — with 5′-wide side yards, population density twice that of Bangladesh, and slummification perhaps just a few years down the road?
Let’s cut away some of the lies developers and their allies have told so far to win the public’s silence, acquiescence, or even support:
LIE #1: You’re getting ANOTHER SCHOOL! …. TRUTH: You’re getting an empty piece of land. Then you, the taxpayer, will likely pay at least $100 million to build the new school. Yet building of schools never even nearly catches up with development, does it? It’s as if the residential developers are saying “I’m a developer and I promise you a school, so I can build 5,000 more houses. Then you’ll need one or more schools to cover that and other nearby development. So I promise you another school, so I can build 5,000 more houses.” And so it goes, on and on. According to BOCS Supervisor Frank Principi (Woodbridge), “elementary classes in Prince William have climbed to an average of 23 students and secondary school classes [have] topped 30, making them the largest in Virginia and in the Washington region… Smaller class sizes reduce the achievement gap, especially with low-income and minority students.” Principi notes that the BOCS has so far ignored his proposal to make “reducing classroom size a [budget] priority.” Stone Haven and Prince William Station will make the situation worse.
LIE #2: Per Planning Commission Chairman Austin Haynes, as reported in Bristow Beat, the County SCHOOL BOARD “UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED OF” Stone Haven. …. TRUTH: Well, not quite. Our School Board representative Gil Trenum told us (Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth, PWCBG) that he supported Stone Haven “under duress” as a “less bad alternative necessitated by overly rapid residential growth in the area and a history of sub-par school land proffers from developers as compared to surrounding jurisdictions.” Gil noted that “individual opinions on the School Board are diverse and range in their level of support for Stone Haven.”
LIE #3: Silence or change of topic by developers and their allies regarding the impact on TRAFFIC. …. TRUTH: No serious secondary or primary road improvements to reduce congestion are planned, nevertheless, assuming two vehicles per house, there’ll be 7-8,000 more vehicles in the area. Too bad for us locals; and good luck even getting to/from I-66 during rush hour, much less then being able to move on I-66, which will have more traffic than ever, much more.
LIE #4: Stone Haven will bring in more TAX REVENUE and thus help strengthen the county tax base. …. TRUTH: A house has to be worth about $450,000 to generate as much in real estate tax revenue as it costs the county in services (for police, fire, roads, schools, etc.) But in recent years the county’s median home value was only $331,700. How does it make you feel to know that Stone Haven and other tax-negative residential development not only forces you to pay much higher taxes, but also brings you overcrowded schools and roads, less green space, sometimes even lower property values, etc. (See: Speech to Committee of 100 and Email Exchange: Falsities in Chmn Stewart’s Reply on Rez Development, Taxes, County’s Economy, etc; Stone Haven).
LIE #5: Stone Haven helps taxpayers because of generous PROFFERS (“gifts” by developers to taxpayers to offset part of the cost to taxpayers of new roads, schools, police, fire, and other services.) …. TRUTH: The 91.2 acres donated by Stone Haven for the school site are valued by the developer at $24,250,000 or $265,899 per acre, even though the land is empty, zoned for agricultural use, and not yet linked up to any services or roads. Even more curiously, the 196.1 acres for parks & recreation are valued by the developer at $34,735,744, or $177,133 per acre, with no dissent from county planning staff, even though this “park land” is directly under high-tension power lines, adjacent to a swamp, and, in reality, virtually worthless.
LIE #6: The Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) and Planning Commission are objective judges of land use issues and FAIRLY, HONESTLY REPRESENT YOU. …. TRUTH: Four of the eight BOCS supervisors have received large campaign contributions from Stone Haven’s developers/realtors and are currently firm “yes” votes for Stone Haven, if not active shills for it. All four are ethically compromised at the very least, and should recuse themselves from the upcoming vote on Stone Haven (7 October at 7:30 pm at the county’s McCoart Building located at 1 County Complex Ct, Woodbridge, in the middle of the county on Prince William Parkway.) The BOCS should also, this time, choose the ethical path and postpone the vote on Stone Haven until lame-duck Wally Covington’s replacement in the Brentsville District (Bristow), where Stone Haven is located, is formally seated and allowed to vote, after being chosen 1 October 2014 at a Republican mass meeting starting at 7 pm at Patriot High School. (There is no Democratic or Independent candidate.) No taxation — or lawmaking that harms local citizens — without representation.
receiving developer $
from and supporting
Stone Haven (their districts)
Political donations to BOCS Supervisors voting on Stone Haven (what PWCBG’s found; see vpap.org) EV Hunter Trust
Edith Hunter Rameika, Berryville (land owner) (705) 750-2611
RK Realty / BruniPeters
Covington (Bristow area)
Here’s more on the four supervisors above who are financially beholden to Stone Haven’s developers. Despite knowing and openly acknowledging that “when we approve large developments, we are essentially approving a tax increase” (2006), and that the county’s housing boom has “hurt the average person” (2007), Chairman Corey Stewart clearly doesn’t care and has relentlessly championed residential developer causes in recent years. Vast amounts of developer $ and a desire for statewide office have clearly changed him. Supervisor Wally Covington, who represents Bristow-area citizens, despite coyly pretending to be “undecided” on Stone Haven after being outed for severe conflicts of interest on land use issues, is a definite “yes” vote if he isn’t required to vacate his seat by 7 October. He’s been shilling for over eight years for developers trying to develop this land, beginning with its failed successor project, Brentswood, eight years ago. Recently, Marty Nohe, the Coles supervisor, and a reliable, rubber-stamp, pro-developer vote who receives much of his campaign funding from big Fairfax County developers, has taken over the role of lead Stone Haven shill from Covington. Supervisor John Jenkins has been a reliable, pro-developer vote for at least a decade. A fifth BOCS supervisor, Peter Candland, has received a total of $2,500 from EV Hunter Trust, relatively modest total developer contributions of $45,644, and is voting “no” on Stone Haven. 4 out of 5: not a bad score for the developers.
(For info on county supervisors’ conflicts of interest and Stone Haven, see: Supervisor Conflicts of Interest and Stone Haven, respectively. For more on Chairman Stewart, see: Supervisor Positions on Growth: Stewart, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0f8XDSKrNzs, and attachment.)
LIE #7: If Stone Haven is not developed as residential now, something worse will be put there instead. …. TRUTH: It’s currently zoned agricultural. Only if our elected representatives on the BOCS intentionally choose to zone it as “something worse” and we, the voters and citizens, passively allow that to happen can it be rezoned as “something worse.” However, would leaving it agricultural for the foreseeable future or possibly developing some of it later as commercial, with buffers like those between the Sudley Manor Dr. Safeway and surrounding communities, be worse than ~11,000 more people and ~10,000 more cars in a two square mile area in one of the most congested places in the state? (See #s 1-3 above.) (Eight years ago residential developers and their political allies unsuccessfully tried to use this scare tactic to frighten people into supporting the failed “Brentswood” development proposal for the same land.) Per the official county report on the Stone Haven proposal, it “is a request to rezone +/-864.2 acres from A-1, Agricultural, to PMR, Planned Mixed Residential and PBD, Planned Business District,” and would “permit development of 1,650 residential units consisting of single family detached and townhouse units, and [already includes commercial –] a maximum of 1,062,735 million square feet of office/employment and commercial/retail development.”
LIE #8: Stone Haven complies with county guidelines/policy and county officials are following the intent of the law relative to it. …. TRUTH: See #5 above, in which the developer is obviously vastly overvaluing the proffered land; the majority of the county Planning Commissioners, some of them developers themselves, including the chairman himself, are shamelessly allowing this; and thus the purpose of proffers is being subverted. Note that Stone Haven uses 2006 proffer requirements, not the higher 2014 requirements recently adopted by the BOCS. Also, see http://pwconserve.wordpress.com/ from the Prince William Conservation Alliance, regarding county open space rules, which notes that “according to the staff report for the proposed Stone Haven development project, the County Planning Office agrees with the developer that” the following items “qualify as open space in Prince William County”: “active recreation facilities; community recreation centers; power lines; stormwater management infrastructure; buffers along roads; and middle schools.” ??? This is tantamount to fraud, as are at least some of the developer proffer valuations, as discussed in #5 above.
We’ve talked about at least four members of the BOCS being beholden to residential developers, as well as the county planning staff who work for the BOCS allowing virtually fraudulent overstating of proffers and open space. But who’d’ve expected the same sort of behavior from the County Attorney’s Office (CAO), which also works for the BOCS? In mid-September 2014, PWCBG made a fully legal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the CAO. This FOIA request asked for recent e-mail correspondence regarding Stone Haven to/from staunchly pro-developer Supervisor Wally Covington’s staff with: local officials, BOCS candidate and Nokesville realtor/developer Scott Jacobs, and the Stone Haven developers. Ignoring PWCBG’s request that any but nominal FOIA fees be waived in the public interest, the CAO said it would comply with our legal FOIA request only if a minimum fee of $320 were deposited, with CAO reserving the right to charge any additional fees that it deemed appropriate. PWCBG refused to sign such a blank check. It appears that the leadership of the BOCS, through the CAO, by requiring extortionate FOIA fees that ordinary citizens cannot afford, may well be trying to conceal public records that show how its dealings with developers pervert public policy to serve very narrow private ends.
If Stone Haven is a good idea, good policy, why do its developers (see table in #6 above for contact info) and their political allies on the BOCS need so many Goebbels-like lies to sell it, and what do you think that says about what they think of you and the democratic process? Contact them and ask them, but don’t let them lie to you again. Note that EV Hunter Trust (the developer) and Brookfield Homes (the likely home builder) both have Canadian contact info, and perhaps thus lack concern for local citizens (how development “has hurt the average person” in Stewart’s words) and how developer money corrupts local politics and government.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: In democracies, the people tend to get the kind of government they’ve worked for and earned by being informed and vigilant. The four BOCS members — the ones in the table above whose votes have been bought and paid for by Stone Haven’s developers — fear nothing except you as voters, especcially if you’re awake and aroused to action. So if you’re tired of being ripped off by unnecessary residential development that is tax-negative and thus raises your taxes (~30,000 houses already approved but not yet built), if you and your children are tired of being herded like cattle into overcrowded roads and schools, if you’re tired of seeing more and more green space disappear, and being lied to again and again by scheming pro-developer politicians, then we urge you to exercise your rights as free people and do something about it. 1) E-mail all the BOCS and Planning Commission members (cc addressees above) and tell them emphatically that you don’t want Stone Haven, and that the BOCS should, so as not to make a mockery of the democratic process, delay its scheduled 7 Oct vote until the affected district has a newly-elected, seated supervisor to represent it. (If you like, you can just reply to all “to” and “cc” addressees and tell them you concur with these sentiments and want these abuses of power, abuses of the public trust to stop.) 2) Attend the 7 Oct 7:30 pm BOCS meeting and sign up to speak against Stone Haven (more info in first paragraph of #6 above.) If you let us know, we’ll get there early and sign you up.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to help us get the word out on Stone Haven and/or receive alerts on Stone Haven, Prince William Station, and other important county land use issues that affect school overcrowding, traffic congestion, taxes, open/green space and quality of life. We promise to keep you apprised of what we know. We’ve lived in Bristow for over 14 years (in NOVA for over 30) and have nothing to gain from our work to keep you informed (and to keep the pressure on local politicians) but a better community.
Ralph & Kathy Stephenson
Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG)