Citizens for Balanced Growth

Category: Maureen Caddigan

Mr. Bildmore & 1000s of New Houses; Civic Groups/Civic Virtue; Disingenuous Partisanship

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

Several days ago, Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG) received an e-mail from a prominent and vocal Rural Crescent (RC) landowner.  For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call this person Mr. Bildmore. Mr. Bildmore’s e-mail message to us is revealing and can perhaps serve as a case study of sorts on the thought processes of residential developers and landowners who support opening up the Rural Crescent (RC) and elsewhere to high-density residential development, as well as who they’re backing (and not just financially) in the 5 Nov Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) election.

Here are relevant excerpts from Mr. Bildmore’s email, with our comments following.

A four-fold increase in Rural Crescent (RC) residential housing density?
1.  Mr. Bildmore’s email says:  “In the past 20 years, the rural pastoral property around me has been ruined for agriculture with 10-acre residential properties. The increase in traffic makes our narrow roads almost impassable at certain times of the day. … More 10-acre by-right development will increase traffic, impact private water supplies, and increase demand on other public services without producing more revenue to pay for such things as libraries, first-responders, etc.” 

PWCBG’s response:  Mr. Bildmore says he has read in its entirety and “is in agreement with” the county Planning Staff’s new RC Study recommendations.  He criticizes those who question the study’s recommendations, clearly implying that their opposition comes from not having read it. 

Among the most important staff recommendations in the latest RC Study from September 2019 is to bring cluster development and sewer into the RC: in other words, high-density residential development. See #3 of the following county Planning Staff document:

Using county Planning Staff’s own figures from their 30 July 2019 public presentation on the RC Study, new 10-acre lots remaining to be built by-right (legally entitled) in the RC are currently 2,800 Houses on 28,000 acres.  If you develop those same lots under Planning Staff’s proposed CR1 zoning designation for its new RC Plan allowing high-density “cluster” development with sewer, then you have a four-fold increase in housing density: 28,000 acres x 40% x  1 acre lots clustered (10X density with sewer on 40% of area, 60% not developed) = 11,200 houses. Traffic & school impact using standard county multipliers:  11,200 houses x 10 = 112,000 daily vehicle trips; 11,200 homes x .7/students per house = 7,840 new students.  (Note: While some Planning Staff figures/estimates have been somewhat in flux in recent weeks, the four-fold ratio/increase of course remains constant.)

We’re a bit surprised that anyone would seriously argue, as Mr. Bildmore does, that a four-fold increase in the number of houses and housing density allowed in the RC or anywhere would make traffic and schools less, not far more overcrowded.  Logically and in the real world, it does not work that way.  The “increased traffic” of recent years in the RC about which Mr. Biltmore complains is actually from high-density housing — tens of thousands of houses added in recent decades bordering or near the RC in west county along, for example, the north side of Vint Hill Rd, along Linton Hall, Devlin, and Sudley Manor roads, near Bristow Station Battlefield, etc.

Regarding by-right 10-acre lots already built in the RC, they’re a done deal, a fait accompli over which none of us have any control, whether we like it or not.  And whatever the good and bad points of 10-acre lots in the RC (by the way, we do not live there), they are typically not tax-negative, though many of the new proposed high-density houses/townhouses in the RC would be.  (Last time we ran the numbers several years ago, the breakeven point on real estate tax-revenue per house, all things equal, was almost $450K.  With only modest inflation since then, we figure the breakeven number now is probably a bit higher.  But let’s use the low $450K number to be on the conservative side.  Thus, every house worth about $450K or more would be real estate tax-positive for the county. See: .)

2.  Mr. Bildmore’s email also says:  “We must implement tools such as PDRs [PWCBG note: purchase of development rights by county from landowners], TDRs [PWCBG note:  transfer of development rights; see last few paragraphs of ], and clustering to control residential development and allow retention of agricultural land in areas zoned for it. ‘Green Space’ covered with houses has little benefit for anyone. Ten-acre properties do not allow enough space for agricultural pursuits that support families. There is very little production agriculture left in Prince William County and continuing to develop the ‘Rural Crescent’ (RC) with 1 house per ten acres will continue to destroy what remains.”

PWCBG’s response:  It would be pointless to enter into a debate about the future of large-scale agricultural production on the edge of suburban and urban land anywhere, including PW County (as opposed to smaller-scale agricultural production like micro-breweries or farm-to-table garden production.)  That is something determined by broad market forces over which no one in PW county, as far as we know, has any control. 

We both come from a long line of past and current farmers in the U.S.’  East, Midwest, and West. But our sympathies for big landowners like Mr. Bildmore begin to fall apart when we realize that his entire argument is constructed around bringing a four-fold increase in residential density to the RC (through “cluster” housing and sewer) so he can get his land rezoned from cheap agricultural to expensive residential land.  Then he can sell it to plant not crops but high-density housing, making a killing for himself and his residential developer friends and sticking county taxpayers with the bill to build the required RC infrastructure (roads, schools, police, sewer/water, etc) in an area that currently has very little.

We note that this family of landowners and the other developers and big landowners we know of who are agitating most insistently for breaking open the RC to high-density residential are supporters of  Democratic Board of County Supervisor (BOCS) candidates Ann Wheeler (at-large) and Maggie Hansford (Brentsville.)  See, for example the following hyperlink (our previous e-mail), ninth paragraph from the bottom with the “weve-seen-this-movie-before” Derecho hyperlink: See also:

Residential developer tactics v. civic organizations, civic virtue
3.  Now a word about what Mr. Bildmore’s email calls: “uninformed rabble-rousing opponents [of high-density residential development in the RC] who are causing unwarranted dissension …  and relying on ‘mob mentality’ to stir residents into misguided actions.”

PWCBG’s response: Having become intimately acquainted with county residential developer/big landowner political tactics over the past 15 years, it’s a bit jarring to hear Mr. Bildmore describe opponents in terms that, in our experience, can only be applied seriously to some residential developers/allies and their tactics.  In our direct experience, these tactics have included:  intentionally lying and obfuscating the facts about development issues and proposals in order to confuse the public and discourage them from getting involved in county land use politics (a form of voter suppression); bribing BOCS members and candidates with $100s of thousands in campaign funds (as noted earlier, this is even more of a problem when the candidates refuse to publicly support and be held accountable to clear, specific limited-residential-growth positions); loudly heckling and interrupting speakers addressing BOCS hearings; trying to intimidate opponents with threats of legal action (entirely without justification); bribing citizens with free meals to show up in support of developers at BOCS hearings and fill the hearing rooms so there will be no seating available for opponents; etc.

The “rabble” to which Mr. Bildmore refers are citizens groups comprised of ordinary individual citizens, in our experience highly-educated and very well-informed people, among them academics and experts on land use issues.  Republicans, Democrats, left-, center-, and right-leaning people, people from all walks of life make up this coalition, all of them civic-mindedly spending their own time and money, with no thought of financial remuneration, to create a better Prince William County through balanced growth/smart growth/controlled residential growth policies.  They remain a deeply bi-partisan consensus coalition, a coalition much wiser than seven Democratic Party BOCS candidates who foolishly and/or cynically — possibly seeking short-term political gain, and clearly against the interests of the vast majority of county residents — apparently want rural preservation/green space and clear limits on residential development to become a partisan issue that only Republican BOCS candidates seriously and clearly support. 

Here are hyperlinks to the citizen groups with which we’re most familiar (including us) and/or with whom we’ve partnered.  Read about them, learn for yourself who they are and what they stand for, and perhaps join or work with one or more of them:

Friends of the Rural Crescent Energized (FORCE); search “FORCE – Friends of Rural Crescent Energized” on Facebook

Preserve the Rural Crescent (PRC); search “Preserve the Rural Crescent” on Facebook

The Coalition to Protect Prince William County;

Prince William Citizens Unite;

Mid County Civic Association of Prince William;

Prince William Conservation Alliance;

Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth;

Shallow Platitudes & Disingenuous Partisanship
The attempt this year by the official county Democratic Party and seven of its eight BOCS candidates (Kenny Boddye excepted) to make rural preservation and serious limits on residential development a partisan issue is indeed one of the saddest, most disappointing, most retrograde things we’ve seen in 15 years of county land use politics. 

And then to personally hear Democratic Party BOCS candidates at the 23 October candidate forum (sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the PW Committee of 100) once again speak about land use issues in virtually nothing but shallow, meaningless platitudes is deeply disappointing and worrisome to us.  Their argument, as best we can ascertain it, boils down to this:  “It’s our turn to take over the BOCS (and be corrupt) now.  We promise you nothing, we will commit to nothing, we know very little about land use policy, but trust us.  Everything’s the Republicans’ fault.”

Do you trust and prefer politicians who act this way?

As we’ve learned over 15 years and pointed out repeatedly in our previous messages this month, the reality is that the county’s land use antagonists — i.e., current and recent BOCS supervisors who have consistently promoted out-of-control residential growth in the last 15 years, are very much a bi-partisan group, and too-often a working BOCS majority:  Republicans Corey Stewart, Marty Nohe, and, increasingly, Ruth Anderson (previously Sean Connaughton and Wally Covington), and Democrats John Jenkins and, previously, Hilda Barg.  While the sometime-insurgents against this group (but unfortunately usually a minority), pressing for protection of the Rural Crescent and some limits on residential growth have been:  Republicans Jeanine Lawson and Peter Candland (previously, Mike May and John Stirrup) and Democrat Frank Principi — sometimes joined by Republican Maureen Caddigan.

Extend the history of the BOCS further into the past, beyond the last 15 years, and you’ll find exactly the same thing, except perhaps with less-frequent insurgency against the even-stronger standing pro-development majority.  And the historical pattern, unsurprisingly, seems to be repeating itself.  Looks like John Jenkins’ replacement on the BOCS, Democrat Victor Angry — who voted on Oct 12 with Republicans Stewart, Nohe, Anderson, and Caddigan to keep the rigged, pro-residential-developer, pro-high-density-housing Rural Crescent Study alive — may be joining the current BOCS majority favoring out-of-control residential development.  Undoubtedly, a taste of things to come when winners from among the other six lockstep BOCS Democratic candidates, all of whom refuse to support the Rural Crescent and limits on residential development, smoothly and effortlessly transition into a new yet-very-old-school BOCS majority supporting out-of-control residential development. (Democrat Margaret Franklin of Woodbridge, like Angry, is running unopposed.)

Bad land use policy by the Prince William County BOCS is and has been a profoundly bi-partisan effort for decades.  One of the shining, if perhaps not perfect, exceptions to this vicious cycle had been, at least until mid-2019, the Rural Crescent.

Qualification & Conclusions
Please note that nothing we have publicly written or said should be construed to mean that we oppose commercial development, the vast majority of which economically improves the county (jobs, taxes, stimulation of more economic activity.)  That’s a big part of what we mean by “balanced growth.” We and others are constantly admonishing the county to improve the residential:commercial tax ratio from its current dismal ~85:15 to at least the county’s target of 65:35.  We endeavor to scrupulously distinguish between commercial, which is normally positive, and high-density residential development, much of which is harmful.  Nor do we have any objection, all things equal, to BOCS supervisors/candidates taking campaign funding from a diverse and broad base of commercial developers, as long as they make clear to the public that it is indeed commercial and there are no personal conflicts of interest.  On the other hand, as we have also frequently said, residential developer campaign funding is an entirely different story.

Fellow PWC citizens:  The BOCS’ responsibility and jurisdiction is limited to land use and related issues — i.e., real estate tax rates, and, to the limited extent to which it is discretionary, the county budget.  Your informed involvement with the BOCS and land use decisions means that the interests of the vast majority of citizens are protected — the greatest possible good for the greatest number.  Your apathy — or willingness to base your vote on things that have nothing to do with the BOCS’ land use role — means that our schools, roads, tax rates, environment, and property values suffer.

Please share this message and spread the word via Facebook, other social media, email, etc.  Your thoughtful vote on 5 November is needed.  Godspeed.

Here are online links to our previous messages this month and this one:  (this post)

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.

BEWARE: Preserving Rural Crescent, Limits on Residential Developers No Longer Supported by Both Parties in 5 Nov Elections

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

Fellow Prince William County Citizens:

In our nearly 15 years of involvement in county land use issues and almost 20 years living here, pursuing balanced growth land use policies and protecting Prince William County’s Rural Crescent have always been bipartisan issues, including protecting citizens against tax-negative residential development that chokes our roads, overcrowds our schools, raises our taxes, lowers property values, and damages our environment.  Thank goodness for that. 

Specifically, regarding the Rural Crescent, thank county officials like Sharon Pandak, a Democrat and county lawyer who helped create the Rural Crescent in 1998, former politicians like Republican Supervisors John Stirrup and Mike May, current politicians like Democratic Supervisor Frank Principi and Republican Supervisors Jeanine Lawson, Peter Candland, and Maureen Caddigan, all of whom have frequently and consistently spoken out and voted in favor of the Rural Crescent.  They have done so against the wishes of unprincipled residential developers, big landowners, and allies on the Board of County Supervisors (Republican Supervisors Corey Stewart, Marty Nohe, and former Democratic Supervisor John Jenkins) who have had no qualms about sticking you with the most overcrowded roads and schools in Virginia and then raising your taxes to pay for the very things that are tormenting you.  Also thank the citizens groups, composed of both Republicans and Democrats, who, on their own time and pro bono, have applied pressure and kept attention focused on balanced growth land use and preserving the Rural Crescent.

But now, sadly and to our great disappointment, the bipartisanship has apparently ended.

As if they’ve received marching orders from a higher authority, none of the eight Democrats running for the Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) in the 5 November elections has agreed to sign the Preserve the Rural Crescent/Friends of the Rural Crescent (PRC/FORCE) pledge to protect the Rural Crescent or in any way unequivocally and publicly promised to support it.  On the other hand, five of the six Republican candidates running for the BOCS — John Gray (at-large, chairman), Yesli Vega (Coles District), Douglas Taggart (Potomac District), and incumbents Jeanine Lawson (Brentsville District) and Peter Candland (Gainesville District) — have publicly and clearly expressed support for preserving the Rural Crescent.


  • Democratic candidate for at-large chairman of the BOCS, Ann Wheeler, unapologetically supports the far-western north-south Bi-County Parkway (BCP), which:  runs right through the Rural Crescent to Dulles Airport and thus will be the end of any honest semblance of a rural preservation area, solves no known commuter or other traffic problem, and is a big juicy kiss to residential developers who wish to open up the Rural Crescent to high-density residential development.  Ann has raised $185K, three times that of her Republican opponent John Gray.  Over $103K (56%) of her money raised is from major Democratic donors, her family, organized labor, and developers.  (See for more info.  All campaign finance figures above and below are as of 31 Aug 2019.)
  • Democratic BOCS Supervisor Frank Principi (Woodbridge District), who supports the Rural Crescent and limits on residential growth, was ousted by his own party.  It seems that the Democratic Party may have caught him off guard by running a quiet but well-organized primary campaign against him that succeeded by only 97 votes.  His replacement as the Democratic candidate, Margaret Franklin, will apparently run unopposed in the general election.  Margaret has raised $61K; just under $27K (44%) is from major Democratic donors, organized labor, and developers.
  • The Democratic candidate for Coles District Supervisor, Raheel Sheikh, when asked if he supported the Rural Crescent, not only refused to offer support, but also told PRC/FORCE:  “I represent everyone and feel no need to take sides on anything.”  In other words:  I refuse to tell you what I stand for so you can make an informed decision about me, but you should just vote for me anyway.  My policies and views are not your concern as a voter.  … It appears that Raheel is uninterested in the democratic process of being transparent and accountable to voters.  Interestingly, of Raheel’s campaign donations we were able to map, about 55% are from outside the county or state. Perhaps that’s why he seems to see himself as unaccountable to local voters.
  • The Democratic candidate for Gainesville District is Danny Funderburk, who works for one of the largest developers (construction site development) in northern Virginia, William A. Hazel, Inc.  It’s an understatement to say that electing a developer to the BOCS, which controls land use in the county, is like putting a fox in charge of guarding the hen house.   Danny has raised almost $14K, of which over $7.5K (54%) is from developers.
  • In addition to Ann Wheeler, Margaret Franklin, Raheel Sheikh, and Danny Funderburk noted above, the remaining four Democrats and one Republican candidate for the BOCS who have been unwilling to publicly support the Rural Crescent or significant limits on residential growth are:  Democrat Ken Boddye and the Republican incumbent Ruth Anderson (Occoquan), Democrat Victor Angry (Neabsco), who like Margaret Franklin in Woodbridge is apparently running unopposed, Democrat Maggie Hansford (Brentsville), and Democrat Andrea Bailey (Potomac).  Andrea Bailey has raised $120K, five times the amount of her Republican opponent Dennis Taggart; over $63K (53%) is from Democratic donors, organized labor, and developers.  Victor Angry has raised almost $27K; $24K from developers and Democratic donors.  Republican Ruth Anderson has raised $103K, of which $73K (71%) is from developers, Republican donors, and organized labor.  (Nothing special to report that we noticed about Ken Boddye or Maggie Hansford’s fundraising.)
  • It may also be of interest that although we live in Brentsville District and have been active in land use issues there and elsewhere in the county for 14 years, we had never heard of Maggie Hansford before this election campaign several months ago.  The opposite was true of her opponent Jeanine Lawson before she was elected Brentsville supervisor; Jeanine was in the trenches fighting on the right side of many land use battles for years before she was elected supervisor.  In other words, when it comes to land use and related issues — the BOCS’ main responsibility and area of influence — Maggie Hansford has been invisible.

If you think Prince William County is poorly governed, overtaxed, and underserved now — and to some extent we agree — wait until a Democratic majority takes control of the BOCS after 5 November, a Democratic majority that has no commitment whatsoever to the Rural Crescent, balanced growth land use policy, and limiting residential development, especially tax-negative residential development.  Then the most overcrowded school district in the state will become even more overcrowded at all levels, traffic-choked commuter roads will become even more congested, to the point of gridlock, and at the same time that the  government services for which you pay taxes are declining rapidly, your property taxes will increase rapidly.  This will be the new Prince William County that the official Democratic Party apparently supports:  More beholden than ever to big northern Virginia residential developers, who love to flush the high-density, high-volume, tax-negative residential development that no other northern Virginia localities want into Prince William County, our county, degrading the quality of life for everyone except developers, big landowners, and their political allies.

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.

VRE board rejects independent audit request, recommends new CEO

by Jeremy Borden, The Washington Post

17 August 2012


“Virginia Railway Express will not request an independent investigation into whether an official has done anything improper to benefit a company that he owns, a majority of the agency’s board voted Friday.

“Susan Stimpson, a Stafford County supervisor who serves on the VRE board, had asked for the investigation. Stimpson’s request centered on a letter contained in a 2011 outside audit into VRE’s finances that stated ‘we have no knowledge of fraud or suspected fraud involving VRE.’ But a handwritten note underneath adds, ‘with the exception of the items discussed in the conversation on 11/15/11.’

” ‘Up until this point, no one has even asked for or is pressing . . . for the auditors to come back in,’ Stimpson said, adding that the board needs assurance from auditors that no fraud occurred. ‘I’m very disappointed in fellow board members. . . . We need to ensure our internal controls are functioning.’

“Stimpson’s request was about last year’s audit, when auditors learned that a VRE official had set up a company before his arrival at the agency. VRE looked into whether the company was improperly involved with the agency, according to a Dec. 16 letter to board members from former chief executive Dale Zehner.

” ‘A review of all VRE contracts did not reveal any business relationship between the VRE and the employee’s business,’ Zehner wrote.

“VRE is controlled by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission. Its two rail lines, which connect Prince William and Stafford counties and downtown Washington, carry an average of 16,000 passengers a day, its Web site says.

“Stimpson, along with Fredericksburg City Council member Frederic Howe and Stafford County Supervisor Gary F. Skinner, voted for the independent inquiry. But a majority of board members said the organization should allow a separate FBI inquiry to wrap up before going forward.

” ‘It seems prudent to wait,’ said Chris Zimmerman, an Arlington County Board member.

“The FBI is looking into a separate matter to determine whether another former VRE official steered an agency contract to a company in return for a payoff, according to transportation officials. The Washington Post reported the existence of the investigation Friday.

“The VRE board is composed of elected officials from the localities it serves. Zimmerman voted against an independent audit, along with officials from Manassas, Fairfax, Alexandria and Prince William.

“The outcome of the vote was muddled at first. In a confusing and hectic exchange, the board debated its own voting procedures — the votes from members whose jurisdictions have the most ridership are weighted more than others. Board Chairman W.S. Covington III twice asked for a show of hands — but the second time the vote was tallied, one board member changed her vote.

“Prince William County Supervisor Maureen S. Caddigan switched her vote from approving the request for an independent audit to denying the request.

“The rail agency’s attorneys were unsure how Caddigan’s vote would have affected the final outcome, saying they had never confronted a split vote from a locality before.

“Caddigan, who left the meeting early, couldn’t later be reached for comment.

“A majority of board members said that with ongoing scrutiny from the FBI, there was no reason for another inquiry.

“The board also unanimously recommended Doug Allen, 58, a veteran of transit systems in Austin and Dallas, for the job to replace Zehner, who stepped down in July. Allen also will have to be approved by the VRE’s parent boards, the NVTC and PRTC, which are scheduled to take up the issue Sept. 6.

” ‘First and foremost is to continue to provide safe and quality service,’ Allen said in a telephone interview. ‘It’s just a great service. There’s such a great demand for it.’

“He said one of his primary tasks will be expanding VRE, which is growing in popularity. He also said that VRE’s contracting issues and the FBI investigation did not deter his decision to seek the post.”


“The Covington Pattern” by “Riley”, from Viginia Virtucon blog, “the commonwealth’s free-market online home for news, politics, policy and entertainment since 2006,” on 19 August 2012 adds the following:

“Conflicts of interest. Corruption (or at the very least the strong appearance of it.) Cover-ups. There seems to be a pattern when it comes to things surrounding Wally Covington, Brentsville Dist. member of the Prince William BOCS. As if the whole discretionary funds / Rainbow Riding debacle weren’t enough, guess who is currently the Chairman of the Virginia Railway Express — that’s right, it’s Covington. Under his watchful eye, VRE has found itself embroiled in an FBI bribery / kickback investigation and now an outside audit has apparently uncovered suspected fraud, but he and Potomac Dist. Supervisor Maureen Caddigan led the way in quashing calls for an independent investigation under the flawed premise that the FBI investigation of a different matter must be concluded first.

“Can you say ‘cover-up’ boys and girls? I knew you could. Covington and Caddigan are fighting for their political lives and they know that one more piece of bad news may put them at the tipping point where they cannot continue in office. Sources tell Virtucon this afternoon that this is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the VRE and things may get a whole lot worse real soon.”

Jan 2008-Dec 2011 Caddigan for Prince William County Board of Supervisors campaign raises $49,361, including $16,900 (34%) from developers

Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), Virginia’s authoritative source on the role of money in state politics

Caddigan for Supervisor Total Campaign Contributions and Expenses 2008-2011

Caddigan for Supervisor Campaign Contributions 2008-2011 by Industry Sector

*Note: Caddigan for Supervisor Campaign had no documented campaign contributions from 1/1/2008 through 12/31/2008

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