Prince William Government overview map of currently pending planning cases: Overview map
Prince WIlliam Government interactive map of pending planning cases: Interactive map
Devlin Road Returns — Prince William County residential developers are trying yet again to revive an already-thrice-failed effort to put hundreds of new houses (over 500 this time) on a portion of Devlin Rd. The previous efforts — Brentswood (2005-06), Stone Haven (2012-15), and Devlin I (Dec 2019) — failed when citizens in surrounding neighborhoods and elsewhere in the county got wise to how these projects would further overcrowd their already overstretched roads and schools, raise their taxes, lower property values, and further damage the environment.
New BOCS Chairman Wheeler Stresses Inclusivity — New Democratic Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) Chair Ann Wheeler has promised a new, fully-inclusive PW County for all citizens and improved, more functional, less overcrowded, more effective schools and transportation/ roads. At least some of the incoming new Democratic supervisors have expressed a desire to shift at least some renewal/redevelopment to underserved areas in east county, rather than the old pro-developer policy of building more and more high-density houses in west county (where certain politically-connected residential developers own a lot of land) at such a rate that roads and schools — already way overcapacity — can never catch up. Here’s one of Chair Wheeler’s latest speeches on more inclusivity in PW County: https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/bocs-chair-wheelers-7-jan-2020-state-of-the-county-address/
The Previous Pro-Developer Pattern of Stewart, Nohe — So will Chair Wheeler pursue policies that are truly inclusive and bring the greatest good to the greatest number? Or will she instead, despite her rhetoric, simply ape the all-residential-development-is-good policies of the previous aggressively pro-residential-development leaders of the BOCS, Republicans Corey Stewart and Marty Nohe? This, despite the demonstrable harm that such policies have done to county schoolchildren, commuters, taxpayers, and all who wish to preserve at least some of our county’s natural beauty before it’s all gone.
How Wheeler Is Already Aping Republicans Stewart, Nohe — Initial indications are not good and suggest that Chairman Wheeler is precisely in the mold of Republicans Stewart and Nohe when it comes to the BOCS’ main area of responsibility, land use. Stewart and Nohe supported the developers’ Bi-County Parkway (BCP) road-to-developer-heaven, which would break open the green Rural Crescent to high-density housing and thousands of new homes. Wheeler, too, supports the BCP. Stewart and Nohe tried repeatedly to develop the extremely unpopular Devlin Rd. and Kline Farm projects. Wheeler has to date clearly demonstrated and/or voiced support for these two projects. Just like Republicans Stewart and Nohe, Wheeler still refuses to specifically support the very popular Rural Crescent from residential developer encroachment and from developer-inspired county plans that encourage this encroachment. Apparently, Chair Wheeler’s version of “inclusivity,” as it pertains to land use, is already excluding the repeatedly-expressed will of citizens of western and central Prince William County — over half the county.
24 Feb Town Hall on Devlin — Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson’s office is hosting a 24 Feb 7-9 pm town hall meeting at Chris Yung Elementary School 12612 Fog Light Way, off Devlin Rd. in Bristow to discuss the Devlin Road project and its impact on local citizens. Please join us.
Here’s an aerial view/map of the proposed Devlin Rd. development area:
Please contact the BOCS and voice your concern: BOCS@pwcgov.org See you on 24 Feb and 10 Mar.
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.
All: Please note that Prince William Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) Chairman Corey Stewart, who leaves office at the end of December 2019, is making a last-ditch effort to get approval over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays for 516 more houses on Devlin Road. Cynically, he thinks no one will notice or have time over the holidays to stop him, especially since he’s trying at the 19 November BOCS meeting to get the final vote scheduled to come up after midnight on 3 December.
For more info, see: https://thederecho.blogspot.com/2019/11/its-lame-duck-christmas.html
(This proposal resurrects a part of the very unpopular and previously-defeated Brentswood and Stone Haven proposals for Devlin Road. Ironically, Stewart, then Occoquan Supervisor, played a key role in defeating Brentswood, which helped propel him a year later (2007) to election as the BOCS chairman.)
So, once again, Chairman Stewart is putting the interests of his residential developer cronies — who’ve now given him almost $1.5M (see http://vpap.org) — above the need to reduce school and road overcrowding and keep our taxes low (by avoiding tax-negative residential development.) He clearly has no qualms about disturbing the peace of your Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with his personal need to pay off old political debts. Furthermore, by doing all this, he is yet again showing his enmity and vindictiveness toward the very people who elected him to office to serve the county and the greater public good, but who never saw fit to help him realize his fondest dream of statewide elected office.
Stewart’s two-step plan is to pass a resolution at the 19 November BOCS meeting to hold an evening meeting on 3 December (currently no such meeting is planned) to approve the 516 houses on Devlin. Despite Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson’s, citizens’, and reportedly even county Planning Staff’s objections — unmistakably strong, and growing, public opposition — to his hasty, ill-advised, and desperate last-minute attempt, Stewart has persisted. He has persisted in abusing his authority as BOCS chairman and disrespected the other BOCS members — as well as established county procedure — by already placing the obligatory, advance-notice 3 December public hearing signs on Devlin Road, before the public hearing has even been approved by the full BOCS. (See photo above.)
Please let the BOCS know, before it’s too late, that you oppose this sneaky, cynical, and entirely self-serving effort by lame-duck Chairman Stewart that harms all county citizens, especially those who live in the Brentsville and Gainesville districts. ACTION REQUESTED: Forward this message, or your own message, asking the BOCS to reject on 19 November a special meeting on 3 December regarding Devlin Road that will harm you, the county’s schoolchildren, taxpayers, commuters. Here’s the collective BOCS email address: BOCS@pwcgov.org
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.