Citizens for Balanced Growth

Category: Stonehaven (Page 2 of 3)

E-mail sent to local citizens, Bristow Beat, and other local news media by PWCBG’s Ralph Stephenson on 20 September 2014

——– 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 <cstewart@pwcgov.org>, May, Michael C. <MCMay@pwcgov.org>, Caddigan, Maureen <mcaddigan@pwcgov.org>, Covington, Wally <wcovington@pwcgov.org>, Nohe, Marty <mnohe@pwcgov.org>, Principi, Frank <fprincipi@pwcgov.org>, Candland, Peter <gainesville@pwcgov.org>, Jenkins, John <jjenkins@pwcgov.org>, Haynes, Austin B. (Chairman) <austin@crossroads-realtors.com>, Burgess, Ron <kenavon@aol.com>, Vanegas, Alex <alex.vanegas.cpm@gmail.com>, Arnold, Fran <gainesvilledistrictpc@gmail.com>, Holley, Edgar Bruce <ebholley@gmail.com>, Hosen, Kim <khosen@pwconserve.org>, Fry, Rene <fryrene@verizon.net>, Bryant, Russell <russellbryant@comcast.net>

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.

 

 

BOCS Supervisors
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
(realtor) (703) 656-6162
brunipeters1@aol.com
Brookfield Homes
(likely builder; though others could be substituted with  similar results)
(703) 270-1400, info.calgary@brookfieldrp.com
Total Developer
$ received
Stewart (at-large)
  $21,500
$6,500
$759,841
Covington (Bristow area)
$1,500
$5,000
  $108,150
Nohe (Coles)
$2,500
  $2,500
$109,984
Jenkins (Neabsco)
$1,000
  $900
$105,271
TOTALS $5,000
$26,500
$9,900
$1,083,246

 

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 admin@pwcbg.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)
http://pwcbg.org
admin@pwcbg.org

“30+ speak out on pros and cons of Stone Haven proposal”

by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

19 Sep 2014, pp. 34, 37

“Prince William County’s Planning Commission agreed with County Planning Staff Sept. 3 and recommended approval of the 864-acre Stone Haven project on the south side of Wellington Road near Jiffy Lube Live.

“Up for consideration were a rezoning application and a Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA).  Austin Haynes, commission chairman, noted after the 5-2 vote that Prince William County School Board also favored the application.

“The county’s board of supervisors [BOCS] gets the final say on the development when it holds its own public hearing.  No date for that meeting has been announced.

“Voting for both changes were Fran Arnold, Gainesville District; Ronald Burgess, Brentsville District; Alex Vanegas, Coles District; Russell Bryant, Woodbridge District; and Rene Fry, Potomac District.

“Voting against both the rezoning and the CPA were Kim Hosen, Occoquan District representative, and E. Bruce Holley, Neabsco commissioner.

“At the start of the Planning Commission hearing, Haynes said he believed his voting on the applications for a rezoning and a comprehensive plan amendment (CPA) would pose ‘no conflict for me,’ but that he would not vote.  He did not recuse himself, nor explain the reason for his not voting.

“The Stone Haven project is proposed to include 1,650 single-family detached home and townhouses and up to 1.1 million square feet of office/employment and commercial/retail development.  The application includes 85 acres to be dedicated to the county without cost for use as a high school site.  Depending on results of a public facility review (PFR), another 30 acres of the property could be used for a middle school or active recreation.

“A Planning Department staf report shows homes in the development are expected to generate 477 students in grades K-5, 235 pupils in grades 6-8 and 180 high school students.  Students would attend Piney Branch Elementary School, Gainesville Middle School and Stonewall Jackson High School.

“Devlin Road Elementary School will open to the east of Stone Haven in September 2015, and a Linton Hall Road area middle school is set to open in September 2018.  Any high school in the Stone Haven area would open in 2019.

“The applicant also would make improvements or build parts of University Boulevard, Rollins Ford Road, Wellington Road, Devlin Road and Piney Branch Lane.

“Both University Boulevard and Rollins Ford Road would have a 128-foot-right-of-way.  University Boulevard would be four lanes divided from Devlin Road to Progress Court.  Rollins Ford Road would be four lanes divided from Linton Hall Road to existing Rollins Ford Road near Wellington Road.

“The applicant also would dedicate 64 feet from the centerline along Wellington Road and additional land for turn lanes.  An additional eastbound lane would be built along Wellington Road with right and left turn lanes with Piney Branch Lane.

“The applicant also would dedicate 64 feet from the centerline on Devlin Road, and additional width for turn lanes for widening in the future.  Also included would be building the intersection of Devlin Road and University Boulevard.

“On Piney Branch Lane, the applicant would dedicate 33 feet from the centerline and build a road from Wellington Road intersection to the entrance of the property.

“More than 30 people spoke during the commission’s public hearing.

“Kathy Stephenson questioned whether the overwhelming[ly] residential project would be tax positive for the county, claiming that tax-negative dwellings would be built first.  She added she saw no high-paying jobs resulting from Stone Haven.

“Ralph Stephenson said the proposal would add 5,000 people within one square mile.  He contended also that once land that could be used for employment purposes ‘is gone, it’s gone.’

“Patti McKay told the hearing that ‘you need to separate what the people want from what they’re willing to accept.’ She added that the county’s staff report was only out a few days.
‘This is Brentswood, Jr.,’ she contended, referring to a larger project rejected by the county several years ago in the nearby area.

“Those speaking in favor of the project included Gail Peterson, T.C. Robinson, Jennifer Robinson, Bob Dumbarton, Kevin Allen, Mike Kitchen, Rick Holt, Brendon Shaw, Derrick Harris and Brenda Wolfe.

“Peterson said the project would provide an opportunity to improve roads in the area. Robinson, who said he coaches travel baseball, applauded the addition of sports fields in the plans.

“Dumbarton asserted the area would be developed anyway, and asked whether residents ‘want to see dump trucks or soccer moms.  This is just good stuff.’  He added the plans are modest and will ‘not turn into an anthill.’

“Shaw commented positively on the acreage set aside for park space and a high school.  According to Virginia’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulations (DPOR), Shaw is a licensed real estate agent with CRE Companies, Inc., Manassas.  Other licensed real estate salesmen at that firm, according to Metropolitan Regional Information Systems (MRIS), are Haynes, Planning Commission chairman, and Jackson Miller, who represents the 50th District on Virginia House of Delegates. Shaw did not tell the hearing he is a real estate salesman.

“Wolfe, who identified herself as a realtor with three children, said she was concerned for schools in the area.  She estimated Stone Haven would result in less traffic [as published]. DPOR reports her real estate license is with RK Realty, LLC, the company which, according to its website, has Stone Haven listed for sale. The web site notes the tract is ‘currently in rezoning process.’

“Dave Cline, associate school superintendent for finance and support services, said ‘There is a critical need for a new high school.’

“Those speaking against the Stone Haven project included Mary Beth Shaw, Lisa Schumann and Caroline Abbot.

“In explaining his no vote on both applications Holley contended the ‘residential lots are disgraceful,’ calling them ‘teeny.’  He also questioned the wisdom of having only five-foot sideyards.  He added he supported everything in the two applications except the residential portion.

” ‘The devil is in the details,’ Holley remarked

“Hosen explained her vote included concern for how the open space area of the project was calculated.

” ‘Stone Haven proffered open space includes a stream and associated Resource Preservation Area, all stormwater management facilities, active recreation facilities, a community recreation center, powerline external buffers,’ Hosen wrote in an e-mail Sept 4.  She added that an area shown as an active recreation site seems to have changed to the middle school site.

” ‘Parking lots are not shown on the plan but I would assume some would be needed with the “open space” for the community rec center and ball fields.’

“The Planning Commission in January 2012 got a request for a CPA for about 337 acres of the Hunter Trust Property also called Stone Haven.

“Supervisors voted in March 2012 not to initiate the project, asking instead for a study of a wider area.  Four meetings were held to solicit public input, and supervisors received that study in November 2012.

“A second CPA application was filed with the county in January 2013.  In March 2013, supervisors initiated the CPA to study changing the long-range land use to coincide with the study.  A companion rezoning was filed with the CPA.”

“COLUMN: The Forum – Stop Stone Haven – speak out against over-development”

by Ralph Stephenson, co-founder of Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth

Prince William Times and Gainesville Times 5 Sep 2014 and 3-9 Sep 2014, p. A5, respectively.

Also published as:  “Guest Columnist:  Act NOW To Stop Stone Haven in PWC,” by Ralph Stephenson, co-founder of Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth, in Virginia Virtucon  blog, “The Commonwealth’s free-market online home for news, politics, policy and entertainment since 2006,” 2 September 2014.

E-mail sent to local citizens, Bristow Beat, and other local news media by PWCBG’s Ralph Stephenson on 6-7 September 2014

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Now We’re Facing ~3,650 Homes/11,000 People Behind Jiffy Lube Live; What You Can Do
Date: Sun, 07 Sep 2014 22:19:08 -0400
From: Ralph Stephenson <e-mail address withheld>
To: Stephenson, Ralph & Kathy <e-mail address withheld>
CC: Stewart, Corey <cstewart@pwcgov.org>, May, Michael C. <MCMay@pwcgov.org>, Caddigan, Maureen <mcaddigan@pwcgov.org>, Covington, Wally <wcovington@pwcgov.org>, Nohe, Marty <mnohe@pwcgov.org>, Principi, Frank <fprincipi@pwcgov.org>, Candland, Peter <gainesville@pwcgov.org>, Jenkins, John <jjenkins@pwcgov.org>, Haynes, Austin B. (Chairman) <austin@crossroads-realtors.com>, Burgess, Ron <kenavon@aol.com>, Vanegas, Alex <alex.vanegas.cpm@gmail.com>, Arnold, Fran <gainesvilledistrictpc@gmail.com>, Holley, Edgar Bruce <ebholley@gmail.com>, Hosen, Kim <khosen@pwconserve.org>, Fry, Rene <fryrene@verizon.net>, Bryant, Russell <russellbryant@comcast.net>

All:  In democracies, the people tend to get the kind of government they have earned and deserve.  If citizens don’t become informed, don’t vote, don’t take the time to get involved, they’ll have a government that is run entirely by elites who typically won’t care much about the people’s interests, just their own.  Nowhere is this more true than at the local level, where there’s no one looking out for your welfare but you.  Yet at no other level of government are government decisions likely to affect you more directly and immediately than at the local level, and at no level of government elections is voter turnout lower — usually around 5% in Prince William County (PWC).

Virtual non-participation by those of us who are just ordinary citizens in PWC so far has gotten us a local government of the residential developers, by the developers, and for the developers.  To see what the residential developers have given us so far, I refer you to the first two links immediately below (similar to the e-mail I sent you on 27 August 2014) and the third link, an e-mail exchange I had recently with PWC BOCS Chairman Corey Stewart.  (SEE PARAGRAPHS BELOW THAT FOR INFO ON HOW MUCH STONE HAVEN’S DEVELOPERS ARE PAYING INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS OF THE PWC BOARD OF COUNTY SUPERVISORS — BOCS.)

http://virginiavirtucon.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/guest-columnist-act-now-to-stop-stone-haven-in-pwc/
http://www.northernvatimes.com/gainesville/news/columnthe-forum-stop-stone-haven-speak-out-against-over-development
Email Exchange: Falsities in Chmn Stewart’s Reply on Rez Development, Taxes, County’s Economy, etc; Stone Haven

On 3 September 2014, the PWC Planning Commission, the PWC Board of County Supervisors (BOCS)’ advisory board on land use, approved for final vote/final decision by the BOCS — PROBABLY IN EARLY OCTOBER 2014 — a plan to put 1,650 houses/5,000 people, assuming the county average of 3 people per house, on ~1.25 acres behind Jiffy Lube Live.  (Note that the realty industry/residential developers and their friends and families showed up for the Planning Commission hearing and fielded 17 speakers; as for ordinary citizens who opposed the project and will be most hurt by it, only 12 showed up to speak.)

But wait; there’s more.  Just submitted and beginning the county review process is another development behind Jiffy Lube Live, Prince William Station — with ~2,000 houses on perhaps 1+ square mile of land.  So, if local citizens don’t stand up now and start protesting loudly, pretty soon we’ll have (1,650 + 2,000 houses) x 3 people in each house = 11,000 people on ~2.5 square miles right in the middle of what is already one of the most congested areas in the state.  See left-middle of screen shot below for map of these two upcoming developments.

StoneHavenMap
If we continue to do nothing and allow these two developments (Stone Haven and Prince William Station), we face:

  • much worse overcrowding in our schools;
  • much worse traffic congestion;
  • huge indirect taxpayer subsidies/corporate welfare to developers for unneeded housing (see two links above for further details on that);
  • less green space and, in the case of Stone Haven, possible violations of county open space policies;
  • the very real danger of slummification over time from a) population densities per square mile that are almost twice that of Bangladesh and b) single family homes only 5 feet from property lines;
  • less county land available for employment uses, resulting in a potential 6,623-13,245 jobs lost forever and a further acceleration of PWC’s drift down the path of a low-wage, commuter economy (see:  “County votes to re-examine land protection goals of Rural Crescent”);
  • a political environment in Prince William County where residential land developers’ political campaign contributions determine county policy.

Note that FIVE OF THE EIGHT BOCS MEMBERS HAVE RECEIVED AMOUNTS RANGING FROM $1,000 TO $11,000 FROM THE STONE HAVEN REALTY COMPANY RK REALTY AND/OR DEVELOPER EV HUNTER TRUST.  LEADING THE PACK ARE STEWART, WHO’S RECEIVED $11,000, AND COVINGTON, WHO’S BAGGED $6,500.   See e-mail below for details and documentation.  The only one of the five who’s received these payoffs and is not known to be a likely “yes” vote is Peter Candland.  The other four are strong “yes” votes and completely compromised on this issue — bought off, unobjective; they should recuse themselves from the upcoming vote on Stone Haven.   (Remember that the BOCS will decide, probably in early-October, whether to approve Stone Haven.)

These BOCS supervisors, compromised by the money they’ve received from developers, fear only one thing:  informed citizens who think for themselves and are involved.  If you become involved, you can make a difference.  Remember that it was a coalition of concerned citizens who eight years ago defeated Brentswood (roughly the same residential development as these two, in the same place.)

SO WHAT CAN YOU DO TO STOP THIS?  First write to the cc addressees above (the first eight are the BOCS, the second eight are the Planning Commission) and tell them that you strongly oppose the Stone Haven and Prince William Station developments and will not vote for them at election time if they vote in favor.  You can also write opinion letters to the news media.  Second, be ready to come to the BOCS hearing, probably to be held in early October on a Tuesday at 7:30 pm, and speak for up to three minutes against Stone Haven.  We can help you if you’d like help on what to say.  If we don’t show up in force at that meeting, pro-developer supervisors will use it as an excuse to vote for Stone Haven, as did at least one of the Planning Commissioners at the 3 September hearing.  Third, I think those of us opposed to Stone Haven and Prince William Station are going to have to be foot soldiers for the next month or so, spreading the word by word-of-mouth, blogs, websites, etc and delivering flyers door-to-door.  Similar to the Brentswood flier, which is what we delivered eight years ago to thousands of homes to help defeat the Brentswood development behind Jiffy Lube Live, these fliers could give our reasons for opposing Stone Haven on one side, and describe the action citizens need to take to stop Stone Haven on the other side.

Who is willing to help me take fliers door-to-door in the communities along Linton Hall?  Please let me know if you’re available, how many you can deliver, and what communities you can cover.  Please advise as soon as possible; we don’t have much time.  I welcome any suggestions you may have.

Ralph Stephenson, Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: How Hunter Trust & RK Realty Bought Off BOCS on Stone Haven; Report From Bristow Beat
Date: Sat, 06 Sep 2014 20:32:06 -0400
From: Ralph Stephenson <email address withheld>
To: Stacy Shaw <stacyshaw@bristowbeat.com>
CC: Stewart, Corey <cstewart@pwcgov.org>, Caddigan, Maureen <mcaddigan@pwcgov.org>, Principi, Frank <fprincipi@pwcgov.org>, Jenkins, John <jjenkins@pwcgov.org>, Covington, Wally <wcovington@pwcgov.org>, Nohe, Marty <mnohe@pwcgov.org>, Candland, Peter <gainesville@pwcgov.org>, May, Mike <mcmay@pwcgov.org>, Holley, Edgar Bruce <ebholley@gmail.com>, Haynes, Austin B. (Chairman) <austin@crossroads-realtors.com>, Hosen, Kim <kdhosen@gmail.com>, Burgess, Ron<kenavon@aol.com>, Fry, Rene <fryrene@verizon.net>, Bryant, Russell <russellbryant@comcast.net>, Arnold, Fran <gainesvilledistrictpc@gmail.com>, Vanegas, Alex<alex.vanegas.cpm@gmail.com>

 

Hi, Stacy.  Just want to point out some things you should know regarding the following Bristow Beat report:

http://bristowbeat.com/news/planning-commission-approves-stone-haven-community/

1.  Do you know what percentage of the speakers and audience at the Wednesday meeting were from the real estate/development community and thus have a vested financial interest in development in general and at least indirectly in Stone Haven specifically?  I recognized many of them as being part of the real estate/developer community.  Why is it that local news reporters never ask that question?  Isn’t that sort of conflict of interest relevant?  It certainly compromises the objectivity of one’s views on a political (land use) issue when one has a direct or indirect vested financial interest in it.

2.  Your report says: “One man CLAIMED to quote Board of County Supervisor Corey Stewart in saying, ‘When we approve large development, we are essentially approving a tax increase.’ He said Stewart had changed his tune on development, but he doubts Stewart’s motivation for that change.”  It was my wife, Kathy Stephenson, not “one man” (me, presumably), who reported Corey Stewart’s comments from 2006.  Furthermore, this is not a claim, it’s a fact.   Attached is the Washington Post report; Stewart’s comments are in the second full paragraph on page two.

Here’s another example of Stewart acknowledging that residential development has “hurt the average person” in PW County:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0f8XDSKrNzs

I’ve known Stewart for eight years and worked with him for a couple years on a number of issues when he was an ally, but not so much since he decided to support unrestrained residential growth in the western end of the county.  He would love for people to forget his own history and ethical conflicts of interest on land use or do whatever he can to obfuscate them whenever they re-emerge — because they show him to be disingenuous, opportunistic, unprincipled, and completely untrustworthy.   Please don’t be co-opted into assisting him in that effort.  : )

For info on Stewart and other Prince William County supervisors’ conflicts of interest on land use, see  Supervisor Conflicts of Interest, right side, top of page.

For more info on my wife’s and my speeches (we were the first and second speakers, respectively, Wednesday night at the Planning Commission hearing), see: Stone Haven informationKathy Stephenson Speech

3.  In response to Chairman Haynes and other pro-developer citizens’ view that there was a two-year, fully consultative process that sought all points of view on Stone Haven, none of the rank-and-file, non-activist citizens I and my wife have met and talked to about this recently knew anything about the process.  This so-called two-year “consultative” process was rigged from the beginning to provide the desired outcome for developers and their allies on the BOCS and Planning Commission.  It was sham, a fraud, pure and simple.  Nor is it even remotely likely that “no Stone Haven for now” was ever an acceptable option or outcome of the process, yet that’s the option I would’ve chosen for reasons clearly specified here:

http://virginiavirtucon.wordpress.com/2014/09/02/guest-columnist-act-now-to-stop-stone-haven-in-pwc/
http://www.northernvatimes.com/gainesville/news/columnthe-forum-stop-stone-haven-speak-out-against-over-development
Email: Falsities in Chmn Stewart’s Reply on Rez Development, Taxes, County’s Economy, etc; Stone Haven

4.  My organization, Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth, can (and usually does) provide proof and documentation to back up everything we say.  (We are hard-working citizens and taxpayers who earn our livelihood doing other things and so really have no time to be involved in local politics, and are involved in other community service as well, but nevertheless want to and will relentlessly serve our community in every way we can.)

However, Planning Commission Chairman Austin Haynes, who was chosen by Stewart and quoted profusely and unskeptically in the Bristow Beat article above, can’t back up any of his preferences, opinions, and subjective statements with facts or documentation.  Furthermore, his independent, objective judgement is undoubtedly at least somewhat compromised by the fact that he is part of the land development community.

One of Chairman Haynes’ co-workers, Brendon Shaw, who is now working for the PW Chamber of Commerce as well, has been working for EV Hunter Trust for the last two years, helping them market the Stone Haven project.  See this link for more info:
http://princewilliamliving.com/2014/08/prince-william-chamber-commerce-hires-director-government-relations-brendon-shaw/

To Chairman Haynes’ credit, I believe that it is because of even the appearance of this possible conflict-of-interest that he made his announcement at the beginning of Wednesday’s hearing promising to abstain from the vote Wednesday.  Another of Chairman Haynes’ co-workers at Crossroads Realty is Jackson Miller, a local delegate to the VA State Assembly, who is heavily dependent on developer campaign contributions to stay in office.  Since 2006 he’s received almost $200,000 from developers, more than double the amount he’s received from any other industry: VPAP.org Jackson Miller Campaign Donations 2006-2014 by Industry Sector.   Brendon Shaw used to work for Delegate Miller as his legislative assistant as well.

Supervisor Marty Nohe, who’s been shilling in Supervisor Covington’s stead for Stone Haven for a couple years (because Covington’s been outed for his  brazen conflicts of interest on land use), received money from EV Hunter Trust, the Stone Haven developer, in 2011, right before he began his advocacy for Stone Haven.  Here is the list of BOCS supervisors who received money from Hunter Trust 2009-11:

  • $2,500 to BOCS Supervisor Marty Nohe
  • $1,500 to BOCS Supervisor Covington
  • $1,000 to BOCS Supervisor John Jenkins

See:  http://www.vpap.org/donors/174612-ev-hunter-trust/?recip_type=all&start_year=2009&end_year=2011

RK Realty is the realtor handling the Stone Haven development.  RK Realty has donated the following amounts to the following PW Supervisors and other politicians noted above 2010-13:

  • $11,000 to BOCS Chairman Corey Stewart
  • $5,000 to BOCS Supervisor Wally Covington
  • $2,500 to BOCS Supervisor Peter Candland
  • $1,500 to Manassas, VA State Assembly Delegate Jackson Miller

The only one of the five BOCS supervisors above who’s received payoffs from Stone Haven’s EV Hunter Trust and/or RK Realty and is not known to be a likely “yes” vote is Peter Candland.  The other four are strong “yes” votes and completely compromised on this issue — bought off, unobjective; they should recuse themselves from the upcoming vote on Stone Haven.  Stewart, who’s received $11,000 and Covington, who’s bagged $6,500, lead the pack.

See:  http://www.vpap.org/donors/190495-rk-realty/?start_year=2010&end_year=2014

If these are not ethical conflicts of interest, even if legal in VA, and very bad for open, objective, and fair government, I don’t know what is.  (If I were working for or with the federal government and had such a conflict of interest, I would probably end up in a federal prison.)

For other supervisor conflicts of interest, see:  Supervisor Conflicts of Interest

When you connect all the dots above, what do you see?

I invite you and all of the news media personnel included on this e-mail to continue to be in touch with PWCBG (see http://pwcbg.org).  My e-mail is above.

PWCBG uses facts, financial analysis, logic, and documentation to back up its positions on balanced growth/balanced land use.  The same can rarely, if ever, be said of the other side (developers and the politicians supporting them) in the most controversial land use schemes.  Because of the weakness of their arguments, to get what they want they tend to rely on propaganda, half-truths, or even outright lies, emotional appeals, greed, payoffs, backroom deals, and underhanded  political maneuvers hidden from the public.

Ralph Stephenson, co-founder of Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG)

On 8/29/2014 10:36 AM, Stacy Shaw wrote:

Thanks, Ralph!

On Fri, Aug 29, 2014 at 7:17 AM, Ralph Stephenson <stephenrk1@verizon.net> wrote:

Yes, Stacy, please do.  Thanks for asking.  Ralph

On 8/28/2014 9:12 AM, Stacy Shaw wrote:

Ralph,

Someone forwarded me a copy of your letter urging residents to resist the Stone Haven development. Is this something you would like me to publish on BristowBeat.com?
Thanks,

Stacy


Stacy A. Shaw
Co-Founder/Executive Editor
Bristow Beat, LLC

BristowBeat.com HaymarketBeat.com
stacyshaw@bristowbeat.com
703-754-6445
201-694-4061

Speech to PWC Planning Commission and BOCS hearings regarding Stone Haven proposal

Delivered by PWCBG’s Kathy Stephenson

Hearings held 3 September and 7 October 2014, respectively

… In a “Washington Post” article from 20 August 2006 when Corey Stewart won the Republican nomination to succeed  Sean Connaughton as Board of County Supervisors Chairman, Stewart reportedly  told delegates that the county must rein in high-density residential developments, which do not bring in enough tax revenue to cover the county services used by their residents. “When we approve large developments, we are essentially approving a tax increase,” he said.  Remember that, Chairman Stewart?

If you ask Stewart about his statement above, he and county staff will likely reply that Stone Haven includes tax-positive commercial development, which will offset the tax-negative impacts of the residential part.  There are three key problems with that argument.  First, the development would be overwhelmingly residential and the commercial (even if fully built) would not offset the negative fiscal impacts of its massive residential component.  Second, much of the proposed commercial development is retail.  Retail is barely tax revenue-positive, if at all.  It does not generate high-paying, career-oriented jobs.  It is not the kind of commercial development we need to strengthen the local economy and tax base.  Third, the Stone Haven plan includes no phasing.  That means the developers can build whatever components of the development whenever they like.  Obviously, we get all the tax-negative residential, and the additional pressure on our roads and schools, right away and commercial development much later.  Moreover, developers often include a commercial component in their initial plans, get them approved, and come back later to have it changed to residential.  The most recent example of that is Birkwood at Braemar.  Furthermore, the developer proffers are  largely greatly overvalued — empty land that the developer couldn’t use for anything else anyway.

Even more importantly, some might argue that the land that makes up Stone Haven MUST BE filled with houses and that we should all be pleased with the two-year-long, supposedly consultative, but actually rigged process in which the county and developers tried to coax a few of us local yokels into accepting their more or less foregone conclusion.

But that’s a false choice.  Loudoun and Fairfax continue to get  most of Northern Virginia’s best, tax-positive commercial development.  Why?  Because Prince William doesn’t try very hard to compete, and because the county is unduly influenced by residential developers and it’s not in those developers’ interests to have this land devoted to tax-positive commercial development.

Repeat, for the last two years citizens have been presented with a false choice on Stone Haven, a lie that says they may choose only between a few options THAT WILL ALL HURT THEM.  But what’s the hurry?  If tax-positive commercial development can’t be found yet, then don’t develop the land at all and keep it zoned agricultural for now.

When a criminal puts a gun to your head and says “give me what I want or something even worse than losing your money will happen to you,” the fact that you give up your money doesn’t mean that you like it or that a democratic consultative process to which you assented was involved.  I KNOW that if you polled the vast majority of citizens in the area and asked them whether they want more TAX-NEGATIVE land development that overcrowds their schools, congests their roads, and eliminates more and more green space, they’d tell you emphatically that they don’t, and that they knew nothing about the two-year, so-called consultative process on Stone Haven described above.  I KNOW they’d tell you that they’re sick to death of it and the PERVERSION OF PUBLIC POLICY FOR NARROW PRIVATE ENDS that it represents.  WHY DO I KNOW?  Because my husband and I and a few friends have been out delivering fliers to thousands of people in the affected area, talking to hundreds of them over the last several weeks, and that’s what the vast majority have told us.

Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (pwcbg.org) requests that you reject  the Stone Haven CPA and rezoning request, or at least delay the vote until January when those most affected will have representation on the BOCS.  No taxation without representation.

Link to 20 August 2006 Washington Post article quoting Stewart saying that large housing developments are tantamount to a tax increase on the public

“Public hearing set tonight on Stone Haven project in Bristow”

by Jill Palermo, InsideNova.com

3 September 2014

“After about two years of discussion and debate, the Prince William County Planning Commission will hold its first public hearing tonight on the controversial large-scale residential development known as Stone Haven.

“The planned neighborhood, which would span more than 860 acres in an area just south of Jiffy Lube Live, could bring as many as 1,650 new single-family and townhomes to the already crowded Linton Hall corridor.

“But the developer has also promised to reserve more than 300 acres of property for public use – including about 90 acres for the county’s13th county high school, 30 acres for a new middle school and nine neighborhood parks featuring rectangular playing fields and walking trails.

“The commission meets tonight at 6:45 p.m. in the Board of Supervisors chambers at the county’s McCoart Administration Building.

“Stone Haven initially came before the board back in March 2012, when the developer first asked for change in the county’s long-range plan to accommodate the mixed-use residential development.

“Supervisors voted down the request but directed county planning staff to meet with area residents and study the comprehensive plan amendment required for the new neighborhood, which would change the area’s designated use from agriculture and industrial business to residential and office use.

“County Planning Director Chris Price said his staff held several meetings with area residents and homeowner associations since 2012 and is recommending approval.

” ‘We think the plan is better for having the community input and we think the applicant has addressed the desires of the community,’ Price said, which include donating sites for schools, saving trees for a buffer along major roadways and providing open space for parks and environmental assets.

“Traffic concerns were also addressed, Price said. The developer agreed to connect University Boulevard and Rollins Ford Road through the new neighborhood and will limit access to congested Linton Hall Road.

” ‘They’ll have to build that infrastructure before they build those homes,’ Price added.

“But proposed plan is likely to attract its share of detractors. Members of Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth were circulating emails in recent days encouraging like-minded residents to speak out against the development, which they say will increase traffic and crowding in local schools and drain county resources.

“Jeanine Lawson, a Republican candidate running to represent the Brentsville Magisterial District on the County Board of Supervisors — either in 2015 or before if current Brentsville Supervisor Wally Covington (R) is appointed to a district judgeship – used her Facebook page to argue that a decision should be deferred because of bad timing. Because the hearing comes during a holiday week and the first week back to school, many residents might not have had time to read the 120-plus page proposal, she wrote.

“Beyond that, Lawson said she has questions about school projections and land set aside for parks.

” ‘The majority of parkland dedicated to the county appears to be land which is not usable for development – wetlands, streams and adjacent to high-voltage power lines,’ she wrote.

“Supervisor Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, also weighed in with his doubts this week.

“Candland said he doesn’t like that the plan was drawn with the old, lower proffer guidelines — permissible because it was submitted before the new, more expensive proffer rules took effect July 1 – and doesn’t think existing roadways can handle the extra traffic generated by thousands of new residents.

“Candland said he understands the school division needs the promised site for the 13th middle school but questions whether a new school would relieve overcrowding at nearby west-end high schools or just provide enough space to accommodate new students living in Stone Haven.

” ‘We keep getting ourselves behind the eight-ball. I mean, yes, we’re getting a site for the high school but we’re also adding all of those new kids,’ Candland said.

“The Board of Supervisors will have the final say on the Stone Haven comprehensive plan amendment and rezoning. The Planning Commission, which is appointed by the board, serves only an advisory role.”

http://www.insidenova.com/headlines/public-hearing-set-tonight-on-stone-haven-project-in-bristow/article_938a90ee-337b-11e4-ae86-001a4bcf887a.html

 

“Stone Haven eyed for High School – Officials worry development would add to school overcrowding”

by Dan Roem, Gainesville Times

24-30 April 2013

“To hear Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland (R) discuss the potential Stone Haven development project in Bristow, officials from Prince William County are fixing something they are in the process of breaking.

“In this case, he’s referring to overcrowding in local schools.

” ‘We’re solving a little bit of a problem but we’re actually solving a problem we’re creating,’ said Candland during a conference call on April 15.

“Last month, the Board of County Supervisors voted 5-3 to initiate a Comprehensive Plan amendment that allows homes, rather than just businesses, to be built at Stone Haven.

“The initiation merely begins the process – supervisors could still nix the proposal before it is finalized.

“While no offer is officially on the table to develop the 864-acre property, the prospect of more than 900 homes coming to the area means that Stonewall Jackson High School could become overcrowded unless a new high school is built in the area.

“However, a site for the 13th high school in the county may be in store at Stone Haven.

“Dave Beavers, who is the supervisor of planning and financial services for the county’s school system, said during a phone interview last week that more homes coming into western Prince William County means more potential overcrowding at local schools.

” ‘The easy answer is, we look at the projected enrollments at Patriot and Battlefield and even Stonewall Jackson and we look out in the long term and we see, even in the short term, that there’s going to be an overcrowding situation and we’re going to need seats in those areas,’ said Beavers. ‘We’re looking to a find a site that will be close to all three of those school’s attendance areas.’

“Stone Haven is located east of Patriot, south of Battlefield and west of Stonewall Jackson.

“In other words, it fits the description offered by Beavers as a potential site where a new high school could help lower future attendance numbers at other schools.

“Beavers explained that those who crunch numbers regarding the school system’s capital improvements projects are analyzing what would be the impact of more than 900 homes coming into the area where Stone Haven is located.

” ‘If a land developer is aggressively moving into that area, that could affect our enrollment timing-wise when we see additional students,’ said Beavers.

“According to a document authored by county officials revised on Nov. 16, 2012, the school staff has ‘discussed with the Hunter Trust, owners of the Stone Haven property, the potential inclusion of a high school site within the Stone Have property. This would be provided (Prince William County schools) as a proffer that would be a part of some undetermined rezoning for the property.’

“Additionally, staffers of the school system ‘have identified at least one other potential site that could be purchased outside of any rezoning case,’ the report states.

” ‘High schools generally require approximately 80 acres to accommodate all the needs of the school and associated fields and other uses. The purchase of 80 acres would likely cost the school division several million dollars.’

“Currently, Stonewall Jackson High is still under capacity, though just by a hair.

“When the 2011-2012 school year ended last June, Stonewall tallied 2,259 enrolled students, according to figures provided by the county school system.

“With a capacity for 2,409 students, that meant Stonewall last year operated at just under 93.8 percent capacity.

“Future school projection figures released by the county Planning Office show that by the 2016-2017 school year, Stonewall Jackson will have 2,581 students, which is above its capacity of 2,409.

“The 13th high school is not due to open until September 2019.

“That is three years after the 12th high school, located south of Hoadly Road in Woodbridge along Route 234, opens in 2016.

“By the 2021-2022 school year, county planners project 3,247 students (134.8 percent capacity) would attend Stonewall Jackson if no other school is there to alleviate its projected student growth.

“Meanwhile, Piney Branch Elementary School (152.3 percent) and Gainesville Middle School (150.7 percent) would be well over capacity by then too.

“When Patriot High School in Nokesville opened in September of 2011, some Stonewall Jackson students transferred there.

“Even though Candland voted against the Stone Haven change to the Comprehensive Plan because the project is ‘too large,’ he said last week that he is hopeful the area ‘would be the site of the new western end high school, which obviously would significantly relieve the pressure.’

“His aide Reece Collins wrote in a follow-up e-mail, ‘Supervisor Candland is hoping that there is a component in the Stone Haven project that addresses school overcrowding issues.  That could include property for a 13th high school or other mitigation measures.’ “

 

E-mail exchange between PWCBG co-founders and Gainesville Times reporter Tara Slate-Donaldson

PWCBG co-founders Ralph Stephenson and Bob Pugh

Gainesville Times reporter Tara Slate-Donaldson

7-8 April 2013

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Brentswood and CDAs
Date: Mon, 08 Apr 2013 10:03:30 -0400
From: Bob Pugh [e-mail address withheld]
To: <tdonaldson@timespapers.com>, <droem@timespapers.com>
CC: ‘Ralph Stephenson’ [e-mail address withheld]

 

Tara:

Ralph is absolutely correct in his assessment of the “proffers” and the Community Development Authority (CDA) relating to Brentswood in 2006.  As a senior financial analyst with the Prince William County government from 1998 to 2003, CDAs were one of my primary areas of responsibility.  Giff Hampshire (County Attorney’s Office) and I jointly did all of the staff work on CDAs at that time.  Brookfield Homes would have paid zero of the costs of the improvements to which Ralph referred.  In fact, at a town hall meeting at the time John Stirrup organized Lacey Compton (one of Brookfield’s land use attorneys) acknowledged that fact when asked directly.  All of those expenses would have fallen on taxpayers as special assessments to pay debt service on the CDA bonds.

Moreover, despite that fact that Chairman Stewart and CXO Peacor deny that CDA and IDA debt have no impact on the County’s creditworthiness, I know as a long-time practitioner in the investments profession that they do.  They are not direct obligations of the County but investors consider jurisdictions that approve CDAs, IDAs, and any debt associated with them to have a “moral obligation” to pay the debt if the issuing CDA or IDA defaults.  Board approval is required to create an IDA or CDA, and for each and every debt issuance they do.  Thus, Brookfield Homes would not only have paid none of the funds that it was proffering, it would have piggy-backed on the County’s credit-worthiness and left County taxpayers holding the bag if the CDA had been unable to pay its debt service.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Bob

Bob Pugh, CFA, CFP®
NAPFA-Registered Financial Advisor
President, Insight Wealth Management, Inc.
7250 Heritage Village Plaza, Suite 101
Gainesville, Virginia  20155
Office (703) 753-6082
www.insightwealth.com

 

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Re: Inaccuracy in 20-26 Mar GT Article on Stone Haven
Date: Mon, 08 Apr 2013 08:07:52 -0400
From: Ralph Stephenson [e-mail address withheld]
To: Tara Donaldson <tdonaldson@timespapers.com>
CC: droem@timespapers.com

 

Thanks, Tara.  Bottom line is that since no one (neither state nor county) would’ve accepted responsibility for the CDA, Brookfield would’ve walked away scot-free, cost-free, with no new road capacity whatsoever created, but still able to claim credit for something it never did.

At the time, county planning staff saw this for what it was, a phony offer by Brookfield that really just shifted all financial responsibility onto homeowners and taxpayers while at the same time giving Brookfield political cover, allowing it to appear generous.  (And how could anyone in his right mind not accept such a generous offer from Brookfield? : )  I assure you, that when the story is presented that way, those who are uninitiated in the ways of local residential developers will fall for it almost every time.  Please note the following excerpts from the attached county Planning Staff documents:

“The applicant has submitted an application to establish a CDA to fund off-site infrastructure improvements. A staff analysis of the CDA application is contained in Attachment B of the rezoning report under ‘Materially Relevant Issues.’  Regarding the use of a Community Development Authority to obtain construction of I-66/Route 29/Linton Hall interchanges, VDOT representatives have indicated VDOT will not enter into an agreement with the Brentswood Community Development Authority. VDOT suggested an alternative whereby the County would enter into an agreement with VDOT to administer the project. In this alternative, the County would then enter into an agreement with the Brentswood CDA. Staff does not recommend this alternative due to the scale and complexity of the I/66/Route 29/Linton Hall interchange. The County is not positioned to administer a large federally funded interstate highway project.

“Community Development Authority – Denial of the CPA [Comprehensive Plan amendment] would be appropriate because the applicant proposes, with approval of the Board of County Supervisors, to establish a Community Development Authority (CDA) to fund proffered off-site road and recreation facility improvements. If the CDA is not established, the applicant has no obligation to make the proffered improvements. The CDA application is not consistent with the Board’s policy for establishing a CDA.”  Ralph

On 4/7/2013 9:43 PM, Tara Donaldson wrote:

You raise an interesting point. I understand what you’re saying but I want to get an expert opinion on whether my (admittedly extremely simplified) paraphrase was inaccurate or just extremely simplified. I feel it goes without saying that “proffer” always implies that the cost is passed onto the future buyers.

But adding in the CDA thing, you have a point there. I’ve asked the planners to give me a definitive on whether it’s wrong to say that Brookfield “offered to pay” for the road project, taking into account the CDA.

As soon as I get an outside answer on that, I’ll run either a correction or a clarification.

Thank you for being so attentive! I appreciate the food for thought and I’m on it.

Tara

———- Forwarded message ———-
> From: Ralph Stephenson  [e-mail address withheld] Date: Sun, Apr 7, 2013 at 9:15 PM
Subject: Inaccuracy in 20-26 Mar GT Article on Stone Haven
To: GT_Dan Roem <droem@timespapers.com>, GT_Tara Slate Donaldson
<tdonaldson@timespapers.com>

Tara (info Dan): In your 20-26 March 2013 Gainesville Times front-page article on Stone Haven, there was a very important misstatement of fact. I’m referring to the front-page article titled “Board moves forward with Stone Haven,” the eight and ninth paragraphs, which state: “In 2004, Brookfield Homes proposed a 6,800-home community on the [current Stone Haven] site. In exchange, the developer offered to pay to rebuild the Gainesville Interchange — a $180 million project. It was a huge proposal, but it went nowhere.”

Brookfield Homes did not really offer to pay to rebuild the Gainesville Interchange as part of the Brentswood project. They instead offered to set up a Community Development Authority (CDA) that would have passed the costs of building the $180M in road improvements on to Brentswood residents. The proffers would have been paid through CDA bonds, and the debt service on the CDA bonds would have been paid by a special assessment on (Brentswood) residents, not the applicant. If Brentswood residents could not afford the entire cost, the remaining bill would’ve been passed on to county taxpayers.  The developer (Brookfield) was, in fact, proffering the money of other people — future Brentswood residents and probably county taxpayers as well.

Furthermore, the county advised the Board of County Supervisors that the Brentswood proposal did not meet the requirements for a CDA and that even if it had, the county could not legally accept responsibility for certain aspects of the CDA/road building proposal.

Please search on the term “CDA” in the two attachments — the county’s versions of the actual Brentswood proposal — for more info on the CDA.   Here’s a background article that may be helpful as well:

Experts: Brentswood Proffers, Promises Do Not Withstand Scrutiny; Project Would Impose “Huge Financial Burden” on County

I enjoy reading your newspaper and am sure that you want at least as much as I do for your articles to be as accurate and truthful as is humanly possible, so I respectfully request that you issue a correction advising readers of this rather important error in the article in question.

Thank you for your consideration.

Ralph Stephenson, Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth

 

E-mail exchanges between PWCBG co-founders and PWC BOCS Chairman Corey Stewart

PWCBG co-founders Ralph Stephenson and Bob Pugh

Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart

23 March-8 April 2013:  e-mails in reverse chronological order, most recent on top

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Re: Falsities in Chmn Stewart’s Reply on Rez Development, Taxes, County’s Economy, etc; Stone Haven
Date: Mon, 08 Apr 2013 10:09:49 -0400
From: Ralph Stephenson [e-mail address withheld]
To: ‘Prince William County’ <BOCS@pwcgov.org>, ‘GT_Dan Roem’ <droem@timespapers.com>, ‘GT_Tara Slate Donaldson’ <tdonaldson@timespapers.com>, bordenj@washpost.com, kpugh@princewilliamtoday.com, editor@observernow.com, hkras@bristowbeat.com, stacyshaw@bristowbeat.com, jshaw@bristowbeat.com
CC: Bob Pugh [e-mail address withheld]

A high-level summary of PW County’s failure to attract business other than residential developers, and the consequences, from Washington Business Journal:

http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/2012/01/prince-william-county-a-sleepy-suburb.html?page=all

The article concludes with the following statement:

“The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments projects Prince William to hit 555,000 residents by 2030. Perhaps by then the county will have shed its sleepy image, or at least welcomed some big time employers into the fold.  I-95 and I-66 may never be wide enough to handle the traffic if it doesn’t.”

Ralph Stephenson
Co-Founder, Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Re: Falsities in Chmn Stewart’s Reply on Rez Development, Taxes, County’s Economy, etc; Stone Haven
Date: Mon, 08 Apr 2013 08:56:58 -0400
From: Ralph Stephenson [e-mail address withheld]
To: ‘Prince William County’ <BOCS@pwcgov.org>, ‘GT_Dan Roem’ <droem@timespapers.com>, ‘GT_Tara Slate Donaldson’ <tdonaldson@timespapers.com>, bordenj@washpost.com, kpugh@princewilliamtoday.com, editor@observernow.com, hkras@bristowbeat.com, stacyshaw@bristowbeat.com, jshaw@bristowbeat.com
CC: Bob Pugh [e-mail address withheld]

I concur with Ralph Stephenson’s analysis, and want to add a few points of my own.

Mr. Stewart’s numbers on changes in the real estate tax base in Prince William County are correct, but misleading, for the seven-year period based off 2005 and ending in 2012.  He includes apartments and state-valued public service properties in his definition of “commercial” to arrive at his totals.  To me, it’s very disconcerting that he considers apartments as commercial development.  Other analysts would consider them residential, even though they are owned by commercial entities.  They do nothing to improve the revenue-positive tax base in the county.

More accurately, the commercial/industrial part of the tax base was 10.08% in 2005 and 14.28% in 2012.  Even these numbers are skewed and show “progress” that does not really exist in developing the commercial/industrial sector in Prince William County.  2005 was at the height of the residential real estate bubble and artificially skewed the commercial/industrial percentage down and residential up.  There has been little, if any, actual change in the proportion of commercial/industrial in the County’s tax base.  After the residential real estate market collapse, commercial/industrial rose into the teens in its proportion in the tax base.  This change again does not reflect real economic development but instead anomalies derived from the expanding and then bursting residential real estate bubble.

Moreover, the commercial development that has taken place in Prince William County over the past seven years has been overwhelmingly low-wage service sector employment.  Please see my presentation to the PWC Committee of 100 January 30, 2013 for a detailed analysis of changes in the economic structure in Prince William County over the past decade (attached).   [Click here for that presentation.]

Prince William County remains a primarily low-wage service economy.  According to the latest data (downloaded today) from the Virginia Employment Commission, PWC ranks below the state average in hourly, weekly and annual wages, despite its proximity to the Washington, DC and being a part of the Northern Virginia economy:

Virginia Employment Commission Data

Mr. Stewart’s assertions on taxes falling during his tenure as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors strain plausibility.  He claims that taxes have been cut by 8.5% since he has been Chairman.  In fact, total general property taxes have risen 37% during his tenure as Chairman, which is twice the rate of inflation.

Property Taxes PWC

Job growth in Prince William County has been substantial over the past decade (refer again to my Committee of 100 presentation).  However, job growth has lagged behind population growth substantially.  Total at-place employment in Prince William County grew from 83,676 in 2001 to 108,573 in 2011, or 24,897 jobs. That is an increase of 29.75%. However, the population of Prince William County grew from 294,798 to 409,345 during the same period. That is growth of 38.86%. Thus, the rate of population growth has exceeded the rate of job growth by over nine percentage points.

The inevitable conclusion is that the economic vitality of Prince William County has deteriorated significantly as job growth fails to keep pace with population growth, and the jobs being created are primarily low-wage service jobs.  The wealth and affluence of Prince William County derives from the more than two-thirds of our residents who commute to other jurisdictions in the region to find high-wage jobs.  Those jurisdictions have pursued more forward-looking, balanced economic growth strategies while Prince William County has allowed itself to become a low-wage bedroom community subservient to the wishes of the residential development industry.

I am available to discuss any of this analysis if anyone in the news media wishes to explore the facts in more detail.

Bob Pugh
Co-Founder, Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth

 

From: Ralph Stephenson [e-mail address withheld] Sent: Sunday, April 07, 2013 2:03 PM
To: Stephenson, Ralph
Cc: Prince William County; GT_Dan Roem; GT_Tara Slate Donaldson; bordenj@washpost.com; kpugh@princewilliamtoday.com; editor@observernow.com; hkras@bristowbeat.com; stacyshaw@bristowbeat.com; jshaw@bristowbeat.com
Subject: Falsities in Chmn Stewart’s Reply on Rez Development, Taxes, County’s Economy, etc; Stone Haven

Chairman Stewart, thanks for getting back to me but, regrettably, your answers below are not accurate.

  • Your first statement below about the real estate tax base (the residential-to-commercial ratio) is demonstrably false.    Per the county’s own records, in 2012 14% of real estate revenue came from commercial real estate taxes and almost all of the rest (82%) came from residential real estate taxes.  See the following hyperlink, pp. 24 and A9 (overall pp. 30 of 66 and 47 of 66, respectively) for details and historical statistics on the commercial-residential real estate tax ratio:    http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/finance/Documents/2012%20Annual%20Report.pdf    To better understand this topic generally, please click on the following link: County fostering low-wage service economy, tax-negative land development  Why does this matter?  Many Prince William County citizens, including Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth, believe that Prince William County is overly dependent on residential housing for tax revenues, which leads to unnecessarily high tax burdens for county citizens and a  limited, low-opportunity local economy with relatively few high-income jobs and few high-tax-revenue- producing businesses.
  • Below you state:  “Prince William County has been ranked #1 in Virginia, #3 in the country in job growth and our median incomes continue to increase dramatically.  Just this past year they rose by over $3,000 and we were listed as being the 7th wealthiest county in the United States.”  //  That’s all well and good, but very few of those high-paying jobs are located in Prince William County; a very large percentage of them have something to do, directly or indirectly, with the area’s #1 industry, the federal government and federal contracting, lobbying, etc.  You seem to be taking credit for the federal government’s presence in the region, which of course is patently absurd.  On the other hand, you seem reluctant to take credit for aggressive, high-density residential land development which is, in fact, fostering a low-wage service economy and tax-negative land development here.  That in turn ensures that for a very long time to come, PW residents will live in a commercially underdeveloped area and have to commute long distances to other communities that are more commercially developed and have almost all the high-paying jobs.
  • I’ve lived in the same middle-class neighborhood in Braemar since well before you became Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors in 2007.  Unfortunately, my real estate taxes have gone up 9.5% since 2007.   So whose real estate taxes have you cut, exactly?  I’m still looking for that refund check in the mail.
  • Below you state:  “There is currently only a 2.5-month housing supply in the county as our community continues to rapidly rise out of the great recession. Although we are seeing an uptick in the number of applications to build new retail, office, and residential projects, it is nowhere close to where it was in the early 2000’s.”  // While I have no idea what that statement means, I do know that there is a very large backlog in the county of approved, but not-yet-built homes, not to mention foreclosed and vacant homes.  As recently as about 18 months ago, even avidly pro-residential developer Supervisor Covington acknowledged that there were 30,000 approved-but-not-yet-built houses in the county.  Are you suggesting that in the last 18 months, the 30,000 home backlog has been cleared and thus, at the county’s average rate of 3 per house, PW County’s population has increased by 90,000?   As you must know, that has not happened, thankfully.
  • It’s good that the county has built more roads and schools.  The traffic situation in western PW County has definitely improved since the intolerable conditions that existed before late-2006.  However, the school situation continues to be marked by serious overcrowding, which is an obvious impediment to teaching and the effectiveness of our schools.   If the new Stone Haven development between Devlin and Linton Hall roads is built, won’t that return the whole area to the intolerable traffic congestion that existed before late-2006 and worsen the already serious school overcrowding?   Have you mentioned to anyone that the high school that is being promised by you and Stone Haven’s developers will, in fact, be empty land, and cost taxpayers over $100M?  Have you mentioned to anyone that if you weren’t pushing development of so many new homes in the area, existing schools wouldn’t be so overcrowded and we wouldn’t need another high school right now?  Have you mentioned to anyone that after Stone Haven is built we’ll need another high school in addition to the one already promised?  For more info on Stone Haven, click on the following hyperlink:  Stonehaven_Brentswood2
  • Also, if Stone Haven really is to contain as few as 600-1600 new housing units, why so much hoopla, effort, and study?  In fact, do you need a rezoning at all, or is there already zoning for about that many houses in the immediate or surrounding areas?  Or do you and the developers, in reality, plan to make this development many times larger than that — once “developers create a detailed plan”.  Perhaps closer to the size of the original Brentswood plan — 6,800 homes — which you fiercely opposed in 2006.  See: Stonehaven_Brentswood2
  • Building unneeded homes just because developers want them cannibalizes older neighborhoods and their property values and prematurely ages them, leads to indirect taxpayer subsidies of these unneeded and harmful new developments, and most importantly of all causes severe school overcrowding and traffic congestion.  Taxpayers, not developers, pay for the police, fire, water, sewer, roads, schools, and other government infrastructure and services that must support such new developments.  Since you frequently claim to be fiscally conservative, why do you continually support unneeded and harmful taxpayer-subsidized housing, while ensuring that developer proffers to PW county are among the lowest in Northern Virginia?  See:  Proffers (2007-12)
  • You’ve failed to seriously address any of my questions below about your 180-degree reversal of position on the still-harmful effects of high-density, tax revenue-negative housing on school overcrowding, traffic congestion, local taxes, the environment, etc.  Therefore, I’m assuming that you have no response.

And now that the fallacies and falsities of all the arguments and supporting data in your note below are known, are you willing to once again return to supporting balanced growth policies, as you did before you became chairman?   If not, since there’s no real policy reason for you to continue to support pro-developer, rapid residential development growth policies, what reason could possibly remain for you to do so other than your own political ambition for statewide office and need for developer money to fund it?  Click on the following for more info on your [Chairman Stewart’s] conflicts of interest.

Let me know if you’d like to change or add anything to your response below.  Ralph

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Questions for Chairman Stewart
Date: Thu, 04 Apr 2013 14:21:33 -0400
From: Stewart, Corey A. <cstewart@pwcgov.org>
To: Ralph Stephenson [e-mail address withheld]

Ralph,

The county has changed dramatically since I first ran for Chairman in 2006.

Seven years ago the commercial tax base in Prince William County was 16% of the county’s tax base, during the last seven years that percentage has jumped to 22%. This large increase in the commercial tax base has gone a long way in helping to lessen the tax burden on county home owners. Since I have been Chairman we have been able to cut taxes in the county by 8.5%.

There is currently only a 2.5 month housing supply in the county as our community continues to rapidly rise out of the great recession. Although we are seeing an uptick in the number of applications to build new retail, office, and residential projects, it is nowhere close to where it was in the early 2000’s.

Since I began serving as Chairman, the county has been able to catch up with the uncontrolled growth of the 90’s and early 2000’s by investing half a billion dollars in local road projects and building 12 new schools. At the same the Trails and Blueway’s Council was commissioned by the Board and many parks and playing fields were improved, lit and opened.

Recently, Prince William County has been ranked #1 in Virginia, #3 in the country in job growth and our median incomes continue to increase dramatically.  Just this past year they rose by over $3,000 and we were listed as being the 7th wealthiest county in the United States.

I am proud to have the support of the business community and have worked diligently with them and county staff to eliminate unnecessary government red tape that cut in half the time it takes to start or expand a business in Prince William County.

–Corey

Corey A. Stewart
Chairman
Prince William Board of County Supervisors
1 County Complex Court
Prince William, VA 22192
(703) 792-4640
cstewart@pwcgov.org
www.pwcgov.org

 

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Questions for Chmn Stewart About Stone Haven, Residential Development
Date: Sat, 23 Mar 2013 08:49:41 -0400
From: Ralph Stephenson [e-mail address withheld]
To: Stewart, Corey <cstewart@pwcgov.org>
CC: BOCS, Prince William County <BOCS@pwcgov.org>, GT_Dan Roem <droem@timespapers.com>, GT_Tara Slate Donaldson <tdonaldson@timespapers.com>,bordenj@washpost.com, kpugh@princewilliamtoday.com, editor@observernow.com, hkras@bristowbeat.com, stacyshaw@bristowbeat.com, jshaw@bristowbeat.com

Chairman Stewart:

I have the following questions for you and would appreciate a response as soon as possible.

  • In a Washington Post article dated 20 August 2006 regarding Brentswood , you are reported to have said the following:  Stewart told delegates that the county must rein in high-density developments, which do not bring in enough tax revenue to cover the county services used by their residents. “When we approve large developments, we are essentially approving a tax increase,” he said.

Why are you now in favor of a large high-density development like Stone Haven which, in your words above would be “essentially approving a tax increase” to pay for housing that the county doesn’t even need (Stone Haven) — particularly considering that even Mr. Covington has recently acknowledged that there are already ~30,000 houses that have been approved by the county but not yet built?

 

  • In a Potomac News article dated 28 September 2006 and titled  “Pandak, Stewart Battle at Forum” you are reported to have said the following:   Stewart, the Republican candidate who represents the Occoquan district on the board, said the reason he wants to be chairman is to “Try and do something to slow down residential growth to improve our transit systems, our transportation systems, reduce our commute times.”  Stewart’s answer is to get more money from developers to pay for open space, transportation, schools and police. “We are over-planned, we have somewhere between 30 and 40 thousand units already in the pipeline ready to go,” the 38-year-old Stewart said of coming development in the county. Developers build the houses that need services and developers should pay proffers to offset the adverse effects their development has on the community. He has called on the board to raise the proffers developers pay by $9,000 per house. “If developers do not pay for development, you do,”‘ said Stewart, who was elected to the board in 2003.
  • In a Manassas Journal Messenger article dated 31 August 2007 and titled:  “Stewart Seeks To Raise Residential Proffers,”  you are reported to have said the following:  “We’re trying to encourage more office, high-end retail and other commercial development. We don’t want to discourage it,” Stewart said. “What’s really taking a toll on our infrastructure is residential development.”

Why are you now in favor of residential development like Stone Haven despite, in your words above,”the adverse effects their development has on the community”?  And since developers still do not pay for development costs (your efforts described above to get more money from developers failed), why have you changed your mind and now become willing to foist upon taxpayers those costs, which include school overcrowding, traffic congestion, higher taxes (for new schools, roads, etc), and reduced property values in older neighborhoods?

 

  • In a Washington Business Journal article dated 17 Mar 2008) you are reported to have said the following:  “The way I look at it, we have an oversupply of housing right now,” said Corey Stewart, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “We need to develop more office space and high-end retail. That being said, we do need to encourage more mixed-use developments with walkable communities.” …  Prince William leans too heavily on home­owners’ tax dollars, Stewart said. Only 14 percent of the county’s tax base is derived from commercial properties.  For comparison, Loudoun County receives about 20 percent of its taxes from commercial properties, and Arlington County gets about 45 from commercial uses.

Considering the ~30,000 unit backlog of already-approved-but-not-yet-built houses plus vacant and foreclosed homes, and considering that the roughly 85:15 residential to commercial tax revenue problem in PW County continues, why do you want to make the problem worse by building Stone Haven?

  • The following YouTube video from Aug-Sep 2007, describes in your own words how you apparently began to lose interest in controlling growth and the housing boom, in favor of a new hot-button, attention-getting issue:  “My issue up until the immigration issue came up was controlling growth, trying to preserve more trees and open space, and socking it to the development community. . . The housing boom has not helped the average person.  It’s hurt the average person. . .  In July Supervisor John Stirrup introduced this resolution against illegal immigration in the County.  I didn’t know about it . . . I supported [it] … and it took on a life of its own.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0f8XDSKrNzs

It appears that there may be a connection between your apparent loss of interest in balanced, managed residential growth and the fact that you’ve set your sights on higher political office (you’re in the midst of your second campaign for VA lieutenant governor) and now need a lot of housing developer money to run for statewide office.  How would you respond to people who see a connection between your declared ambitions for statewide office and your recent embrace of large, unnecessary residential developer projects like Avendale and Stone Haven?
I will publish your response, or failure to respond to these questions within two weeks at http://pwcbg.org and further publicize the info beyond that as appropriate.  Thank you.

Ralph Stephenson

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