Citizens for Balanced Growth

Tag: Board Votes on Balanced Growth Issues

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

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Text Excerpts
——– Forwarded Message ——– Subject: 8 Dec Stone Haven: Marching to 4,000 More Houses, Ever-Increasing Taxes, Ever-Worsening Services? Date: Sat, 21 Nov 2015 12:04:24 -0500 From: Stephenson, Ralph & Kathy <stephenrk1@verizon.net> To: Stephenson, Ralph & Kathy <stephenrk1@verizon.net> [+ BCC addressees] CC: Stewart, Corey <cstewart@pwcgov.org>, Caddigan, Maureen <mcaddigan@pwcgov.org>, Candland, Peter <gainesville@pwcgov.org>, Jenkins, John <jjenkins@pwcgov.org>, May, Mike <mcmay@pwcgov.org>, Nohe, Marty <mnohe@pwcgov.org>, Principi, Frank <fprincipi@pwcgov.org>, Lawson, Jeanine <jlawson@pwcgov.org>, Ruth4Supervisor@gmail.com <Ruth4Supervisor@gmail.com>, Ruth Anderson <rmva@comcast.net> Had Enough Yet? PW Roads Now (already VA’s most crowded; 70-mile roundtrip commute to Fairfax Co. = 3-4 hrs/day) Future PW Roads (After Corey Stewart, developers, and their allies build over 4,000 more houses in Linton Hall corridor) 1 2 3 4 PW Schools Now (already VA’s most crowded) Future PW Schools 5 6 Property taxes 2007 Property taxes 2015 (up 26.5%) Our home in Braemar along Linton Hall Rd. was valued @ $120K more in 2007 than it is now in 2015, yet our real estate taxes were only $3,669 in 2007. Nov 2007 Corey Stewart-R elected Chairman of PW Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) on the strength of promises to be fiscally conservative, reduce taxes, and control residential growth, noting that “when we approve large developments, we are essentially approving a tax increase.” See: http://pwcbg.org/Stewart_ProposedTaxIncreases_PoliticalWhiplash.html Stewart begins to seek statewide political office, becomes strongly pro-residential development, and consequently raises over $1M from developers 2008-present. See: http://www.vpap.org/candidates/61061/donors_sector_totals/ Ralph & Kathy Stephenson Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth http://pwcbg.org In 2015, our real estate taxes are $4,642, up 26.5% despite low inflation since 2007. The quality of county services continues to decline (increasingly overcrowded schools, roads, etc) while taxes go up. Why? Because large residential developments are almost always tax-negative. Incompetence and misuse of funds is the only other logical explanation for dysfunctional county services despite large tax increases. In either case, Chairman Stewart is ultimately responsible. Stone Haven Returns 8 Dec, Just as Bad as Before County public notice signs — the little white signs that are too small to read as you drive by — went up around the Stone Haven property 20 November afternoon. The signs announce that the Stone Haven vote by the Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) will be held 8 December 7:30 pm at the county’s McCoart Building in mid-county off the Prince William Parkway @ 1 County Complex Ct, Woodbridge, VA As you all may recall, on 13 January 2015 a final vote on the big Stone Haven residential development project just south of Jiffy Lube Live was “deferred to date uncertain” as at least 4 of 8 supervisors (Maureen Caddigan, Mike May, Peter Candland, and Jeanine Lawson) expressed their intent to vote against the project, with Frank Principi a possible swing vote against as well. (5 of 8 BOCS votes are needed to approve a proposal.) Deferring the vote was Prince William Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) Chairman Corey Stewart’s way of avoiding imminent defeat and buying some time so he and his developer allies could twist one or two more supervisors’ arms enough to get them to vote in favor of Stone Haven after the 3 Nov 2015 elections. PWCBG remains opposed to Stone Haven; nothing of significance has changed in the “new” proposal. The changes that we know of are merely cosmetic: holding back 150 acres (4 homes per acre) from this 1,000-house proposal that could and will be submitted later as a second proposal that will bring the total number of houses — 1,600 — right back up to virtually the same level as in 2014. (Click here for more info on Stone Haven: http://pwcbg.org/Stonehaven_Brentswood2.html ) Watch the Dominoes Fall — At Least 4,000 More Houses Even worse, if Stone Haven succeeds, Prince William (PW) Station, whose owners are closely watching the Stone Haven fight, is next and will likely bring another 2,000 houses. (PW Station is just north of Stone Haven.) Pioneer Assemblage to the south would add another ~450 houses. So watch the dominoes fall if Stone Haven wins. This is really not only about 1,000 or 1,600 houses on the Stone Haven property. It’s about 4,000 more houses within a couple miles of each other, tax negative, putting about 8,000 more cars on I-66 and other local roads, and probably 2,000-4,000 more schoolchildren in local schools (figure 0.5-1 school child per average 3-person household), where PW already has the worst traffic and the most crowded classes (in terms of teacher: student ratio) in the state. BOCS’ Responsibility for the Current Mess + Corey Stewart, the Million-Dollar Man The Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) should change the entire county Comp Plan (they created it in the first place several years ago) to be more in line with current zoning — if they’re worried that it’s drifted too far away from zoning realities and thus their activities regarding it may be open to legal challenge. They should also slow down residential development overall to improve the roughly 85:15 residential: commercial tax ratio (note your ever-rising real estate property taxes), and stop dumping so much of the county’s residential development on the Linton Hall corridor. We’re sick of it and disgusted by some of the BOCS members’ corrupt and inexcusable behavior on this issue, the worst of all being Sellout-Chairman Corey Stewart, the county’s million-dollar man (over $1M in developer campaign contributions and counting.) Good News: Two More Victories for Citizens; You Can Make a Difference At the last BOCS meeting on 17 Nov, the BOCS announced that it has withdrawn the Blackburn residential development proposal from consideration. That would have put 415 more high-density residential units along Balls Ford Rd. The one potentially good thing about this proposal — the carrot of some commercial development being included to help improve the county’s tax situation — was phony because the commercial development was not “phased,” meaning it didn’t have to be built until after the residential housing was almost entirely completed, and thus the commercial would almost certainly have never been built. Also, Pioneer Assemblage, aka Strathmore, has reduced its housing request from the maximum allowed in this case, 800, to 465 which, though still high-density, is half as high-density as it would’ve been. The BOCS and developers are beginning to hear you. We particularly appreciate the sensitivity of BOCs members Maureen Caddigan (Dumfries), Mike May (and soon Ruth Anderson, Occoquan), Pete Candland (Gainesville), and Jeanine Lawson (Brentsville) to ordinary citizens’ concerns about residential development and bad land use policy, as well as the potential of a growing partnership with Frank Principi (Woodbridge). You can make a difference. Make sure the entire BOCS continues to hear your voice, loud and clear. What Can You Do To Help? If we can get to and finish it well before 8 Dec, we’ll send you an updated Stone Haven flier that continues to tell an ongoing Prince William County story: residential developers have no truly compelling public reasons for high-density housing projects. In fact, these unnecessary tax-negative residential developments overcrowd our roads and schools, corrupt our politics, and needlessly damage the environment. So the residential developers must rely on lies, hoping that those who are gullible, uninformed, and/or have a vested interest in residential development will be able to shout down everyone else. Here are links to the last flier we did on the lies being told to sell Stone Haven: http://pwcbg.org/StoneHavenFlier_BACK1.docx and http://pwcbg.org/StoneHavenFlier_FRONT1.docx .) It’s important for local citizens to hold their ground on Stone Haven and pressure their local representatives to do likewise. We’ll get from the county the kind of government we’ve worked for and earned through either our vigilance or neglect. If we don’t hold our ground, after this comes the deluge: 4,000 more homes, 8000 more cars added to the most crowded roads in the state, thousands more schoolchildren added to the most crowded schools in the state, higher taxes for everyone, and very possibly ultimately lower property values as PW County’s livability continues to decline. Specifically, what can you do to help? E-mail the BOCS at BOCS@pwcgov.org and tell them what you think. Feel free to use info from this message in contacting them and getting this info circulating on social media sites and elsewhere online. If you know of others who are willing, ask them to help as well. If you feel comfortable doing so, also please lobby in person any of the BOCS members that you can. Here’s their contact info: http://www.pwcgov.org/government/bocs/Pages/BOCS-Landing-Page.aspx And come to the 8 December 2015 vote by the BOCS on Stone Haven and sign up to speak against it. We promise you that the residential developers and their allies will be there in force, trying to drown out your voice. If you let us know, we’ll sign you up early to speak. BOCS members judge public opinion on a given issue on this: turnout at the public decision meeting, particularly those speaking for or against the given proposal, as well as ordinary citizens contacting them before the vote. Let us know if you have questions. We’ll be in touch. PWCBG Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG) stands for the following principles: http://pwcbg.org/WhyBalancedGrowthIsImportant.html PWCBG periodically sends out alerts warning citizens of major land use issues affecting them that will be coming before the Board of County Supervisors for decision. We do not use your e-mail for any purpose other than that, and we hide your e-mail address from other recipients (bcc:). If you do not wish to be contacted, please respond to this address (ralph@pwcbg.org) asking that your e-mail be removed. Remember that the kind of county government we get will be what we’ve worked for and earned through either our vigilance or neglect. It’s up to us to either take back our government, or stand idly by and watch while well-heeled residential developers and their political allies, including some BOCS members, continue to destroy our quality of life through harmful land use policies that negatively impact our roads, schools, taxes, property values, and quality of life. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead Ralph & Kathy Stephenson Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG) http://pwcbg.org

Prince William BOCS Approves Proffer Increases

by Stacy Shaw, Bristow Beat

18 June 2014

View the PDF version here

“The Prince William Board of County Supervisors unanimously agreed to increase county proffers Tuesday, and adopt the new monetary guidelines as set forth by the county planning department.

“Proffers are defined as monies the developers voluntarily provide to a jurisdiction in order to pay for services the new residents would use or require. The county last revised its proffer guidelines in 2006.

“Chairman Corey Stewart (R) commented this was one of the rare occasions when the supervisors have voted in unison. The proffers, which have not been updated in eight years, were lagging behind neighboring jurisdictions.

“This new plan would increase county proffers on single-family homes by 19 percent, townhome proffers by 35 percent and multi-family units by approximately 37 percent. After July, single-family proffers will amount to $44,930; townhouse proffers will be $39,837; and multi-family proffers will be $26,778. This number puts Prince William on par with western Loudoun County and Stafford County as their proffers range from $27 to 45.5K.

“According to Prince William Education Association President Jim Livingston, who spoke during Citizens’ Time, low proffers have inhibited the school district from directing more money towards the education of students, since so much of it has needed to be funneled into the construction of new schools.

” ‘There is a reason Prince William County Schools pay less per student than any other school division in Northern Virginia and that reason is we receive less per student than other school division in Northern Virginia,’ Livingston said.

“Specifically, Livingston said Prince William ‘would get an additional $125 million dollars if we charged what Loudoun County charged (in proffers). That money could be put to very good use.’

“However, Coles District Supervisor Marty Nohe (R) explained that while some media outlets are reporting what the schools have received in proffers, those numbers overlook the land, roads and parks that have been proffers to the county directly though not accounted for monetarily. He told Price that perhaps they should figure out a method for incorporating those costs in their records.

ProfferNumbers

New PWCounty proffers; Provided by PWCounty

“Price said they could, but they would have to figure when to assign the monetary value to the land. He added that sometimes land is worth more than its market value, because its location is so useful to the county in the building of a school or fire station.

“While supervisors were willing to vote on the motion without much prior discussion, there were varying opinions raised about the proffer increases during Citizens’ Time.

“One resident questioned Planning Director Chris Price’s formula for deriving the new proffers. Rather than estimated costs for new schools, he suggested the county look at most recent costs and then average for market inflation. By this method, he calculated, proffers would decrease by $3,000, which he believes is a more accurate representation of the service needs required by proffers.

” ‘The projects should not exceed actual capital costs,’ the speaker argued.

“However, Price said his method is more prudent. Relying on past year’s costs could prove unreliable for schools, because it does not take into consideration additions and renovations. Likewise, for construction projects, such as libraries, looking at the last year in which one was build would be not accurately help to predict future costs, since they are built so infrequently, Price explained.

“The current proffers that were voted on include funds for schools, transportation, fire and rescue, parks and libraries. It did not include funds for police and safety or the adult detention center.

“Price said his staff would be willing to looking into that, but it would not be included in the current changes.

“Prince William County supervisors did receive information provided by the Northern Virginia Home Builders Association prior to their vote.
“Details of the proffer changes can be found on the Prince William County government website or by clicking here.
“Read a previous Bristow Beat article about Chris Price’s proffer proposal to the BOCS here.”

“Proposed Increase in County Proffer Fees Is Defeated 5-3”

by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

19 October 2007, p. 16

“The planned hike in building proffers on residential developments in the county was voted down October 16 by Prince William Board of County Supervisors [BOCS] meeting in McCoart Government Center off Prince William Parkway.  Proffers are monies or other items volunteered by developers to mitifate the impact of their projects on county roads, schools, libraries, parks and police and fire and rescue services.  [PWCBG note:  Although the BOCS meeting began at 2 pm on 16 October, it did not end until early the next morning, 17 October, shortly after the proffer vote.]

“The proposed proffer on single-family homes would have risen from $37,719 to $51,113.  Townhouse proffers would have been $43,262, up from $31,927, and multi-family construction would have been upped to $26,545 from $19,526.

“Voting to go ahead with the increases were Corey Stewart (R-at-large and board chairman); John Stirrup, (R-Gainesville); and Mike May, (R-Occoquan).  Against were Marty Nohe (R-Coles); Hilda Barg, (D-Woodbridge); John Jenkins, (D-Neabsco); Wally Covington, (R-Brentsville); and Maureen Caddigan, (R-Dumfries).

“Nohe said before the vote he wanted ‘to see what impact fees would look like’ before approving increased proffers.

“Impact fees let counties charge developers for roads.  The fees were approved by the General Assembly this year, and could be assessed on all residential developments after August 2008.

“Nohe explained that ‘some members of the General Assembly want to turn back impact fees.  They might go after the proffer authority instead.’  He added passing the proffer change ‘may send the message we’re not doing the right thing.’  He said he wants the impact fees, but does not want to lose proffers.

“Jenkins contended the proffer fees are really ‘hidden taxes.’  He said the higher fee on single-family homes would be pased on to homebuyers.

” ‘The $51,000 would come to $305 more per month on a mortgage.  In Stafford, the proffer for single-family is $38,151,’ Jenkins added.

“Caddigan said she was in favor of proffer increases, but that the timing was wrong.

“Stewart asserted that the proposed increases represent ‘the true costs to the county to support residential development.  If the developer doesn’t pay, the taxpayer and the county pay.’ ”


PW Pulse in a 25 October 2007 article by Keith Walker on p. A5 adds the following:

“County staff recommended that the proffers be increased.

“Planning director Steve Griffin said each year the county analyzes the impact that building will have on the cost of fire and rescue, police, roads and schools.

“He said he thought the increase was justified.

” ‘Based on the expensive buildings and land purchases, they needed to be adjusted to this amount,’ Griffin said.  ‘It was all about construction and the price of land that justified the higher amount.’ ”

 

“Supervisors Spar Over Televised Meetings – Decision Stumbles On Source of Funding”

by Timothy Dwyer, The Washington Post

18 January 2007, p. T1

“In what may have been a preview of coming attractions in this season of budget shortfalls, the Prince William Board of County Supervisors engaged in a spirited and sometimes contentious debate Tuesday before narrowly defeating a proposal by Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R) to televise meetings of the county Planning Commission.

“Every member of the board agreed that they would like to see meetings of the Planning Commission — and other county agencies — on Prince William’s government access station. But what stirred the debate was that this would cost $9,000 at a time when the board is facing an $18 million revenue shortfall for this fiscal year and is looking to cut about $22 million from next year’s operating budget.

“Stewart had proposed to pay for the new programming with $9,000 from his discretionary fund. Usually such expenditures are quickly approved by the board. But Democrats Hilda M. Barg (Woodbridge) and John D. Jenkins (Neabsco), along with Republican Maureen S. Caddigan (Dumfries) raised questions about who would pay for televising the meetings in subsequent years and suggested that the cost would eventually become part of the operating budget.

“‘We are down $18 million in revenues, and we need to be cutting,’ said Caddigan. ‘We don’t need to do it. If we approve it, it will obligate future boards. Right now, our employees are worried about whether they are going to get a raise, and they are worried that they are going to have a job.’

“Stewart said he would pledge to fund the cost of televising the Planning Commission hearings by using his discretionary funds as long as he was a member of the board. ‘This is not a budget issue,’ Stewart said. ‘This is a principle of open government.’  He said that if the members of the board didn’t agree that he could use his discretionary funds to pay for televising the hearings, then maybe the board should review the concept of discretionary funds.

“Supervisor John T. Stirrup Jr. (R-Gainesville) at one point praised the ‘fiscal conservatism’ of the Democrats on the board and said he looked forward to working with them in the coming months.

“Jenkins retorted: ‘You haven’t seen anything yet.’

“Jenkins, who has been a member of the board for 25 years, said he went through one other budget crisis during his tenure that ‘devastated’ the county. ‘What this does is add $9,000 to the operating budget when we are looking at maybe adding a few police officers and firefighters. This is, at least, a third of a [full-time] position. I, for one, have reservations about adding things to the budget.’

“Stewart said that during his campaign last fall in the special election for the chairman’s job, he heard from voters that their No. 1 concern was land use and finding a way to slow down residential development. He said televising the Planning Commission hearings would be a way to keep residents informed on development issues without their having to attend the meetings.

“Supervisor Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles) — who was elected vice chairman of the board — said that he favored televising the hearings, but that he was concerned about ‘how it was brought up.’ He said the board had to find a way to make the televised hearings permanent because once the programming began, it would be difficult to pull the plug. ‘If we are going to do this, we need to do it on an ongoing basis. We need to figure out a way to get the thing as a budget item. I think we should take a look at the funding mechanism.’

“Jenkins, Caddigan, Barg and Nohe voted against the funding. Stewart, Stirrup and Supervisor W. S. Covington III (R-Brentsville) voted for it.

“The tenor of the debate on how or whether to fund the new television programming carried over to other items on the supervisors’ discretionary fund agenda. When Stewart got to a proposal by Caddigan to donate $200 from her discretionary funds to Project Mend-A-House, he said he believed that Jenkins would be opposed to it, too, for fiscal reasons.

“‘Nobody speaks for John Jenkins except John Jenkins,’ Jenkins said in a booming voice. He said he would support it because the program performs services that save the county’s Department of Social Services money.

“When the vote was taken — with Stewart and Stirrup voting against Caddigan’s proposal — Caddigan said in a stage whisper that could be heard throughout the chambers: ‘We’re back in high school.'”

“Supervisors unanimously support freeze on rezonings in 2007”

by Timothy Dwyer, The Washington Post

6 December 2006, page B1

“Prince William County supervisors, in an effort to spur Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and the General Assembly to take action to ease gridlock, unanimously approved a radical plan yesterday that halts construction of residential development for a year in the state’s second-largest county.

“The board, made up of five Republicans and two Democrats, voted for the proposal from Supervisor W. S. Covington III (R-Brentsville) to freeze any approval of rezoning requests for new houses in the coming year. More than 15 people spoke against the proposal, and one person spoke in favor of it.

” ‘This vote signifies that Prince William County, to the maximum extent possible under Virginia law, will manage the pace of growth in order to ensure that the demands of growth do not outpace the capacity to provide the necessary services and infrastructure,’ Covington said. All board members will be up for reelection next year.

“It was unclear last night whether there would be a legal challenge to the freeze. Covington said that the board can take up to 12 months to approve new housing that requires its permission to be rezoned. The new measure states that the supervisors will take the full 12 months before considering any new rezoning plans.

“Opposition came from the building industry, the business community, residents and politicians. Some warned that the freeze would hurt the county’s economy; others opposed it because they said it would not slow growth enough.

” ‘I think I am going to be forced to support the legislation,’ Supervisor Hilda M. Barg (D-Woodbridge) said before the vote. After the vote, she said:  ‘It doesn’t do anything. This is a nothing.’

“The freeze on approving residential development will take effect Jan. 1 and expire Dec. 31. Covington called his plan ‘proactive’ and said that he hoped it would motivate the governor and the legislature to work to relieve the chokehold that traffic congestion has on Northern Virginia residents. ‘We just don’t get our fair share from Richmond,’ he said.

“County planners said last week that it was not clear how many residential units would actually be put on hold. Steve Griffin, director of the county’s planning board, said that 26,400 housing units have been approved but not built. He said some of the approvals date back to the 1950s and 1960s.

“When the supervisors opened their meeting to the public for comments, a long line quickly formed, snaking its way from the front to the rear of the chamber.

“Donna Snellings, chairwoman of the board of the Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce, warned the supervisors that the proposal would tarnish the reputation of the county in the business community.

” ‘We have heard concern expressed from those who work to attract new business to Prince William that the moratorium is a sudden departure from the well-thought-out planning with public input and good management for which Prince William is known,’ Snellings said.

“Covington proposed the freeze last month at the first meeting presided over by the board’s new chairman, Corey A. Stewart (R-Occoquan), who won a special election last month after campaigning on a platform to slow growth in the county. Stewart will serve as chairman for a year and will have to run again next fall to keep his job.

” ‘This has been a big issue for me,’ Stewart said before the vote. ‘This is not a cure-all, and this is not a long-term solution.’

“Victor D. Bras, chairman of the Prince William County Democratic Committee, called the board’s action ’empty grandstanding’ and charged that it was motivated more by next year’s election than by a desire to spark action on transportation issues.

” ‘Covington and his colleagues should not hide behind the fig leaf of a resolution that stacks up rezoning applications like cordwood until after next year’s election,’ Bras said.

“The two Democrats on the board, Barg and Supervisor John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco), voted for the freeze.

“Supervisor Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles) said the proposal didn’t go far enough. ‘It doesn’t do exactly what I wanted it to do,’ Nohe said. ‘But the way it was originally written was not going to be legally enforceable. While it doesn’t do everything I hope it would do in slowing down growth, it does do something. It’s a start.’

“Tammy Cesario of Gainesville, who said she owned a small construction business, warned the board that its action would simply send developers to surrounding counties and hurt small businesses such as hers.

” ‘By implementing this, you will be shutting Prince William County down,’ she told the board before the vote. ‘Have you considered all the small businesses you will be putting out of business? This will be your legacy. You will be known as the board that, with a flick of a pen, killed the county.’ “

“Brentsville, Woodbridge Developments to Proceed”

by Nikita Stewart, The Washington Post

17 March 2005, p. T1

“The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted Tuesday to allow plans for two major developments on both ends of the county to go forward, despite county planners’ advice to reject them.

“The votes simply allow the county’s Office of Planning and Zoning to continue reviewing the proposals, which could alter Prince William’s long-range Comprehensive Plan. The board could still reject the projects.

“The projects include more than 6,000 houses in Brentsville, dubbed the Brentswood Community, and a high-end retail mall and luxury apartments in Woodbridge, proposed by the owners of outlet mecca Potomac Mills Mall. In addition, the board approved two other residential projects in Brentsville and a third in Coles.

“Voting 4 to 4, the board rejected a plan to build 365 houses in Brentsville despite the developer’s offer to realign Vint Hill Road, a project that the county might have to take on. Supervisors Maureen S. Caddigan (R-Dumfries), Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles), Corey A. Stewart (R-Occoquan) and John T. Stirrup Jr. (R-Gainesville) rejected the project.

“The board never even considered a property owner’s request to build 10 houses on 15 acres in the Rural Crescent, although county planners urged supervisors to approve the application because the property is surrounded by dense development.

“Stirrup, who represents the area, refused to sponsor the measure, and no other supervisor took up the request. Stirrup said he had to protect the Rural Crescent, the 80,000-acre swath that is supposed to preserve open space through sparse development and no sewer lines.

“He said a friend calls the rural area the ‘rural croissant — it’s just being eaten away bit by bit.’

“The afternoon meeting, usually attended by just a few county employees, drew defenders of the Rural Crescent and residents who support development. They duked it out on the microphone with three-minute speeches to supervisors.

“Elena Schlossberg-Kunkel of Advocates for the Rural Crescent said that amendments to the Comprehensive Plan threaten the rural area’s boundary, and that the board has not had enough public discussion about the amendments.

” ‘There either is a Rural Crescent line or there isn’t,’ Schlossberg-Kunkel said.  ‘Let’s be upfront about it.’

“Dick Schneider, 69, who lives in Heritage Hunt in Brentsville, said he favored the proposed Brentswood Community because it offers ‘an unparalleled opportunity’ to resolve the area’s transportation woes.

“Voting 5 to 3 for the Brentswood Community project in Brentsville, the board was swayed by developer Brookfield Homes’ promise to provide more than $100 million in road improvements before it completes the 20-year project. Brookfield Homes has said it would extend carpool lanes on Interstate 66 by nearly two miles, widen the interchange at I-66 and Route 29, and build an overpass that would get rid of a railroad grade crossing on Route 29 that ties up traffic and is often the scene of crashes.

“Nohe, who voted for the project, said smart growth advocates are continually saying that roads, schools and other infrastructure should come before development. ‘This developer is calling our bluff,’ he said.

“Stirrup, who said publicly last week that the project should be considered, said it was a ‘difficult decision’ but voted against it Tuesday because of the impact 6,000 houses could have.

“County planners predicted that the number of vehicle trips on roads in the area would triple.

“Stirrup was joined by Caddigan and Stewart. Stewart has opposed every project except the proposed Potomac Center, which could bring upscale shopping and 433 apartments just across from Potomac Mills.

“Supervisor Hilda M. Barg (D-Woodbridge) said she received numerous calls and e-mails of support for the Potomac Center project from residents who are tired of driving out of the county for ‘a decent outfit.’

“County planners had opposed the project because the Comprehensive Plan calls for the land to be used for office space.

“Barg said Mills Corp. of Arlington is in talks with Hecht’s to be one of the stores but could not reveal others that are part of negotiations.

“Caddigan said the board should define ‘high end.’  She noted that May Department Stores Co., which owns Hecht’s, is merging with Federated Department Stores Inc., the owner of Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Caddigan said one of Potomac Center’s anchor stores might be Macy’s.

” ‘I don’t really consider that upscale,’ she said.

“Barg said discussions will continue with Mills.”

“As Elections Near, Actions on Growth Scrutinized”

by Steven Ginsberg, The Washington Post

6 July 2003, p. T12

“Sometime after midnight Wednesday morning, Ron Robinson stepped to the podium in front of the Board of County Supervisors to comment on a proposed subdivision in the county’s western end. The Woodbridge resident, running as a Republican for a seat on the board, kept it short and simple: He told supervisors that the infrastructure needed for the 1,245-home development would raise taxes for all Prince William residents. He, like most of the other people who spoke, urged supervisors to deny the subdivision.

“A short time later they did, and the decisive vote was cast by supervisor Hilda M. Barg (D-Woodbridge), Robinson’s opponent in November. Barg, normally a consistently pro-development member of the board, said she voted against Greater South Market because it would take away a slice of the county’s rural preserve.

“She dismissed the notion that Robinson’s testimony had anything to do with her decision. ‘I couldn’t care about my opponent,’ she said. Barg said she would have voted against the project ‘whether I would have been up for election this year or next year.’

” ‘I think this was a good project, just one that needed to be scaled back,’ she continued. ‘We can’t start nibbling away at the Rural Crescent.’

“In the ongoing debate about growth, which is at the center of this year’s campaigns, the county’s 80,000-acre rural preserve has become a litmus test. Those who vote to protect the open space are viewed as smart-growth candidates, while those who vote to allow parts of it to be developed are said to be beholden to builders.

“Robinson and a handful of other candidates underscored that point, as they lined up in opposition along with the usual 100 or so citizens who oppose most developments. Their presence and their words made it clear that they planned to turn Greater South Market into a central issue in this fall’s campaigns.

“Barg ‘voted the right way, but she probably voted for it for the wrong reasons,’ said Robinson. ‘My position is she will not be able to run from her 16-year record because in the 12th hour she decided to vote the right way.’

“Generally, the board splits 5 to 3 in favor of development with Board Chairman Sean T. Connaughton (R-At Large), Maureen S. Caddigan (R-Dumfries) and Ruth T. Griggs (R-Occoquan) voting against most major proposals. They, along with many board challengers, argue that the flood of new homes that have been built in the county in recent years have caused property taxes to soar as county officials struggle to maintain services. Others say that upscale developments such as Greater South Market bring in more revenue than they cost and that they are needed to bolster Prince William’s coffers as well as the county’s identity.

“In addition to Barg, four other board members face reelection this year: Connaughton, Caddigan, John D. Jenkins (D-Neabsco) and Edgar S. Wilbourn III (I-Gainesville). Races for the three other seats are wide open because Griggs and Loring B. ‘Ben’ Thompson (R-Brentsville) are not seeking reelection and Mary K. Hill (R-Coles) was defeated in a party primary.

“Since the last election, the board has split over a series of development proposals, including Cherry Hill, a new development template for Gainesville and a proposal to allow golf course communities to be built in the Rural Crescent. The golf course proposal, alone, was defeated.

“None of those votes was as politically charged as Greater South Market. Supervisors said that was because it was generally agreed to be a spectacular development — it included the kind of top-dollar homes and amenities the county thirsts for — and because it was proposed four months before an election.

” ‘I think that all of them would have voted for it if nobody had shown up’ to protest, said Wilbourn, who blasted most of his fellow board members for giving in to ‘pure politics.’

“In particular, Wilbourn blamed Barg. ‘I think Hilda was extremely intimidated,’ he said. ‘I think she was swayed by her opponent coming in and speaking.’  Wilbourn, who almost always votes in favor of development, said if he had been politically motivated he would have voted against the project too. ‘Frankly, I did not look at it as a campaign issue,’ he said. ‘If I had, I would have taken a soft road and said, “Well, I’ll deny one.” ‘

“Wilbourn noted that no one opposed the project when it came before the Planning Commission, which approved it 7 to 1, and said the opposition to it was manufactured to create a political fury. ‘There was no opposition until one individual said, “I don’t want it in my back yard.” And all she had to do was e-mail activists standing in line to oppose these projects.’

” ‘There is no logic to the vote . . . other than the fact that the base of at least two supervisors is that group, and they always vote that way,’ said Wilbourn, singling out Caddigan and Connaughton.

“But Wilbourn said the development was too good to pass up. ‘Election year or not, if no other project passed this year in the county it should have been that one,’ he said.

“Connaughton agreed that politics played a major role in sinking the proposal and he advised voters to have a longer memory than a single vote. ‘People were raging to me about this being such a crucial vote,’ said Connaughton, who was undecided in the days leading up to the vote. ‘But you can’t judge a person’s record by one vote. People are going to have to take a look at [supervisors’] records over the years.’

“Griggs, the county’s most ardent anti-growth official, said the supervisors ‘love’ the Rural Crescent in election years. ‘The other three years we kill it, but in an election year we love it, love it.’ ”


Note:  For further information on the Greater South Market (GSM) vote by one of the advocacy groups involved in the controversy, click on this link to Advocates for the Rural Crescent (ARC): “Greater South Market victory: The vote on July 1 [2003] was 4-3 against the GSM project”

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