GUEST COLUMN BY: Ralph Stephenson, co-founder of Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG)
Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart and Supervisors Wally Covington and Marty Nohe are trying yet again to slip past local citizens a huge housing development behind Jiffy Lube Live. This time the development is called “Stone Haven” and will put at least 1650 homes (at least 5000 people, assuming the county average of 3 per home) on just under 1.5 square miles in what is already one of the most congested areas in the state. This, in spite of the fact that, at last count, the county already has about 30,000 approved-but-not-yet-built homes.
Six years ago another, even larger development in that location called “Brentswood” was defeated by local citizens tired of extremely overcrowded schools, extremely congested roads, and unneeded, taxpayer-subsidized housing developments that benefit only developers. Current Chairman Stewart was strongly opposed to the development then and became Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors largely on the strength of his opposition to it. (For more info on Brentswood and Stone Haven, see http://pwcbg.org/SupervisorPositions.html#Brentswood)
But as the saying goes, “power corrupts” and since then Chairman Stewart has become overtly ambitious, seeking not just county-wide office, but statewide office as well. And as anyone even somewhat familiar with Virginia politics knows, it is very difficult to achieve high office in Virginia without big money from residential developers. So Chairman Stewart has gone over to the other side, relentlessly championing residential developer causes in recent years, despite knowing all the things above, including his open acknowledgement in the following video that the county’s housing boom has “hurt the average person”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0f8XDSKrNzs
Supervisor Covington’s identification with developer interests is so strong that he effectively sees those interests as his own, regardless of how they “hurt the average person.” Reportedly, he’ll be leaving office soon, but for years he’s been trying to put thousands of houses on the land behind Jiffy Lube Live; “Stone Haven” will allow him to finally achieve this goal.
Supervisor Nohe makes no secret of the fact that he represents residential developer interests and, in fact, receives much of his funding from big Fairfax County developers. (For more info, see: http://pwcbg.org/PughChallengesNohe.html) He has repeatedly campaigned for Stone Haven on Supervisor Covington’s behalf, including in Supervisor Covington’s district (the district to which many of you belong as well): Brentsville.
(For more info on these three supervisors’ conflicts of interest on land use, see http://pwcbg.org/SupervisorPositions.html, right side, top of page.)
Note that 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. (See this link for more info: http://pwcbg.org/Proffers2014_RSSpeech_PWC100.html) Stone Haven will be no different; in fact it may be even worse as at least half of its homes will be townhouses. Guess who’ll pay the difference? Answer: you, the taxpayer. How does it make you feel to know that you have to pay higher taxes so that certain members of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors can ingratiate themselves with and receive big campaign contributions from residential developers? And not only do you pay higher taxes, but what you receive in return is overcrowded schools and roads, less green space, and sometimes even lower property values.
The County Planning Commission, which advises the Board of County Supervisors [BOCS], will take up the Stone Haven proposal Wednesday, 3 September 2014 at 7 pm, two days after Labor Day, and the day after school starts. The BOCS often schedules meetings regarding controversial land use proposals at times (such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and at the beginning of the school year) when it hopes citizens will not be able to attend. No notification is being given to citizens by the county on this hearing other than small, impossible-to-read-as-you-drive-by signs on Devlin announcing the hearing. But I hope that you will make your voice heard anyway. The next step after the County Planning Commission hearing, if the BOCS follows normal procedures allowing public input, will be a hearing before the BOCS, at which time the BOCS will vote whether to approve Stone Haven.
Here’s what you can do to stop Stone Haven. (Remember that citizen opposition is what defeated its predecessor, Brentswood, 8 years ago). Attend the 3 Sep, Wednesday meeting at 7 pm at the McCoart County Building located at 5 County Complex Court, Prince William, Virginia. Arrive early and sign up to speak briefly against it. You’ll be allowed to speak for 1-3 minutes, so plan a very brief speech that states why you’re opposed. Feel free to use the info I’ve provided above, if you like. If you let us know you’re coming, we’ll sign up early for you. Whether you can attend and speak against Stone Haven or not, please also send a brief e-mail to the BOCS and county Planning Commission. (See addresses following.) Again, feel free to use the info I’ve provided above; you can even just forward this to the Planning Commission and BOCs and say you concur with it, if you like.
Thank you for your interest in local affairs, which affects all of us, whether we wish it or not. It’s time to ensure that our county government serves the interests of its citizens and not the other way around. Remember that “only in the bright light of public scrutiny can the common good be secured, while in darkness and obscurity the interests of the powerful and affluent prevail.”
Ralph Stephenson, co-founder of Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth (PWCBG)
Board of Supervisors: