Rural Preservation Study – First Results of Public Survey

November 20, 2013 Leave a comment

ruralarea2There were 384 responses to the county’s survey on the Rural Area, and whether current policy to preserve that area for agriculture and low-density development should be altered.

Developers propose every year to bust open the zoning and allow more houses.  The Rural Preservation Study now being conducted by the Planning Department could be just a stalking horse to revise existing zoning.

After all, county staff used to refer to the Rural Area as “unzoned,” assuming future rezoning for sprawl was inevitable.

However, county residents have supported the Rural Area planning that has been in effect for the last 15 years.  The boundary line has been modified only once to permit a major development (Avendale).

Here is a clue about public support for keeping the Rural Area rural: in 2013, only 11 out of the 384 responses suggested the Rural Area should metamorphose into future subdivisions:

ruralarea

Bi-County Parkway Update on Section 106 Programmatic Agreement

November 20, 2013 Leave a comment

bi-countysprawlwayUPDATED (November 26): based on the minutes of the November 7 meeting of the 5 agencies signing the Programmatic Agreement, it appears VDOT has been pressured into providing more $$$ for land acquisition to mitigate impacts of Bi-County Parkway.  If you’re looking for mitigation of the excessive noise and traffic impacts on Manassas Battlefield Historic District… don’t hold your breath.

There’s movement on the Bi-County Parkway.  On November 7, some – but not all – of the potential signers of the Section 106 Programmatic Agreement met.

The standard VDOT response to public opposition is modeled on Muhammed Ali’s strategy in the ring, playing rope-a-dope and extending the decision process until the opposition is too tired to continue.   However, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the National Park Service (NPS) are anxious to get the Bi-County Parkway Programmatic Agreement signed before the current governor and his Secretary of Transportation leave office in January. Read more…

Categories: Transportation

How to Preserve the Rural Area (And Keep Property Taxes Low in Prince William County)

October 15, 2013 Leave a comment

by Charlie Grymes

56154814For 15 years, Prince William County has consciously steered most development to the Development Area. Within the Development Area, current planning/zoning will permit development of new houses for the 150,000 new residents expected to arrive by 2030. There is enough undeveloped land within the Development Area, already planned/zoned for new construction, to absorb 20 years of population growth.

Still, some developers are not satisfied. They see an opportunity to bend the rules to their advantage, creating short-term profits while imposing long-term costs on county taxpayers. A few developers want to buy land in the Rural Area, then get county supervisors to rezone the property to permit denser development.

Buying land by the acre and selling it by the square foot could generate a quick profit for a few people. However, scattershot development throughout the Rural Area would require taxpayers to build unplanned schools, fire/police stations, and other public facilities, increasing property taxes forever.

Low-tax advocates want to maintain the logical, planned development in the county, with development steered to the Development Area. Conservationists want to protect open space and streams in the Rural Area, providing wildlife habitat and helping Prince William meet its obligations to send clean water downstream to the Chesapeake Bay. Farmers interested in for-profit agriculture want to preserve opportunities in the Rural Area to lease/acquire enough land to make a farm operation economically viable. Read more…

Categories: Land Use, Rural Crescent

Why Do We Have a Rural Crescent?

October 15, 2013 Leave a comment

by Charlie Grymes

23587759_150In 1998, Supervisors revised the 1990 Comprehensive Plan to encourage high-density development on major chunks of land along Linton Hall and Route 15. More than 60% of the private land in the county was designated as the Development Area. In the last 15 years, Braemar, Kingsbrooke, Dominion Valley, Heritage Hunt, and other subdivisions have been completed in this expanded Development Area.

Expansion of the Development Area was intended to stimulate development of high-value “executive” homes. Tax revenues from low-cost townhomes, the dominant way population growth was accommodated in the 1980’s-1990’s, were too low. New residents had moved into those townhomes, crowding schools, congesting roads, and overwhelming the capability of first responders to provide basic public safety services.

By 1998, local elected officials were tired of increasing taxes to fund expansion of public services in Prince William. Voting for an increase in the property tax does not increase the popularity or re-election potential of county supervisors. Read more…

Categories: Land Use, Rural Crescent

Good Natured Book Group Update

October 14, 2013 Leave a comment

The Forest Unseenby Harry Glasgow

Prince William Conservation Alliance Book Club had its initial outing on Sunday, October 6 at the Alliance office in Tacket’s Mill.  A small number of readers reviewed Richard Preston’s New York times bestseller The Wild Trees, a thoughtful story of several people brought together in their discovery and awe of Coast Redwood trees. These giants can have trunks that are 30 feet wide, and rise more than 35 stories into the sky.

Preston deftly describes, “… their mysterious canopies, rich with hanging gardens, blackened chambers hollowed by fire, and vast, aerial trunk systems fused into bridges and towers”.  Overlaying these eloquent descriptions are the stories of Steve Sillet, Marie Antoine and the botanists who discover a lost world above California.  A highly recommended book

Our next meeting will December 6, 3:00pm at PWCA’s office in Tackett’s Mill. We will review The Forest Unseen by David George Haskell.

Haskell, who recently spoke at the Arlington Public Library about this book and his discoveries, writes of a yearlong study of a square meter of land in an old growth mountain forest in East Tennessee.  It is a series of short chapters describing all that he saw there.  The book can be obtained through the Conservation Alliance Amazon portal on our website.

Please join us and share your thoughts on this beautiful book.  Save the date and, in the meantime, get The Forest Unseen and become entranced.

Categories: Uncategorized

From the Inside: A Stakeholder’s Experience With the Rural Preservation Study

August 22, 2013 Leave a comment

by Charlie Grymes

Nokesville farmI was invited to participate as a “stakeholder,” at the start of the formal process for developing the Rural Preservation Study.  I was one of 33 stakeholders, from 18 organizations.  I participated on August 2, 2013, one day after the public kickoff meeting for the Rural Preservation Study at Nokesville Elementary School.

I was invited to be a stakeholder because I serve as the chair of the Prince William Conservation Alliance. PWCA is the only environmental organization in Prince William with full-time staff.  For over a decade, the alliance has been a clear voice in the local land use planning process. We speak out regularly about the benefits of smart growth, and how “busting” the Rural Area to permit greater development will inevitably result in higher taxes county-wide.

If you just fell off the back of a turnip truck, you might think the Rural Preservation Study is designed to initiate more protection of open space, to avoid future traffic congestion by steering new housing to be located closer to jobs north/east of Prince William, and to limit increases in the property taxes and sewer/water rates by ensuring future public infrastructure (especially schools/roads) is built in the Development Area.

Yeah, pass me a turnip, please… Read more…

Categories: Land Use

What to Ask VDOT on January 8, 2013 at Next North-South Corridor open house

January 6, 2013 3 comments

question On January 8, VDOT has scheduled an open house to discuss the North South Corridor at the Four Points Sheraton next to the Manassas battlefield (10800 Vandor Lane, Manassas), 6:30-8:30pm.

Here are some questions to ask at the meeting:
- since funding for new construction is tight, what is the return-on-investment (ROI) of the different projects proposed for Northern Virginia?
- what is the relative cost-effectiveness of the proposed road segments to be built in the North-South Corridor, in particular the Tri-County Parkway segment, compared to other projects that might reduce congestion in Northern Virginia?
- how is cost-effectiveness measured by VDOT and the Commonwealth Transportation Board, when prioritizing proposed projects such as enhancing I-66 vs. building Tri-County Parkway?
- how many travelers will benefit each day from the new road?
- from where will those travelers come, and where will they be going (especially how many trucks carrying air freight from Dulles will use the road)?
- based on VDOT’s origin-destination studies, how many current commuters going from Gainesville to their jobs will drive on the Tri-County Parkway, and what percentage of current commuters is that?
- what is the cost of the proposed road segments to be built in the North-South Corridor, in particular the Tri-County Parkway segment?
- if those segments are funded as toll roads, what will be the toll (based on cost to build and the projected number of vehicles)?

It would be nice if there was a rational, analytical basis for building the Tri-County Parkway vs. other proposed projects.  VDOT says the road is needed to “ensure adequate capacity and access to allow for projected growth in the Dulles area” (see p.8)  That might justify the project, even if the road requires more government debt (and transforms traditional landscapes).

We’ve been through much debate regarding Obama’s stimulus funding for economic development.  How is this different?  In particular, why should the taxpayers go into debt for this project?  Who will benefit from new roads that spur new development at Dulles (UPS and FedEx?) and who will pay for the infrastructure that spurs new profits at Dulles?  Are the taxpayers getting a good deal here?

Sadly, it appears the taxpayers are being treated as sheep to be fleeced.  VDOT is going through the motions of public involvement, but unless the decision process addresses return-on-investment alternatives, like a Business 101 decision on where to invest for future benefits… this is just an exercise to retroactively justify a decision.

Read more…

Categories: Transportation
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