Environment Chapter: Developers propose 11th hour changes that will force higher tax increases this spring
Supervisors adopted most but not all the positive changes to the County’s Environment Chapter on December 7. This consensus document, as recommended by County staff, includes input from citizens, environmental organizations, civic groups, businesses and developers.
However, after the public hearing was closed, the Chairman put forward 11th hour revisions at the request of developers. Supervisors deferred these items to this Tuesday’s Board meeting, 2:00 pm, at McCoart Government Center.
Approval of these last minute changes would allow input from one special interest group (developers) without providing an equal opportunity to all stakeholders, notably citizens and community organizations.
The effect of these changes is to shift the cost of stormwater management away from developers, forcing local residents to pay higher stormwater fees.
Approval of these last minute changes would continue the County’s business-as-usual approach, which leads to flooding and drainage problems on private property and requires significant taxpayer investments to fix.
It’s worth noting that next Tuesday’s Board Agenda includes a report from Public Works detailing the current taxpayer investments for projects that fix drainage problems on private property…problems that will continue to happen in the future if we don’t change the way we do business.
Below is a review of the proposed changes, click here to read the document the Chairman presented to Supervisors after the public hearing was closed. It’s important to remember that the Environment Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan establishes environmental policies and recommends (not requires) standards for development in Prince William County.
We recommend Supervisors reject these last minute changes and approve the staff recommendation in all cases.
Significant non-RPA Stream definition: The proposed changes remove references to scientific protocols, which would introduce uncertainty and limit consistency in applying the rules.
EN 5.1 Steep Slopes: The proposed change raises the threshold for preservation of steep slopes east of Route from 15% to 25%. Development on the marine clay (shrink/swell) soils found east of Route 1 has resulted in landslides that threaten homes and require taxpayer investments to fix. Efforts to prevent future landslides protect homeowners and the County budget.
EN 5.2 Steep Slopes: Similar to the above, removing the language to limit development on 15% slopes with high K-factor soils would increase remediation costs to the taxpayer when problems arise.
EN 6.10 Significant Streams: Transferring criteria requiring the use of solid protocols that are based in science for identification of significant streams is fair and would ensure the rules are applied fairly, consistently and add predictability (as requested by developers).
EN 8.2 Stormwater Runoff: The amended language would tilt the scale in favor of containment ponds over other retention strategies. These ponds are maintained by the taxpayer, which is a subsidy to developers.
EN 8.3 Low Impact Development: Developers want to strike recommendations for Low Impact Development, which emphasizes conservation and use of on-site natural features to protect water quality. They don’t even want to try!!??
EN 10.2 Buffers: This change would encourage developers to ignore best practices regarding buffers, setbacks, and lot size in return for undefined “natural vegetation” preservation. The word “tree” is a significant omission, as the original strategy was particularly aimed at increasing tree preservation.
Although Supervisors will vote to accept or deny these last minute changes on Tuesday, the public hearing is closed. Citizens who wish to comment must do so in writing before the meeting or speak at Citizen’s Time. Click here to email Supervisors.