Rural Crescent Attracts Attention, Strong Support
In 1998 the Prince William County Board of Supervisors adopted a Comprehensive Plan that, for the first time, established an Urban Growth Boundary. The intent was to strengthen the County’s capacity to control urban sprawl by defining an area that was available for higher density development and a protected rural area, which quickly became known at the Rural Crescent.
We asked the candidates who signed the Rural Crescent Pledge to comment on their support for the Rural Crescent. Here’s what they said.
From the beginning, citizens were overwhelmingly in support of the Rural Crescent proposal. Martha Hendley, Gainesville Supervisor candidate, remembers the largest coalition of residents ever put together in the County, saying “From Bull Run Mountain to the Potomac River, citizens of all political persuasions joined in the effort to approve the Rural Crescent. They had become alarmed at the leap-frogging of residential development which was creating huge infrastructure needs to be funded by taxpayers.”
“I chose to move to Prince William County because our community has great assets and open spaces such as the Rural Crescent. I support the Comprehensive Plan and will continue working to improve the quality of life that drew us to this community,” says Ann Wheeler, Gainesville District Supervisor candidate.
The Rural Crescent is also critical to the County’s redevelopment goals. Occoquan District Supervisor Mike May says, “The only way we are going to see redevelopment of run down areas like the Route 1 corridor is by ensuring that the proper incentives are in place to encourage investment in these areas. Deviating from our Comprehensive Plan and allowing development of the Rural Crescent has the opposite effect.”
John Gray, candidate for Chairman of the Board, adds, “We want to preserve the Rural Crescent because PWC taxpayers would currently have to pay for the infrastructure costs (schools, roads, fire stations, parks, etc.), something we simply cannot afford. The absolute worst thing we can do is underwrite the cost of future development and shortchange the necessities we need now.”
Martha Hendly agrees, noting that “If instead of one 10-acre lot with one residential unit, there was a subdivision of quarter-acre lots, that’s 40 residential units and 40 times the infrastructure needs for schools, transportation, fire and rescue, and recreational facilities.”
“The Rural Crescent adds diversity that helps attract economic development and bring businesses into our county,” says Suzanne Miller, Gainesville District Supervisor candidate. “It provides our citizens a rich and unique quality of life where ‘locally grown’, emerging entrepreneurial business in ‘technology on the farm’ and hydroponic produce, farming as profitable business, along with the beauty and benefits of wide open space, can be part of the equation, side by side with our initiatives to expand hi-tech innovation, to developing a ‘producing’ economy for which government should stay out of the way and let grow.”
Dr. Babur Lateef, candidate for Chairman of the Board, supports “smart growth and redevelopment of brownfields, which will reduce sprawl and congestion. Development in the Rural Crescent is bad policy for everyone in the County. I fully support the Rural Crescent.”
Michael High, Gainesville Supervisor candidate, believes the Rural Crescent is “important to our quality of life, not only to those who live within it, but to everyone because tax dollars used for infrastructure can remain in the developed portion of the county where it is needed. Prince William County is lucky have an area like this and citizens who are passionate about keeping it.”
Bob Pugh, Coles District candidate, supports the Rural Crescent because “It confirms land owners’ rights to develop their property as estate lots with no further Comprehensive Plan amendments or rezonings required, and contains dense residential development to areas where public infrastructure such as sewer, water and other services cost less to provide. Moreover, it helps preserve an inventory of land for later environmentally-responsible commercial uses rather than allowing it all to be consumed presently by the pressure for tax revenue negative residential development. Not only does the Rural Crescent inject some commonsense and rationality into the land use process, it helps keep taxes down by avoiding building infrastructure where none exists currently, and that developers refuse to fund for their projects.”
Jeanine Lawson, Brentsville Supervisor candidate, knows that, thirteen years later, community support for the Rural Crescent is as strong as ever. “Whether you live in or outside of Prince William’s Rural Crescent,” she says, “I believe the overwhelming majority of residents value her beauty and appreciate the economic advantages of limiting development to areas where existing infrastructure can better support new growth. We enjoy the touch of open space the Rural Crescent offers our County and it would be travesty to one day develop it into high density housing.”
John Gray agrees that there is “no indication whatsoever citizens want to ‘break’ the promise of the Rural Crescent. Development starts when one ‘little exception’ is made here, then the second exception is made there. And before we know it, the development “crack” has been opened.”
Since the Rural Crescent was adopted, new development of high-value executive homes has improved the County’s previous reputation as a haven of townhomes and low-end retail. It has protected green open space, family farms and farmer’s markets, our public water supply, scenic viewsheds and the rural character of western Prince William.
However, despite continued strong community support, development applications aimed at removing the Rural Crescent from the Comprehensive Plan have challenged the County’s capacity to maintain an Urban Growth Boundary and control urban sprawl. In 2010 Supervisors moved the Rural Crescent line for the first time when they approved the Avendale development and removed 175 acres from the Rural Crescent to allow high density development.
What’s your vision for the future of Prince William County? Decisions are made by the people who show up. In the words of Walter Judd, “People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote – a very different thing.”
Check all the candidate websites, listed below, for their perspectives. Take advantage of opportunities to meet candidates for local office and make sure to vote in the Republican primary on August 23 and general election on November 8. If you don’t know where to vote, you can find out here.
Candidates for the Prince William County Board of Supervisors:
Gainesville District General Election
Ann Wheeler (D)
Coles District General Election
Anthony Arnold (D)
Mike May* (R)
Maureen Caddigan* (R)
John Jenkins* (D)