The recent Planning Commission work session on Purcell Road brought out some important points that could prove to be instructive as we move forward in this process and in future planning in general.
The main driver for this project is not local community traffic. The total new housing possible from undeveloped land in the area under current county recommendations is approximately 300 homes.
This is certainly not enough to require a new four lane highway when the Parkway already serves most of the undeveloped parcels. The driver is projected long term regional traffic increases.
There is already cut-through traffic on Purcell Road between Route 234 and Hoadly Road. Common sense dictates that four-laning Purcell and connecting it directly to the Parkway will only increase this cut-through situation, since faster speeds and a more direct path between Route 234 and the Parkway will be the result. Basically, build this road and they will come. Read more…
It may seem to most folks, if they think about it at all, that the Occoquan Reservoir is doing fine. It is true that major improvements were made in the 1970’s when Fairfax County down-zoned 41,000 acres and purchased 5,000 acre on the north side of the reservoir to prevent pollution. Also, the UOSA sewage treatment plant replaced the numerous polluting plants then in existence on the reservoir.
So why should we spend more effort (and money) to further improve the water quality of a reservoir that’s doing ok? Because ok is not good enough- the reservoir’s health is still far from what it could be, and what it once was.
Sedimentation input results in knee-deep mud along the bottom of the reservoir that reduces water capacity and aquatic diversity, the clarity of the water is poor, aquatic grasses grow unchecked that inhibit fish stocks and diversity, and on and on.
The reality is that more work still needs to be done. The challenges are somewhat different now, but they still need to be addressed, now more than ever. Read more…
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.” Read more…
Topic: start of Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on multimodal transportation improvements within I-66 corridor, between Route 15 and I-495 Capital Beltway
Time: Wednesday, June 8, anytime between 5:00-8:00pm
Location: Four Points by Sheraton motel, 10800 Vandor Lane, Manassas VA 20109
The cure for congestion requires tackling the basic problem – politicians continue to rezone land for new housing far, far from locations where those new residents will work. The math is simple: more people commuting to jobs = more congestion. More of the same ol’ same ol’ development pattern will not solve the problem.
However, there is no “stop growth” solution. Government agencies and private-sector businesses are creating new jobs, people are moving to Northern Virginia – and our region continues to grow. Economic development is a good thing; many regions would love to have problems like ours.
Still, no one wants our traffic nightmare. There are two solutions to our congestion headache:
1) increase the number of jobs near where people live, to reduce commute times
2) locate new housing next to employment centers, to reduce commute times
Doing both makes sense. Doing nothing about the basic problem makes no sense. Just building more roads, without solving the housing/employment disconnect, does nothing to solve the problem. Treating the symptom by widening I-66 or extending VRE to Haymaarket might provide short-term relief… but treating symptoms does not cure problems. Putting a band-aid on a cancer does not cure the disease.
Right now, the roads are still getting expanded. Construction equipment, orange cones and new asphalt is a constant presence at the intersection of Hoadley Road and Prince William Parkway, and elsewhere in the county.
Hmmm… think Virginia can afford to widen existing highways and build new roads forever?
The answer is revealed in the FY2012-17 Six Year Secondary Road Plan for Prince William, which sets priorities and allocates funding for the roads with numbers greater than 600 (such as Route 619). Key language is in Section II B of the plan that the Board of County Supervisors is scheduled to adopt on June 7:
VDOT Estimates The current estimate for the FY12 Annual Allocation is $0. There are no funds allocated to future years, so the plan will be used to re-prioritize projects within the plan with prior allocations.
There is no money for new secondary road projects for FY2012. There is no money in FY13, FY14, FY15, FY16, or FY17.
New housing that will be built in the next 15 years, such as the Avendale development, will add more traffic to existing roads. After this last spending surge and road construction, however, there’s no money in the pipeline to expand those roads ever again. Congestion will just get worse and worse.
How did we get into this mess?
On May 18, this Wednesday, the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) will grease the skids for building a new 6-8 lane highway on the western edge of Manassas National Battlefield Park. The CTB will designate a new North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance (CoSS) that – surprise! – aligns with the preferred route of the old Tri-County Parkway. (A better name would be BiCounty Sprawlway.)
This North-South CoSS is more than just a line on paper; the fix is in to build this road. The 2011 General Assembly approved a $4 billion pot of mostly-borrowed money to finance one final surge of roadbuilding. VDOT has already warned that in a few years, the income from the gas tax will be inadequate and VDOT won’t have enough money for maintenance of existing roads – but hey, let’s build a few more before anyone pays attention.
Our streams and natural areas are being blasted away by new development spawned by new roads. Fortunately, people who understand the link between land use, transportation, and conservation are expressing concerns, especially the Loudoun Board of County Supervisors. People who care about the size of government and rising taxes are starting to object to the long-term costs of the traditional roadbuilding game in NOVA’s suburbs.
The developers who will benefit from this project have tasked their lobbyists and political friends to sell this road to the citizens of Northern Virginia. What’s wrong with their sales pitch? Several things stand out:
- all roads are not equally good for reducing congestion; a north-south road will not fix an east-west commuter problem. We need to fix the existing headache of getting from Gainesville to Fairfax/DC. A road from I-66 to Route 50 (west of Pleasant Valley!) won’t help the problem.
- designation of the CoSS will be followed swiftly by commitment of funds from the $4 billion transportation fund authorized by the 2011 General Assembly, so the CoSS designation is a key decision in the go/no-go process
- maybe a new road will bring jobs to Gainesville, but it’s more likely to create more jobs near Dulles airport. Prince William will continue to export its workers daily, commercial development will grow in Loudoun instead of Prince William, and residential property taxes in Prince William will stay high
- flinging unlimited funding to build every possible road is not realistic, so money spent on the BiCounty Sprawlway will cause some other worthy project to be left unbuilt.
Three questions to ask yourself, even if you don’t care one hoot about conserving streams:
The old “what to do about suburban traffic congestion” debate has a new term: the North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance (CoSS). The debate also has a new wrinkle, the recent political reaction to proposals for increasing public debt.
Right now, debate is white-hot regarding the national debt – do you think the government should borrow even more money now, in order to expand government services? – but many people do not realize the state of Virginia is still expanding its borrowing in 2011. The state is going deeper in debt, borrowing money to build new roads, while simultaneously manipulating the accounting to postpone paying for Virginia’s $17.6 billion unfunded liability for pensions.
At the end of the February 16th meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the Secretary of Transportation revealed plans to build the road known variously by state/local agencies as the Western Transportation Corridor, Tri-County Parkway, Bi-County Parkway, and the Road to Dulles. (The Manassas National Battlefield Bypass has been mixed up in the discussion as well. A better name for the proposed road might be Bi-County Sprawlway…)
The latest game is to for the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) to designate a CoSS in western Prince William/Loudoun counties on May 18. A CoSS designation may allow the state to run roughshod over local land use plans, equivalent to the Federal government’s National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors (NIETCs) that allow Federal agencies to ignore state/local objections of new powerlines. In particular, the developer community and the CTB are looking for ways to overcome the resistance of the elected officials in Loudoun County.
We’re not talking about increasing government debt for expanding health care, welfare benefits, or any services to help current residents. We’re not talking about more debt to improve the work commute for current residents. We’re talking about increasing state debt to build roads in western Prince William/Loudoun counties in order to subsidize new development and attract new residents - which creates new congestion.
Is more debt to divert development away from the Route 1 corridor, so Gainesville gets the growth, really the best way to deal with our financial challenges today? Hmmm…. when do you think the government should stop borrowing money to subsidize more private developments like Avendale?
Update: Board of County Supervisors has approved spending another $50,000 for a “new real estate market analysis” – see County Dusts Off Town Center Plans at Tech Park.
The Route 1 corridor and Innovation offer the greatest potential for smart growth in Prince William. Transit-oriented development is the only way to reduce future traffic congestion, as the county’s population grows by over 30% during the next 20 years. That’s a lot of extra cars, and growth=congestion unless we develop differently.
Prince William officials blather about smart growth, but speak with a forked tongue because they keep approving same-old-dumb-growth projects such as Avendale. Innovation offers a rare opportunity where the county might walk the talk, where housing really may be co-located with jobs and public facilities to create a live-work-play community.
In coordination with GMU and private landowners, Prince William County is planning another Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA) for Innovation, modifying the existing Sector Plan. In addition to the GMU facilities, under the “Anchored Town Center” proposal up to 900 residential units plus two hotels could be built between the current campus and Route 234 Bypass.
Look close, however, and you’ll notice in the consultant report that 646 more housing units are also being proposed in District 1 and 1,098 housing units are proposed in District 2 between the campus and Wellington Road. The current Sector Plan proposes Town Center Office/Research and Development in those areas – office development that generates local, do-not-need-to-commute-to-Fairfax-or-DC jobs. The town center was in the old Sector Plan; the Comprehensive Plan Amendment is necessary to transform a chunk of Innovation from a job location into just another housing development.
Also, as noted in the News and Messenger article, developers might ask for taxpayers to finance their housing project by subsidizing the parking. Taxpayers have already built the roads, stormwater, and other utilities at Innovation, but hey – why not ask for one more land use subsidy, since county officials seem incapable of negotiating for development that will create local jobs?
The four graphics below illustrate the proposals:
The majority of Supervisors approved developers 11th hour changes to the County’s new environmental policies… signaling their support for higher taxes this spring (and removing any doubt about who’s really in charge here).
Only two Supervisors disagreed – Mike May (Occoquan) and Frank Principi (Woodbridge) both supported the staff recommendation, which would have (1) discouraged development on slopes prone to landslides, (2) protected many intermittent streams, (3) raised the bar for stormwater runoff and (4) help save the Chesapeake Bay.
The standards recommended by staff would have helped reduce tax increases this spring for both the County budget and the Stormwater Fee. Stay tuned for more information…
Name: Swan’s Creek
Impacts: Flooding of downstream properties as well as damages to Quantico Creek, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.
Source of impacts: Uncontrolled stormwater runoff from the construction of the road at Harbor Station development (Cherry Hill Peninsula)
Estimated costs to taxpayers to mitigate flooding of downstream properties: $1,000,000 (Upper Swan’s Creek Stabilization Project)
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. Read more…