On the other hand, we don’t really mean what we say about smart growth…

If your teenager told you “I’m going to study at the library” and then in the next breath asked for directions to a bar in Georgetown, would you wonder how the teen was really going to act?

The county might be demonstrating the same behavior with the new Transportation and Land Use chapters.  The Planning Department staff claims it is implementing “smart growth” through the Comp Plan update, but the teenager’s claim is more credible. 

In the new Land Use chapter, Action Strategy LU3.11 says:
“Focus future public utilities and facilities, infrastructure improvements, and social service delivery systems within the Development Area—with priority given to those areas where Prince William County is undertaking economic development or redevelopment initiatives, in accordance with the Economic Development Plan chapter.”

With this action strategy, Prince William officials can claim they will minimize new sewers, ballfields with lights, and other public infrastructure in the Rural Area. After all, it’s smart to develop in the Development Area.  It’s dumb to steer growth to the Rural Area. 

One of the key claims to smart growth is planning to integrate transit with new housing/office/retail, so developers will create new walkable/mixed use communities. Right out of the new urbanism textbook, the vision of the new Land Use chapter in the Comp Plan states:
The Plan also seeks development of regional mass transportation “hubs” to develop as high-density, mixed-use with transit-oriented land uses.

Realistically, the only thing close to a regional mass transit hub in the county is a VRE station. 
(Until VRE runs trains more than a few times a day, VRE stations are commuter nodes that generate local traffic jams twice a day, not mass transit facilities like Metrorail stations.) 

Just where did the Planning Department staff propose locating the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) mass transit facilities?  Where did our planners say high-density development, based on transit, is supposed to occur? 

The answer is in Table 3 of the proposed Transportation Chapter

As proposed by staff at the Public Hearing on December 3, one new station was supposed to go at the edge of the Rural Area, west of Haymarket.  Locating a mass transit node there would encourage Fauquier and Warren County/Front Royal residents to drive to Haymarket. 

Haymarket is not an area where Prince William County is “undertaking economic development or redevelopment initiatives.”  The county will have to pay for local infrastructure, including the parking garage.  A VRE station in Haymarkey will spur demand for future widening of Route 29/15, and extend sprawl into the Shenandoah Valley. 

The Planning Department staff also recommended a Table 3 that included a new VRE station in Nokesville, in the heart of the Rural Crescent.  There’s no telling what the county might approve as high-density, mixed-use with transit-oriented land uses, but you can guess at what might be requested.  At the Planning Commission public hearing on December 3, 2008, a representative for the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association referred to Reston Town Center and even National Harbor as models for mixed use development.  

So on the one hand, the new Comp Plan supports dense development at VRE stations.  On the other hand, the new Comp Plan supports protection of the Rural Crescent.  

How to balance the two? It was encouraging on December 3 to hear Planning Commissioners discuss removing those two VRE stations (at Haymarket and Nokesville) from Table 3 – but in this county, it’s not clear exactly what will be done until it’s done. Staff is supposed to revise the chapters for further Planning Commission review, and there’s always a chance for editorial mischief.

If those two VRE stations end up in the final version of the Comp Plan, county officials claiming to be “smart growthers” would need to be magicians skilled in sleight-of-hand tricks… or just hope no one is watching. Approving chapters with the sort of gross inconsistencies you would not accept from your teenagers is not “smart,” by any definition of the word. 

Bottom Line: all transit projects are not automatically “smart growth” initiatives.  A Comp Plan that proposes VRE stations in Haymarket and Nokesville is proposing dumb, not smart growth. Smart growth principles say Prince William should minimize new public infrastructure in the Rural Area, where development is supposed to be limited.. and that includes new transit infrastructure.


2 comments so far

  1. Mom on

    Having just revisited the plan, I wonder when and if the Planning Office intended to notify the Town of Haymarket about the proposed location for the VRE station or the park and ride lot that is indicated within the Town limits. Given their history of non-disclosure I would bet never or at least until someone from the town lit them and the BOCS up.

    Funny, they can’t seem to cooperate with any other jurisdictions or agencies but have no problems keeping developers or VRE up on their plans.

    It occurs to me that it is high time for someone to take a bloody axe to the executive team in the planning office and replace them with a more responsible group who aren’t cowtowing sycophants or shills for the development industry or transit authorities.

    Unfortunately, it might be too late to put this horse back in the barn. When it gets to BOCS for review and approval, Jenkins will vote for it as it benefits his personal “life size” train set (note to self, send John a new engineers hat for Christmas), Nohe will vote for it because the Chamber of Commerce will tell him to, Caddigan will do whatever Nohe does and Wally will vote for it to ensure development in the Rural Crescent. There’s four votes right there, all they need is one more. Who’s the most likely suspect to join their cabal, I’ll give you a hint, it takes money to run for higher office and I think you can guess which member of the BOCS has that intent and has proven he is for sale to highest bidder.

  2. […] #split {}#single {}#splitalign {margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;}#singlealign {margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;}.linkboxtext {line-height: 1.4em;}.linkboxcontainer {padding: 7px 7px 7px 7px;background-color:#eeeeee;border-color:#000000;border-width:0px; border-style:solid;}.linkboxdisplay {padding: 7px 7px 7px 7px;}.linkboxdisplay td {text-align: center;}.linkboxdisplay a:link {text-decoration: none;}.linkboxdisplay a:hover {text-decoration: underline;} function opensplitdropdown() { document.getElementById('splittablelinks').style.display = ''; document.getElementById('splitmouse').style.display = 'none'; var titleincell = document.getElementById('titleincell').value; if (titleincell == 'yes') {document.getElementById('splittitletext').style.display = 'none';} } function closesplitdropdown() { document.getElementById('splittablelinks').style.display = 'none'; document.getElementById('splitmouse').style.display = ''; var titleincell = document.getElementById('titleincell').value; if (titleincell == 'yes') {document.getElementById('splittitletext').style.display = '';} } Spotsylvania does NOT need VRE or its gas tax hikeDemand for Commuting Options and Ample Parking Fuel Changes in Stafford & SpotsylvaniaOn the other hand, we don’t really mean what we say about smart growth…div.simplesocial,a.simplesocial{float:left;display:block}a.simplesocial{margin-right:5px;width:16px;height:16px}a.simplesocial:hover{margin-top:-2px} function simplesocial(t,w,h){ window.open(t.href, 'simplesocial', 'scrollbars=1,menubar=0,width='+w+',height='+h+',resizable=1,toolbar=0,location=0,status=0,left='+(screen.width-w)/2+',top='+(screen.height-h)/3); return false;} […]

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