Avendale – not a unique situation for busting the boundaries of the Rural Area

The Planning Department staff  got one thing right in Item 7 of their staff report for Avendale: “This application, if approved, expands the Development Area…”

Last night, the Board of County Supervisors deferred making a decision on the proposed replanning of 178 acres near the corner of Route 28 and Vint Hill roads.

Over 75 people signed up to speak at the Public Hearing, many recruited by the developer.  Brookfield Homes stands to make a windfall profit after purchasing land with minimal development potential, if it can persuade county government to change the rules and reclassify the property from Rural Area to Development Area.

The most outrageous claim made at the podium was that the Avendale Comprehensive Plan Amendment (and companion rezoning of 125 acres to increase development potential from 12 to 295 houses) did not involve changing the boundary of the Rural Area.   Speakers requested the supervisors perform a mental gymnastic worthy of the Winter Olympics: pretend that busting the Rural Area boundary, allowing dramatic increase in development potential, somehow was consistent with the pledge to protect the Rural Area.  (George Orwell, author of 1984, would have been proud of such “Newspeak.”)

However, staff got it wrong when they claimed that the “unique circumstance and characteristics of this site would not set a precedent to allow the relocation of the Rural Area boundaries or encourage incompatible development in other sections of the County.”  There are several places where developers will propose busting the Rural Area, if Avendale is approved because a road alignment was changed.

The next “domino” to fall would be the property adjacent to Avendale.

Left unstated in the planning staff’s report was the inevitable plan to extend public sewer and water south of “New Vint Hill Road,” deeper into the Rural Area to the proffered school/ballfield parcel (marked in yellow, below the red line of the new road).

Extending sewer to those public facilities would bust another 77 acres.  How long before we see another Comp Plan Amendment to extend Development Area boundaries to encompass the property between the school/ballfields and Route 28?  You won’t have to wait for the school to be built – that planned attack on the Rural Area boundary was made obvious at the public hearing, in statements by area landowners.

Next up: the property west of the Manassas National Battlefield Park, where Route 234 is planned to be extended north to Loudoun County (dotted line on map, below).  Developers will cite the Avendale precedent, and request Rural Area  replanning/rezoning for those parcels between the new highway and Route 15 that are in the Rural Area.

Waiting in the wings: the land south of Bristow Road, between New Bristow Village and Brentsville Courthouse.  After the economy recovers and the Flexible Employment Center (FEC) site is developed, traffic on Bristow Road east of Route 28 will bottleneck at the railroad crossing and at the historic courthouse.

Plans for Bristow/Brentsville bypasses were proposed in 2007-08, during the drafting of the proposed update of the Transportation Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan.  Expanding Bristow Road was not endorsed by the citizen committee or the Planning Department – this time.

Land speculation is a long-term game, however.  In 10-15 years, after Avendale and the FEC site do their part to generate new demands for expanding the Development Area, there will be calls for a new road project to “fix” traffic congestion near Bristow.  The developers may proffer to pay 25-30% of the costs of the new Bristow road, but only if their property along the road is reclassified as “Development Area” and rezoned to provide another windfall profit.

Expanding the boundaries of the Development Area is the same ol’ dumb growth game.  Developers cover only a portion of initial capital costs for new roads, new schools, and leave it to taxpayers to pick up the rest of the tab.   Developers know that scattering schools, roads, fire stations, etc. will increase long-term costs to maintain new public infrastructure – but hey, that’s the taxpayer’s headache.

Dumb growth is a good game for the developers, when they can buy cheap, change the land classification, and make massive profits while leaving local taxpayers as the losers.  That’s why there will always be supporters of dumb growth projects, telling supervisors in public hearings that any growth, anywhere, is a good idea… just ignore the silly official plans to encourage growth in the Development Area, and limit expensive sprawl.

Fortunately, more and more Prince William County residents are recognizing that dumb growth = higher taxes.  More local residents are discovering that expensive road projects get congested again after just a few years, and we need to steer new growth to the Development Area to help minimize new traffic congestion.

The Long Term Comprehensive Plan is supposed to lead to long-term economic development, to growth that local residents paying property taxes can afford as well as enjoy.  When the supervisors consider the Land Use and Transportation chapter updates to the Comprehensive Plan on January 19, we may see more mental gymnastics and Newspeak comparable to Avendale discussions… but maybe, just maybe, we’ll see some straight talk and clear thinking about the responsibility of those eight elected officials to shape the pattern of growth and the pattern of taxes in Prince William County.


3 comments so far

  1. […] of a scheme to bust the Rural Area boundaries, adding 178 acres to the Development Area with the Avendale development… but appear to be sensitive to the school […]

  2. […] proposed Avendale School Site.”  Like Freddy Krueger and other horror movie characters, the Avendale proposal won’t die and stay […]

  3. […] The original staff report prepared for the BOS is online here and check our previous post The Avendale Project – not a unique situation for busting the boundaries of the Rural Crescent for more information… Categories: Land Use Comments (0) Trackbacks (0) Leave a […]

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