Environmental impacts = Tax increases

Landslide at Newport Estates, Neabsco Creek watershed

If you pay taxes in Prince William County, the following might interest you.

The County Planning Commission and professional staff have been working on updating the Environment Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan since 2008, sifting through input from the business community, citizen groups and individual citizens, melding it into a final draft for the Board of County Supervisors to consider on December 7th.

Here’s where your taxes come in. Traditionally, many of the long-term costs of new development have been borne by the taxpayer, and this draft attempts to bend that cost curve a little using a number of strategies, many revolving around stormwater management, that will limit these long term costs in the future.

If builders were to preserve trees and avoid re-contouring land where possible, water runoff and the need for controls such as containment ponds would be reduced. The extensive long-term maintenance costs on these ponds are borne by the taxpayer. Limiting impervious surfaces would provide similar taxpayer benefit. These techniques cost a little more on the front end, but save maintenance and repair costs for the taxpayer.

If we restricted building on marine clays and other problematic soils, we could prevent the taxpayer having to pay for stabilizing landslides that threaten homes in a community after the builder is long gone.

If we designate overlay districts now to protect our drinking water and streams, we can save taxpayer funds in water treatment and stream remediation later. Areas near the Occoquan Reservoir, for example, would benefit from lower building densities (number of structures) and better protections for wetlands and intermittent streams. This would address potential problems on the front end, before damage is done.

We will likely soon see an increase in the Stormwater Management Fee that all homeowners pay, and without some of the changes mentioned above, we’re sure to see more such tax increases. There are many other development costs that are shifted to taxpayers such as road building, schools, parks, trails and on and on.

We need to start now to distribute these costs more evenly so we can keep our local taxes at a manageable level when development ramps up again. We also need to get a head start on stricter requirements for water quality coming from the federal and state government. Doing business as usual is no longer a viable option with the economic and environmental realities we face today.

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