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Read Supervisor May and Nohe's Press Release on Silver Lake

Silver Lake in the News
Background
Citizens Comment on the Silver Lake Proposals!
BRMC Press Release removing their proposal from consideration; Oct. 21, 2008
Cost to Taxpayers
Comparison Chart Reviewing All Proposals for Silver Lake
Bull Run Mountain Conservancy Proposal
PWC Park Authority Proposal
Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority Proposal
September 12, 2007 Staff Report
Background
Silver Lake in the News
Silver Lake Public Hearing
April 8 2004
Review criteria and the evaluation process (Board of Supervisors)
Silver Lake Proffered Development Plan
Proffered Trails Exhibit
BOS Resolution Approving Toll Brothers Development Proposal
July 1, 2006 Approved Proffers
Donate - Support Local Opportunities
 

Silver Lake
July 9, 2009 -- The PWC Park Authority, which gained control of the 233-acre Silver Lake property on June 23, has committed to opening the park to the public by October 1 2009 for hiking, horseback riding, fishing and picnicking. Park officials have said they will use approximately $70,000 of their general operating funds to accomplish this goal.

Additional funding to develop Silver Lake Park is available from the Dominion Valley rezoning, which included $2,415,100 in cash proffers for use at Sudley Park, Long Park or Silver Lake. To date, the Park Authority has allocated $815,100 for Sudley Park, $515,000 for Long Park, and $350,000 for Silver Lake. The remaining balance - $1,250,000 - is available for planning and/or improvements at any of these three Gainesville parks.

Long-term funding for Silver Lake Park is dependent on taxpayer funds, provided through the County's budget, and fees acquired from users at Silver Lake and other County parks. According to the Park Authority, future user fees for Silver Lake Park and recreation uses will be determined through a Master Planning process.

The Park Authority has initiated the Master Plan, but says it will not be completed before the park opens to the public. The process for conducting the Master Plan will involve community meetings, but it is not clear how these will be organized.

Currently the Park Authority has planned "stakeholders" meetings with the Nokesville Horse Society, Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition and the Prince William Conservation Alliance, as reported by the Gainesville Times on July 1.

The Prince William Conservation Alliance consistently advocates for transparency in government, so we declined to participate in invitation-only planning sessions that limited access to three groups hand-selected by the Park Authority.

Instead, we recommended an inclusive session, such as an open house, that would allow the Park Authority to benefit from the expertise and input from the many Prince William County nonprofits, civic groups and nearby homeowner associations interested in recreation uses at Silver Lake.

We remain very interested in the development at Silver Lake and will continue to share our perspective. Supervisors verbally prioritized passive recreation and horseback riding for Silver Lake but transferred the land to the Park Authority with no restrictions to make sure this happens.

Because passive recreation generates few funds for the Park Authority, which must raise at least 50% of its budget from user fees, many are concerned the County will be unable to support passive uses over time, opening the door to intensive recreation uses that can generate funding.

Although no schedule has been set for public participation has been set, citizens are invited to provide input on the development of Silver Lake Park. Click here to email the Park Authority Board or here for full contact information.

June 23 2009 -- At Tuesday's Board meeting two Supervisors - Michael May (Occoquan) and Martin Nohe (Coles) - said they wanted to establish long term policy to protect passive recreation uses and conserve natural open space at Prince William parks.

Five Supervisors declined the opportunity and passed Silver Lake to the Park Authority with no strings attached.This means the outcome at Silver Lake is still undecided.

Although their proposal for Silver Lake was unsuccessful, conservation is not a hot topic at the Prince William County Board and we appreciate Supervisors May and Nohe's efforts to take a step in the right direction. People who are interested in having their views on recreation uses at Silver Lake considered will now have the opportunity to attend the Park Authority's Master Plan public meeting(s).

We plan to keep an eye on progress at Silver Lake. When we hear that meetings are scheduled, we'll post the information here.

Silver Lake showing proposed BRMC additionJune 19 2009 -- Supervisors Michael May and Martin Nohe today announced a conservation plan for Silver Lake. Their press release calls for DEED RESTRICTIONS that limit recreation uses at Silver Lake to passive recreation and horseback riding.

Supervisor May says, “I supported the Bull Run Mountain Conservancy’s proposal because it would have ensured public access to permanently protected passive open space at zero cost to the county taxpayer. Although we missed the fiscal opportunities associated with the BRMC proposal, we still have the opportunity to at least ensure that Silver Lake remains protected open space.”

May and Nohe note that citizens have made their views with respect to Silver Lake known to the Board for more than two years now through numerous community meetings and public hearings. The overwhelming consensus has been support for passive recreation uses.

The Park Authority's current proposal suggests but does not commit to passive recreation at Silver Lake. Instead, they say a new plan will be developed through a Master Planning process, which considers all recreation uses and generally includes citizen input on an invitation-only basis.

Specifically, May and Nohe will be using the restrictions that were associated with the BRMC’s application as a guide for their proposal. These uses include:

Jogging, hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, picnicking, fishing, non-motorized boating, walking, walking domestic pets, nature and historic interpretive activities and areas, wildlife refuge, bird watching, educational and scientific activities and programs, primitive camping, conservation areas, environmental protection corridors, environmental studies, natural open space resource management activities scenic vista and viewshed, viewing areas.

Under the Supervisors’ proposal, the conveying documents would also include a “reverter clause,” which would give the Board the ability to take the property back in the event the deed restrictions were not honored by the Park Authority.

Many Prince William community and conservation leaders support the Supervisors effort, saying:

“The community is very tired of looking at a beautiful piece of property become a run down eyesore. Our expectation is that this piece of land will be well maintained for generations to come and will be a place we will all be proud to show visitors. The BOCS needs to adopt a DEED restriction before passing the land on the Park Authority, and the land needs to be developed into serene walking and bike trails as soon as possible… just as was promised to the citizens when Toll Brothers gave us the land.”
Rose Benkus, President, Thunder Oaks Home Owners Association

“Silver Lake is a legacy asset for the county. We need to protect it forever. Deed restrictions will ensure that what we see is what we’ll get.”
Charlie Grymes, Prince William Conservation Alliance

“This is the place for horse trails, hiking, and exploring the great outdoors. Deed restrictions will guarantee we keep it this way.”
Martin Jeter, Mid County Civic Association

“As demonstrated in PWC survey results and Occoquan District Charrette results, it is clear that residents want more passive recreation within the County. Silver Lake deed restrictions which ensure passive uses will be welcomed by my family as well as many County residents.”
Eileen Sheridan, Occoquan District Land Use Advisory Committee Member Occoquan District Charrette Participant

Citizens, through public hearings and meetings, have overwhelming expressed their wishes to maintain Silver Lake for passive recreation and horseback riding. For generations to come, families should be able to enjoy peaceful fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, horseback riding and nature exploration. Deed restrictions ensure a fiscally and environmentally responsible solution that matches community wishes.

Click here to share your views with all Supervisors!

June 1 2009 -- The June 2 public hearing and vote on Silver Lake is cancelled and rescheduled for June 23 at 2:00 p.m. Pencil in the date! We've already spent two years talking about what will happen at Silver Lake. Do you want to spend another two years going over the same old ground or do you want to take a hike at Silver Lake?

The Park Authority's plan for Silver Lake initially showed intensive recreation uses. They later responded to citizen input and revised it to focus on passive recreation uses and horseback riding.

Their current proposal provides no information about what recreation uses will be developed at Silver Lake property.

After two years of public hearings and discussions, it is time to finalize recreation uses and open Silver Lake to the public. By placing deed restrictions on Silver Lake BEFORE the land is transferred to the PWCPA, Supervisors can ensure that what we see is what we'll get.

May 20 2009 -- On June 2, 7:30 p.m. at McCoart Government Center, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing and vote on the proposed transfer of the 233-acre Silver Lake property to the Prince William County Park Authority (PWCPA). Click here to read the staff report.

During the two year negotiation with the Bull Run Mountain Conservancy, which would have doubled the size of this recreation area, the PWCPA submitted several plans describing their planned activities at Silver Lake.

The Park Authority's current proposal suggests but does not commit to passive recreation at Silver Lake. Instead, a new plan will be developed through a Master Planning process, which considers all recreation uses and generally includes citizen input on an invitation-only basis.

The best time to identify recreation uses for the Silver Lake property is now - before the land is transferred to the PWCPA. This can be easily accomplished through deed restrictions that define the allowed recreation uses at Silver Lake.

Before Silver Lake is transferred to the PWCPA, Supervisors have the authority to establish clear guidelines through deed restrictions that establish the range of recreational uses. Deed restrictions, while not as protective as a conservation easement, would establish clear guidelines for the Silver Lake property and take a step in the right direction toward County goals to conserve green open space and increase passive recreation opportunities.

We've already spent two years talking about what will happen at Silver Lake. Do you want to spend another two years going over the same old ground?

During the negotiations with BRMC, the PWCPA agreed to certain recreation uses at Silver Lake. As outlined in their last proposal and at the April 20 2008 meeting hosted by the County Executive's office, these uses focused on passive recreation trails and equestrian trails.

This information provides the County with good information about PWCPA planned activities for Silver Lake and should serve as the basis for establishing deed restrictions BEFORE the land is transferred.

After two years of public hearings and discussions, it is time to finalize recreation uses and open Silver Lake to the public. By placing deed restrictions on Silver Lake BEFORE the land is transferred to the PWCPA, Supervisors can ensure that what we see is what we'll get.

Share your views at the June 2, 7:30 p.m. public hearing at the McCoart Government Center on Prince William Parkway. Absolutely can't be there? Click HERE to share your views with Supervisors in advance.

 

October 20 2008 -- The Bull Run Mountain Conservancy (BRMC) today announced the withdrawal of their proposal to partner with Prince William County to open Silver Lake as a park for public use.

That means:

  • County taxpayers will now pay all costs to develop and maintain the 233-acre Silver Lake – $1.6 million + $215,000 each year, according to the Prince William County Park Authority (PWCPA) plans;

  • An additional 270 acres next to Silver Lake will NOT be opened to horse trails, hiking, and other public uses (BRMC had a commitment from an adjacent landowner to make an additional 270 acres available for public recreational use).

The Silver Lake property was donated (as a “proffer” for County approval of 420 additional houses in Dominion Valley) to Prince William citizens, through the Board of Supervisors, to provide much needed land for public recreation and open space.

The County has kept Silver Lake closed while debating who should manage it. The core issue was land ownership, with some insisting that PWCPA ownership of the entire site was non-negotiable.

The BRMC proposal required transfer – with deed restrictions that pre-determined recreational uses, guaranteed public access and prohibited any resale or transfer – of the land they would manage in order to raise the matching funds required by their $500 million grant for Silver Lake.

Non-profit organizations like BRMC are unable to attract donations for building a visitor center or other improvements on property that is owned by a government agency. Transferring County land to non-profits is not a new concept. For example, Prince William County donated 135 acres for the Marine Corps Heritage Center.

In the most recent negotiations, the PWCPA would have received the southern portion of the property, including Silver Lake itself. The northern portion would have been transferred to BRMC, with restrictions that guaranteed public access for recreational use. The northern portion would have reverted back to the Board of County Supervisors, should BRMC not honor their commitments.

However, after two years of discussion, Prince William Supervisors appear hopelessly deadlocked and, on September 17, the PWCPA Board adopted a resolution by a 6-2 vote rejecting all compromise proposals at Silver Lake.

By rejecting such a compromise, the County will lose the opportunity to develop a 500-acre park with equestrian and hiking trails. Instead, County taxpayers will have to pay 100% of the cost to open up a 233-acre Silver Lake park.

The PWCPA has been struggling to maintain existing recreation amenities, even before the coming budget cuts. In a worst case scenario, Silver Lake could be locked up tight like Dove's Landing, with signs saying "Public Land - Keep Out."

The 270 acres and $1 million in private funding to develop and operate Silver Lake for public use is now lost. The property that could have been added to Silver Lake won't be developed into townhouses; it is permanently preserved in an open space easement. However, that private land will stay private, closed to the public.

With only 9 acres of parkland/1,000 residents, Prince William is facing an uphill battle to acquire enough new parkland to meet community needs. By rejecting the BRMC partnership, county officials will not acquire new parkland to meet the standards set in the newly revised Parks & Open Space Chapter of the Comprehensive Plan.

In fact, since that plan was adopted, the county has acquired no property for public parkland.... and now has rejected 270 acres of free land.

The Prince William County Park Authority has promised to open Silver Lake to the public in less than a year, with some areas open within six months - so long as the Board of County Supervisors provides additional funding.

Will the county find the additional funding needed to open and operate a park at Silver Lake? Or will we see yet another "Public Land - Keep Out" sign?

 
 

Stalemate at Silver Lake

Silver Lake Aerial
Silver Lake Aerial Photo,
originally published in
the Potomac News

Which would you choose?
500 acres of parkland open to the public at no cost to taxpayers OR 230 acres of parkland open to the public at an initial investment of $1.6 million + $215,000 tax dollars each year.


Cost to Taxpayers:

  • Bull Run Mountain Conservancy proposes to add a 268 acre adjacent property (2007 assessed value $3.5 million) to the site and fund their operation through user fees, donations and grants, and has received a $500,000 challenge grant for Silver Lake.

  • The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority proposal requires an annual County investment of $1.6 million beginning in FY2009 and includes incentives for the acquisition of additional parkland in Prince William (more information is included in their proposal and on p.18 of their powerpoint presentation).

  • The Prince William County Park Authority proposes to use $1.6 million in developer contributions from the Dominion Valley rezonings (dedicated to Long Park, Sudley Park or Silver Lake in the proffers) to develop the park and would request Board of Supervisors approval for an additional $215,000* annually to cover operating costs. * Note: This figure fluctuates within this range.

At the July 26 meeting, the County did not request written comments or share information on how citizen comments will be used for their evaluation. In addition, no public hearing is planned before the Board of Supervisors makes a final decision.

Oh, well. It is still very important for citizens to share their views with Supervisors and the staff team who will be making a recommendation. Comment early and often! Click here to email Supervisors.

What Should Happen to Silver Lake?

The Silver Lake property was donated to Prince William citizens, through the Board of Supervisors, to provide much needed land for public recreation and open space. The Board of Supervisors will decide what to do with the Silver Lake property on Tuesday, September 18, at their 2:00 p.m. Board meeting.

Officials are supposed to represent the views of the community ... which is possible only if officials hear from citizens. Decisions are made by the people who show up.

Click here to email your views to all Supervisors. Contact information for Supervisors is also posted online here and here. We are also interested in hearing your views, send a copy of your comments to us at alliance@pwconserve.org.

Plan to attend the Board meeting on Tuesday, September 18, 2:00 p.m., McCoart Government Center. The Board did not schedule a public hearing before their vote, so citizen's who wish to share their views on Silver Lake must speak at Citizen's Time at the start of the meeting.

Contact information for Supervisors is also posted online here and here. We are also interested in hearing your views, send a copy of your comments to us at alliance@pwconserve.org.