Prince William Conservation Alliance

Community Report, August 1 2018

Read online here

Photo by Judy Gallagher

Trees on Tap: The Rural Crescent

Monday, August 20, 6:30pm at Water's End Brewery, Dillingham Square, Lakeridge

According to Planning staff, proposed revisions to rural area policies are "potentially far reaching, especially those affecting land use and land preservation." Join us to learn how changes could influence development in both the rural area and the development area. Share your ideas, comments, and questions! (Scroll down for a recap of our July 16 forum on the Rural Crescent.)

A Community Conversation Led by Speakers:

Supervisor Peter Candland, Gainesville District

Supervisor Ruth Anderson , Occoquan District

Jack Kooyoomjian, Lakeridge Occoquan Coles Civic Assoc.

Elizabeth Ward, Prince William Soil & Water Conservation

For questions and to RSVP, contact us at, 703.490.5200


Show Up and Speak Up! Upcoming Meetings on the Rural Crescent

Mon, Aug 20, 6:30pm, Trees on Tap at Waters End Brewery, Dillingham Square, Woodbridge.

Wed, Aug 29, 6-8pm, Planning Commission Worksession at McCoart Potomac Room

Mon, Sept 17, 6-8pm, Planning Office Public Meeting at Colgan High School, 13833 Dumfries Rd, Manassas

Tues, Sept 25, 7-9pm, Planning Office Public Meeting at Nokesville School, 12375 Aden Rd, Nokesville

Mon, Sept 24, 7-9pm, Planning Office Public Meeting at Battlefield High School, 15000 Graduation Dr, Haymarket

Click here to sign the Petition

We request the Board of County Supervisors to provide both a plan and a statement of the costs, including identification of the risks of unforeseen costs to Prince William County taxpayers and rate payers, associated with changes to the Rural Crescent.

We further request, as supported by §§15.2-2223 and 15.2-2224 of the Code of Virginia, that the Board provide detailed information on how the County plans to provide adequate, sustainable, quality water for all existing and planned residents, businesses, schools and churches that are proposed for any change in zoning and planned development in the Rural Crescent of the county.


July 16 2018 Forum Review

Keep Your Green: Lower Taxes, Less Traffic, More Trees

It was standing room only at Giuseppe’s restaurant in Haymarket for Prince William Conservation Alliance (PWCA) Rural Crescent forum. Approximately 150 people joined us to discuss the benefits of our protected rural area, the Rural Crescent, learn more about changes the Board of County Supervisors is considering. Read the Gainesville Times article here.

Elena Schlossberg, PWCA and CPPW, welcomed everyone, saying we’re here to discuss the four Ts – traffic, taxes, (school) trailers, and trees. She noted that the Rural Crescent is not about protecting her personal property – it is about ensuring that everyone in PWC, from the east to the west, can all benefit from smart land use which, at the end of the day, ensures a better quality of life for everyone.

Kim Hosen, PWCA, opened the discussion with comments highlighting the value of Prince William’s green open space. With a diverse landscape that spans from a tidal shoreline to a mountain, Prince William County's remarkably rich natural resources create a sense of place that is unique within both Northern Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Gil Trenum, Brentsville District School Board Member, said the preservation of the Rural Crescent is key to the school system’s ability to provide adequate facilities and instruction on a county-wide basis without additional taxpayer support. Any changes to increase rural area density simply means Prince William County Schools will have to divert resources away from our other critical needs – class size reduction, pay raises for teachers, and bringing older schools into a state that is at least somewhat comparable with newer schools.

According to the Board of County Supervisors-School Board Joint Infrastructure Committee, an additional $368 million in new construction is needed now to eliminate trailers at schools… based on the past 20 years of projections that assumes continued protection for the Rural Crescent.

Martin Jeter, Mid-County Civic Association, reminded us that adding density to the Rural Crescent only opens the door to continuing sprawl, with the proposed changes permitting up to four times the current density along with public water and sewer in ill-defined “transitional ribbons,” various areas with stale zoning developments and “gateway corridors.” He made the point that Rural Cluster Development is not a preservation plan, it is a development plan.

Elizabeth Ward, PWSWCD, shared information on new legislation and spoke about the limitations of our water resources. This past winter the Virginia Legislature amended the enabling legislation for comprehensive planning (§§ 15.2-2223 and 15.2-2224 of the Code of Virginia ) to provide for the continued availability, quality and sustainability of groundwater and surface water resources on a County level as part of the Comprehensive Plan.

She noted that, while state law now requires the County Comprehensive Plan to address water availability, quality and sustainability as well as transportation needs directly. As a practical matter new development also creates a need for schools, hospitals, and electrical capacity with associated demands and impacts on water resources which must also be addressed.

Delegate Tim Hugo supported community efforts to protect the Rural Crescent against the threats from the Bi-County Parkway, and shared that he remains committed to smart growth policies. He said that “nothing is more important than the quality of life we have here in Prince William County.”

Statements from 13th District Delegate Danica Roem and Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland also conveyed their support for maintaining a protected rural area.

It's time to re-brand Prince William County from the home of Potomac Mills Mall to a vision that celebrates our diversity – Explore Prince William: From the Potomac River Shoreline to Bull Run Mountain.

Protecting our growth boundary, the Rural Crescent, protects Prince William’s unique natural assets, helps keep our taxes lower, and helps attract economic investments. As was pointed out by Don Scoggins, one attendee who came to the meeting from the eastern part of the county, "Even those who don't live in the Rural Crescent support it, because we all benefit." 


Planning Office Publishes Rural Character Map

The Planning Office has published an Existing Rural Character Area Map, dated July 2018, saying "The purpose of identifying these areas is to develop goals and action strategies that will guide preservation efforts appropriate to each character area."

Or will a different approach guide the process, where "The purpose of identifying these areas is to develop goals and action strategies that will justify development of additional housing in the existing Rural Area."

The definition of a Rural Area and Development Area in 1998 has provided a simple, easy-to-understand guide to growth and economic development in Prince William. The county defined Development Area boundaries to include all the land where commuters would have the best access to jobs in the District of Columbia and the urban core around it.  

Prince William would encourage new housing and businesses within the Development Area. The County would use taxes and money borrowed via bonds to build new public infrastructure – roads, fire/police stations, libraries, schools, sewer/water lines in the Development Area to accommodate new housing and encourage commercial development.

The 1998 Comprehensive Plan authorized new growth in the Rural Area as well. Nearly all land stayed as previously planned – densities of one house per 10-acre lot. 

To control the rapid increase in property taxes, the plan stated that Prince William would not subsidize new housing subdivisions in the Rural Area. Construction of future taxpayer-funded infrastructure would be focused in the Development Area, where it is less expensive to provide public services.

All the arguments made in 1998 for establishing the boundary between the Development Area and the Rural Area remain true today. 

What is important to understand today is the intent of the “Existing Rural Character Area Map.” County staff want to confuse the issue, complicate the question, and fuzz up the public’s understanding of the benefits of the last 20 years of maintaining the Rural Area. 

The basic question that needs to be answered is… why should the 1998 decision to define the Rural Area and Development Area be abandoned now? The complicated maps and jargon are a diversion, in hopes the public will go down the rabbit hole and debate how to change the Rural Area rather than address the fundamental question of why should we change the Rural Area.


Cluster developments appear to be most appropriate when used to add development onto existing towns or villages or to infill. But if cluster developments are allowed to disperse residences throughout the countryside, one could argue that the function of open space zoning and cluster design is not to protect farmland but to allow rural landowners to realize their anticipated capital gain, to encourage people to move farther out into the countryside, and to protect the viewshed of new, upper-income residents who enjoy looking at open space.

--Tom Daniels, Journal of the American Planning Association, Winter 1997


Join us today!

Programs are free of charge thanks to community support. RSVP appreciated! Contact us at, 703.490.5200.