´╗┐PWCAPrince William Conservation Alliance

´╗┐Community Report, July 24 2020

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Ovenbird by Eli Hosen

The Preserve at Long Branch /MidCounty Estates Wants to Remove 320 Acres from the Rural Crescent

Planning Commission Vote Scheduled: July 29 2020, 7pm
Contact Planning Commissioners and Supervisors to share your views.
Speak at the public hearing in person or remotely, register here before July 28, 5pm
Read more about the Rural Crescent here

Despite multiple failed attempts over the past ten years, developer Classic Concept Homes continues to push their plan to build 118 new homes on 320 acres within the Rural Crescent, more than triple the current allowed density. Located near Sinclair Mill Road and west of Route 234, this plan has been been considered and withdrawn more times that we can remember, and consistently generates significant community outcry.

Over the years local communities have made their support for the Rural Crescent clear. Public input consistently shows a strong consensus on the importance of maintaining the Rural Crescent. County surveys have shown that that 87% of respondents believe the Rural Crescent is a place to preserve and enhance the rural character of Prince William. Only 8% think it is a holding area for future suburban development.

Planning staff recommends denial of this Comprehensive Plan Amendment but also notes it could be supported by a six year old rural area study that has never been approved or adopted. Why is this relevant? This development proposal does not match the current Comprehensive Plan or any other Comprehensive Plans over the past 22 years. Approving increased densities and access to public sewer in the Rural Crescent would set a precedent for leapfrog [sprawl] development across the rural area.

In lieu of a monetary contribution, the developer proposes to gift green open space for use as parkland. More than half is already protected as perennial and intermittent streams, wetlands, and steep slopes including those not connected to a Resource Preservation Area. Also, if the green open space is to be “permanently protected,” the applicant must show information verifying that a land trust has agreed to hold the easement along with an overview of the easement restrictions.

Classic Concept Homes claims that the BOCS previously approved five Comprehensive Plan Amendments for increased densities within the Rural Crescent. However, four of these compensated for the shift in the Rural Crescent boundary by adding as much or more acreage to the Rural Crescent than was removed.

One, Avendale, was an anomaly created by the relocation of Vint Hill Road, which separated that parcel from the Rural Crescent and resulted in a resolution reaffirming Supervisors support for the Rural Crescent. This current proposal adds no acreage to the Rural Crescent. 

And why would Supervisors initiate a plan to increase densities and allow access to public sewer in the Rural Crescent before implementing promised incentives intended to ensure the success of Rural Crescent goals?

These strategies are intended to help the County avoid the negative economic, social, and environmental characteristics of sprawl development [LU page 29.] They include incentives that help landowners protect agricultural land uses, prime farmland soils, and existing green open space. They recognize that, for every dollar we spend expanding infrastructure – roads, schools, etc. – into the countryside is a dollar we can’t spend to create attractive, sustainable communities near transit nodes.

However, to date Supervisors have implemented none of their own recommendations. Without incentives, we're looking at just one piece of the picture. It's not possible to evaluate the countywide benefits of the Rural Crescent under these circumstances.

If this CPA is approved, it would remove acres from the Rural Crescent, change the urban growth boundary, and set a precedent for other land speculators seeking increased density in the Rural Crescent. Read the staff report for the Comprehensive Plan Amendment here and the associated rezoning here.

We urge the Planning Commission and BOCS to deny these applications. We encourage the BOCS to review and implement incentives to ensure we reap the benefits offered by protected rural areas.

Independent Hill Small Area Plan (SAP) proposes to remove 75+ Acres from the Rural Crescent

Planning Commission Vote Scheduled: September 16
Email Planning Commissioners and Supervisors to share your views now!

The Independent Hill SAP is located on both sides of Route 234 in the vicinity of the Prince William County landfill. This area is mostly undeveloped, with environmental and cultural resources that offer an opportunity to create a sense of place in keeping with the character of the surrounding area.

 However, the staff proposal overlooks the value of existing resources and instead proposes a dense community at a location not served by transit. The staff report shows up to 270 new homes and 5 million sq. feet of nonresidential buildings within a 544-acre area that is bisected by the four, soon to be six-lane Route 234, where there is no reasonable expectation for transit and schools are already overcrowded.

Attempting to justify high density development in the middle of nowhere, staff claims the SAP is surrounded by “economic hubs” – the Kelly Leadership Center, Hellwig Park, Prince William County Landfill, Prince William [National] Forest Park, and Marine Corps Base Quantico. Staff suggests these will serve as “springboards for future development.” Keep reading...

Neabsco Creek BoardwalkThe Neabsco Creek Boardwalk and Beyond
with Brendon Hanafin, PWC Parks

Monday, July 27, 7:00pm, online
RSVP Required, click here to register and receive a link to join the meeting.

In May 2019, the Parks Dept combined a small neighborhood park, a new commuter lot, the historic Rippon Lodge, and Kings Highway with the Neabsco Creek Wetlands Preserve to form a large eastern PWC Regional Park.
The catalyst for this major undertaking was the completion of the 3/4 mile long Neabsco Creek Boardwalk. Hikers now have access to these beautiful wetlands, where the tall grasses and marsh filter pollution from the river and provide a rich habitat for great blue herons, wood ducks, mallards, sparrow and red-winged blackbirds, just to name a few of the winged wildlife known to populate the area.

The Neabsco Creek Boardwalk attracts a broad diversity of people and is part of the expanding Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail in Woodbridge. Join us to find out what’s in store for this unique natural and historic parkland! 

Small Area Plans (SAP) In General

At the July 14 BOCS meeting, Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson introduced a resolution calling for the withdrawal of the SAPs still undergoing review, including Innovation, Independent Hill, and Route 29. These SAPs are Comprehensive Plan Amendments that were initiated by the BOCS to “direct growth to key locations throughout the County.”

Many SAPs have been poorly received by local communities. Citizens have publicly expressed their opposition to the intense development staff is proposing, correctly saying these are areas where infrastructure, such as schools, is already lacking, and there is no reasonable expectation of access to transit.

Recognizing the benefits of a comprehensive approach and responding to community concerns, Supervisor Lawson notes, “The previous board saddled us with ongoing agenda items related to the small area plans that do not accurately reflect the vision of the newly elected members. The current board did not establish any of the parameters, locations or proposed purposes of these small area designations.”

Because the SAPs are a Board initiative, Supervisors can withdraw the proposals and remove them from the staff work schedule at any time. Occoquan District Supervisor Kenny Boddye sees the benefits of taking a step back. “There’s no rush,” he says, “we have time to make sure we do things the right way.”

Click here to read Supervisor Lawson’s resolution. Click here to share your views with Supervisors.

2020 Annual Butterfly Count, Manassas Circle

Hats off to the dedicated volunteers who surveyed the greater Manassas area for Annual Butterfly Count on July 19. It was a blazing hot day, the pandemic limited the size of survey teams, and many have said they don't see a lot of butterflies this year.

The survey results are in line with this concern. This year we recorded 36 species and 674 individuals. For perspective, in 2019 we recorded 45 species and 1003 individuals. In 2018, we recorded 44 species, 684 individuals.

Many thanks to volunteers Larry Meade, Tammy Prescott, Judy Gallagher, Eli Hosen, Kim Hosen, Gary Myers, Matthew Myers, Nancy Vehrs, and Valerie Huelsman! 

Linking Land Use and Transportation

At the July 14 Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) meeting, Occoquan District Supervisor Kenny Boddye issued a directive proposing that the Planning Commission review and vote on transportation proposals. Right now the Planning Commission reviews only land use proposals. Considering land use and transportation together creates a more comprehensive decision-making process. It also ensures that the public has access to information and creates an opportunity for citizens to participate in decisions that affect the quality of their communities. You can help make this happen! Click here to share your comments with the BOCS.

County Seeks Citizen Comments on Strategic Plan Goals
Click here to complete the County’s survey.

The County’s Strategic Plan establishes our vision for the future. It considers what's going on today, where we want to be tomorrow and how we can get there. It establishes a vision for the future and drives the budget. Categories that are named as primary goals in the Strategic Plan are funded; other unnamed categories are pretty much out of luck.

To date, Prince William's Strategic Plan has never recognized the importance of environmental resources to high quality communities. As we’ve learned from the current pandemic, green open space is a necessity. Share your support for naming Environmental Sustainability as a priority.

Route 28 Bypass Proposal

Supervisor Vega is hosting two town hall events on the Route 28 Bypass proposal. A video town hall will take place on Thursday, July 23, and a telephone town hall will take place on Monday, July 27. Both events begin at 7pm. Click here to register.

Prince William Supervisors will vote August 4 on the proposed Route 28/Godwin Drive Extension. The new road will require tearing down 50 houses and disrupt the Flat Branch/Bull Run wetlands. The county would need to sell $200 million in bonds, limiting options to fund better projects (such as solar panels for sustainable schools). 

It appears from the traffic analysis that non-county commuters and jurisdictions will get the benefits, while county residents get to pay the $200 million bill. Available alternatives that would integrate land use and transportation planning were never studied. The proposed route along Flat Branch is ideal for a bike/pedestrian trail and linear park, not for a commuter road.

Sachem skippers by Eli Hosen