The Long Branch Development in the Rural Crescent
On January 19 2021 five Prince William Supervisors ignored the recommendations of the Planning Commission, Planning staff, School Board, MCB Quantico, the District Supervisor, and approximately 600 citizens who wrote or spoke in support of maintaining the Rural Crescent and voted to change the Comprehensive Plan. Their vote removed land from the Rural Crescent, tripled the number of homes currently allowed, and approved a connection to public sewer. In exchange the developer promises to “gift” a “natural area preserve” to the County for public use.
Trading new houses for green open space?
There is no question the county needs more preserved open space. But this open space comes at an expense that won’t be covered by the new residents in this community. In exchange for the open space, most of which is unbuildable, taxpayers will have to cover costs for new roads, schools, and other public services.
Also, the new impervious surfaces from houses, roads etc. will increase stormwater runoff and challenge the quality of the natural area over time. This project was sold on the premise that it would preserve the quality of Long Branch, but that outcome is doubtful.
PWCA recognizes the need for equity. Everyone wants greener communities and natural area parkland that is close to home. This new open space provides an amenity for residents of the new community, not residents who live in densely populated and underserved areas. Not everyone can drive halfway across the county to enjoy a walk in the woods.
Keeping taxes lower.
The Rural Crescent was adopted to slow residential development in areas with inadequate infrastructure to support new homes. Today the county is still trying to balance tax revenue and expenses for Prince William residents so that they can afford high quality services.
Putting houses where there are no jobs, schools, transit or shopping re-directs local investments away from activity centers, increases traffic congestion and becomes a tax burden for everyone.
The approval of the Preserve at Long Branch opens the door to sprawling pockets of cluster developments – something that the Rural Crescent was created to prevent.
Protecting drinking water
The Rural Crescent protects streams and public drinking water supplies. All land in the Rural Crescent flows to the Occoquan Reservoir, and Rural Crescent residents depend on groundwater. However, the groundwater level in the only monitoring well in the Rural Crescent has been falling since 2004. This is a warning that we are depleting the aquifer.
In 2018, the Virginia Legislature amended the comprehensive planning process to include a requirement to ensure the continued availability, quality and sustainability of groundwater and surface water resources on a County level.
Adding development to the Rural Crescent without a program to measure and monitor the groundwater that the whole Rural Crescent depends on is like driving with your eyes closed. [Elizabeth Ward]
Supporting transparent processes and community participation.
Despite the claims of the officials who said they have “disdain for people who manufacture false information, if you go to the sections of the county, some people don’t even know what the Rural Crescent is,” citizens have taken advantage of the many opportunities to learn more. Over the past ten years, hundreds of people from throughout the County have attended the many workshops and forums hosted by the Planning office, PWCA, Mid County Civic Association and others.
Citizens have done their homework. They are largely knowledgeable, credible, and consistent in their support for the Rural Crescent. A 2014 Prince William County survey showed that 80% of respondents supported preserving land in the Rural Crescent using a combination of public and private funds.
The Rural Crescent has been a success.
Supervisors can choose to protect the Rural Crescent’s benefits and remaining farmland by keeping densities low, by implementing proven incentives that address the challenges of today. A funded PDR program, expanding the Land Use Assessment Program, and creating a staff position for an Agriculture Development Director are just a few examples.
PWCA works to establish desirable, equitable, sustainable communities, promote environmental stewardship, and create opportunities for residents to engage in decisions that affect the quality of their lives and the future of their communities. Together we can face these challenges and create an equitable, sustainable vision for Prince William County, our home.
In the News:
Democratic supervisors open to more homes, industrial uses in the ‘rural crescent’; Prince William Times, January 28 2021
Prince William Supervisor flips position on preserving the rural area, takes heat after approving 99 new homes; Potomac Local; January 23 2021
Prince William board approves housing development in 'Rural Crescent'; InsideNova, January 20 2021
Why the ‘rural crescent’ is still relevant, by Liz Cronauer
A letter to Supervisors, by Mike Davidson
Rural crescent is a gem to be preserved, not destroyed, by Lori Fen; January 28 2021
We want the rural crescent left alone, by Norman Rae Wilson; January 29 2021