Stop Public Sewer Extensions into the Rural Crescent
On Tuesday, May 4, Prince William County Board of Supervisors is considering adopting an updated Rural Preservation Plan that includes allowing the extension of sewer into the rural areas to accommodate higher density development for the purpose of preserving rural land.
If you're confused, you're not alone, so are we. How does a plan for more infrastructure and residential development preserve the rural area?
The Board is considering four specific actions:
- A Comprehensive Plan Amendment updating the Rural Preservation Plan (link)
- A zoning text amendment that would enable cluster development with access to public sewer called Conservation Residential (link)
- A zoning text amendment that would enable a Transfer of Development Right program (link)
- A zoning text amendment that would enable a Purchase of Development Right program (link)
In March the Planning Commission asked that the zoning text amendments proposed be decoupled from the comprehensive plan amendment. Commissioners then voted to deny the plan and the zoning amendments except for the one on the PDR program which they recommended be approved. We agree with their decision.
Extending sewer into the Rural Crescent to accommodate higher density is costly for taxpayers and will encourage further leapfrog development and loss of farmland, wildlife habitat, and degradation of natural resources.
A PDR program, however, is an effective way to provide long term protection for farmland while also providing additional funds for the farmer to reinvest into the agricultural operation.
We encourage you to write the Board asking them to follow the Planning Commission recommendation and approve the PDR program but deny the rest of the proposed changes.
How to Make Your Voice Heard:
The public hearing will be held at 7:30pm on May 4 in the Board Chambers, James J. McCoart Administration Building 1 County Complex Court, Prince William, VA 22192. You may comment in-person (with a mask) or remotely. If you choose to speak remotely be sure to sign up by 5pm the day before: https://pwcgov.granicusideas.com/. You will have 3 minutes to speak. Hope to see you there!
More about these changes:
The plan calls for about 2,225 acres of agricultural zoned land to be replanned for higher density suburban type development. Some of this acreage would be used to accommodate clustered developments at the edge of the rural crescent and some would become receiving areas for a TDR program.
The cluster developments would allow public sewer to be extended out to the rural crescent to accommodate higher density development. The reasoning is that 60% of development would be “protected” as open space, passive recreation, stormwater management, etc.
The thing is most of these development sites contain significant floodplain and open space. Passive recreational, stormwater management ponds, etc. are required anyway so this will likely not provide any additional protection of resources, especially in light of the increased intensity of use allowed.
And, while a 60% "save" area may sound like a lot, it's worth noting that two recent cluster developments in the Occoquan District each protected 60% of the development site. If this is a realistic standard for the development area, we should be able to set a significantly higher standard in the rural area.
A TDR program allows for development rights to be purchased from one area where development is not desired to an area where it is desired. The proposed program includes transferring those development rights from one part of the Rural Crescent to another which makes little sense. The proposed receiving sites would require extending public sewer even further into the rural crescent. An effective TDR program should transfer development rights from rural areas to areas with transit, redevelopment potential, and/or sites with infill opportunities.