PW Supervisors Strike Down Resolution to Eliminate Sewer in Rural Crescent from Staff Proposal

| October 18, 2019 | 0 Comments | News

Gainesville woman advocates Jeanine Lawson’s resolution for preserving the Rural Crescent before the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.

By a 5-3 vote, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted against a resolution, Oct. 15, that would have excluded clustering of homes with sewer extension into the Rural Crescent from the planning staff’s proposal.

Supervisors Jeanine Lawson (R-Brentsville) put forth a resolution for preserving the Rural Crescent that would essentially keep the area as is. Peter Candland (R-Gainesville) amended that resolution to include several options for the crescent. Off the table would be sewer hookup and clustering of homes on that sewer extension. It was supported by Frank Principi (D-Woodbridge).

Supervisors Ruth Anderson (R-Occoquan), Maureen Caddigan (R-Potomac), Marty Nohe (R-Coles), Victor Angry (D-Neabsco) and Chairman Corey Stewart (R) opposed. Several said they would first like to hear the recommendation from staff and Planning Commission before ruling out any option.

The Rural Crescent

The Rural Crescent is an area on the southern edge of the county designated A1 Agricultural. Residential development is only allowed for single family homes situated on 10-acre lots or low-density developments without sewer. Supervisors protected the Rural Crescent from high-density residential and commercial development in 1998.

The Press Conference

At a press conference last week, Supervisors Lawson, Candland and Principi announced they would be presenting a resolution seeking to stop all Rural Crescent options save purchase of development rights (PDRs).

According to Lawson, the desire for development is coming from several large landowners who have been working for years to open the Rural Crescent to new development. Over time, they have teamed up with developers and PR professionals to reframe the conversation as “preservation.”

The three supervisors were not convinced staff’s plan would preserve the Rural Crescent, because it includes sewer and clustering homes. They argued the cost for new infrastructure and schools would also be disastrous for the county.

The staff report disagrees and shows that its plan would not result in significantly more students compared to developing the Rural Crescent via 10-acre lots. It asserts that conservation easements would protect open land into perpetuity.

The Amended Resolution and Vote

According to Candland’s friendly amendment, transfer of the development rights (TDR) into development areas, purchase of development rights (PDR) and the creation of the agri-tourism arts overlay district would have been considered. It is sewer that would have been off the table.

Lawson said vast majority of residents do not want sewer. “Developers by nature follow sewer lines,” she said. “It is so important to truly preserving the rural area.” She said she embraces other options, including the overlay district of art and agriculture-tourism.

What’s in the Staff Plan

Since the resolution failed, the Planning Commission will hear the staff’s recommendations on Oct. 23. They include clustering, sewer, TDRs, PDRs and an agro-tourism/art overlay district.

TDRs could be applied to two designated RC1 Rural Conservation development areas limited to single-family homes on 0.5-2 acres and into the development area.

The more popular option is increasing residential density in mixed use “activity centers” such as Virginia Gateway and Potomac Town Center. These apartments near transportation, retail and entertainment and should yield fewer children per household.

Should the Planning Commission approve or deny the plan, the decision would ultimately fall to the supervisors. But with elections in November, it is likely that the fate of the Rural Crescent will be decided by the next board.

Discussion

By and large, supervisors who rejected the resolution said they want the process to play out in the usual fashion.

Supervisor Ruth Anderson said she does want to preserve the Rural Crescent but does not want to make an “impromptu” decision without hearing all the information available. “My trust and integrity is at stake here tonight.” She said the “it is just wrong” to say that she is against preservation.

Lawson said they are simply asking to take two alternatives “off the table” in keeping with what the residents want.

Supervisor Caddigan said she wants to protect the Rural Crescent, but she is dismayed that residents have chosen to attack the planning staff members who have work very hard over the years on their proposals.

Citizens’ Time

Many speakers noted that residents prefer the current land designation by a ratio of 10:1. A few alleged the process has been less than transparent and has been too driven by the planning staff and preservation study.

Outspoken Haymarket resident Bob Weir said he had to FOIA the comments from the staff’s July meeting. Others said that what the citizens received from the request was incomplete because several of their comments were not included.

Weir said it has been the same two landowners in concert with developers vehemently pushing for the opening of the Rural Crescent, including a gentleman named Mark Gramble-Smith.

Breaking the rules of decorum, Weir said it’s “bullshit” that staff members did not know who owned what piece of land; it is cannot be a coincidence that those landowners received the best options for profiting.

One Brentsville man implored the supervisors to protect the Rural Crescent for future generations. Dr. Jack Humes of the Lake-Ridge Occoquan Civics Society reference a letter on behalf of the society. He said they value the Rural Crescent even though it is not within their district.

Others spoke of the ridiculousness of building suburban neighborhoods without major roads. “Where is the transportation hubs in the Rural Crescent, there are none,” said one Occoquan resident.

Lawson, Candland and Angry are running for reelection. Others on the board are not.

© 2019, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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