Rick Smith Accuses Corey Stewart of Raking in Developer Money

| July 31, 2015 | 0 Comments | News
Rick Smith is the Democratic Candidate for Prince William County's Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors.

Rick Smith is the Democratic Candidate for Prince William County’s Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors.

Democratic Candidate for Prince William Board of County Supervisors, Chairman Rick Smith, is accusing Republican incumbent Corey Stewart of raking in cash from developers “as he fails to manage residential growth;” However, Stewart defends his record as a pro-business chairman.

In a press release, Rick Smith notes that when Stewart first ran for political office in 2003, he distributed fliers that stated he “Refuses to take money from developers.” In 2006, Stewart campaigned for political office by distributing fliers that said “Make a developer mad.”

However, it appears that Stewart is now developer friendly. As Smith points out, “The most recent campaign finance report shows that Stewart raised over $80,000 in the month of June alone from real estate developers. Corey Stewart has raised nearly $1,000,000 from developers during his campaigns for local and statewide political offices.”

A visit to VPAP (Virginia Public Access Project) shows that 50 percent of Stewart’s financing has come from developers or those in the real estate industry, and Smith is calling him out on it.

“When Corey Stewart first ran for Prince William County Chairman, he promised to control growth in Prince William and prevent residential development from running amok,” wrote Smith. “Since then, our population has grown by more than 20 percent with development after development receiving approval from the board at Corey’s behest.”

Smith blames rapid growth in Prince William County for “crippling traffic” and “the most over-crowded schools in Virginia.” He also stated that under Stewart’s leadership, Prince William has fallen behind Stafford in job growth.

Smith seems to believe that what is best for developers is not the same as what is best for residents, and said as chairman he would look out for citizens first and foremost.

VPAP's pie chart showing donations to Corey Stewart's campaign for Board of County Supervisor 2015 election.

VPAP’s pie chart showing donations to Corey Stewart’s campaign for Board of County Supervisor 2015 election.

“As Chairman,” said Smith, “I am committed to working everyday for the people of Prince William County first. Our board must be committed to managing residential growth in a way that ensures every development is a win for the people in our community, and not just campaign contributors who are able to write $10,000 checks.”

While developers and real estate agents make up the largest group of donors to the Stewart campaign, insurance and finance, represents the largest contributing group to the Smith campaign, at approximately 30 percent.

Smith’s campaign manager, Andrew Childs, said that is due to the fact that he works in finance and has borrowed money from himself to fund his campaign.

“Most of that money is from Rick Smith himself contributing or loaning money to the campaign. Rick works at American Bankers Association in D.C. in the IT department. It is a trade association,” Childs said.

Childs also said that Smith has accepted one donation from a realtor, who is a personal friend and former police officer. He offered this statement:

Rick does not think it is inherently inappropriate and does not want to close any doors on people who want to discuss the county or support his campaign. But Rick won’t sell his soul to the highest bidder, either… The difference between Rick and Corey is that having a seat at the table won’t require huge campaign contributions. Rick is committed to working hard for our entire community and as chair would vote for proposals that are a win for everyone, not just developers and those who can contribute $10,000 to his political campaign.

Chairman at-Large Corey Stewart makes a presentation at the opening of the New Regal Multi-Plex Cinema at The Virginia Gateway Promenade in Gainesville.

Chairman at-Large Corey Stewart makes a presentation at the opening of the New Regal Multi-Plex Cinema at The Virginia Gateway Promenade in Gainesville.

For his part, Chairman Corey Stewart, the Republican nominee, responded that his donors support him because he has helped to grow the business community in Prince William County.

“I have a broad support in the business community in Prince William County, and that is because business has grown during my term as chairman. Employment has grown; we’ve constantly rated among the top counties in the country. My top donors are not housing developers, but are those bringing more office space, more high end retail and more commercial development into the county,” Stewart said in a phone interview.

Stewart said that before he took office there were no high-end restaurants in the county, and now there are many, making Prince William a destination and a great place to live.

Stewart also supported his record on housing, saying that the number of new homes approved for development has also fell dramatically under his leadership.

“Before I was on the board in 2003, there were 6,203 housing permits issued in a single year. The county was approving around 6,200 hundred a year,” said Stewart. However, in 2014, the board only approved 1,209 total dwelling units. “That’s an 81 percent decrease in in of housing of units approved,” Stewart said.

He added that in 2006, there were 2,787 housing units approved, so there was already a 56 percent decrease at that point in time. He said his board saw fewer proposals as well, since developers knew they would have to meet higher standards than in the past.

In Stewart’s opinion not all development is bad for the county, but his philosophy is that development needs to be supported by the infrastructure to support it such as roads.

“I’ve always felt development should pay for itself,” Stewart said.

One way the board ensured the county was getting the infrastructure it needed from developers was to increase housing proffers in 2014. Proffers are the amount of money, or land, or other amenities that developers need to offer, or decide to offer, a jurisdiction to offset population growth or incoming traffic.

Stewart also noted that much of the new housing residents are  now seeing in Prince William is part of a “mixed-use development” which means that  housing, retail and office space are all within walking distance.

Even though Stewart has been selective with which housing developments he has approved, commercial developers are supporting his campaign, and Stewart thinks that is a good thing.

“Most of my support comes from the business community, because they know I’m pro-business. But, I’m not beholden to any sector of business. I want to bring in more commercial development, and I have been successful in doing that,” Stewart said.

He named some of his donors as The Peterson Companies that is building the Promenade at Virginia Gateway, Bob Buchanan of Buchanan Partners; Roadside Development that has built the Stone Bridge Center in Woodbridge and The Potomac National Baseball Team.

 

A correction has been made in this article. According to Andrew Child’s, Rick Smith borrowed money from himself to fund his campaign, not his company.

© 2015, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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