Once again, Prince William residents find themselves fighting to protect the best land-use tool in Northern Virginia, the county’s “rural crescent.”
This urban growth boundary was designed to ensure investment of critical infrastructure dollars in the “development areas” of the county, as opposed to pushing housing density in the county’s rural western stretches, where there are fewer roads, schools and other basic infrastructure, such as connections to the county’s sewer and water lines. Introducing new growth in the rural crescent, which will require high-dollar infrastructure investments, is the opposite of smart growth.
You may ask, what is the definition of smart growth? It is planned economic and community development that works to curb urban sprawl.
Some in the county are pushing the position that in order to "save" the rural crescent, we must "develop" the rural crescent. Don't be fooled. Their flawed solution, which they have yet to fully identify for their contrived "problem," is to allow high-density "cluster" housing developments, which would introduce public sewer connections into the rural crescent. This “solution” is, in actuality, a developer scheme.
What is the benefit for county residents when rural crescent restrictions on high-density housing are lifted? None. The approval of the Avendale development, under the guise of the Vint Hill Road re-alignment, is tangible proof of this. Instead of the previously allowed 12 homes on the Avendale property, which was in the rural crescent, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors instead approved almost 300 homes when they agreed to the Avendale rezoning.
Schools are not less crowded, they are bursting at the seams in the west end. And the county’s east end fights for every dollar to re-develop aging areas. Vint Hill Road is not less congested, its congestion has never been worse. Residents who have lived along that road for decades will confirm this. Ask the homeowners who had their land taken through eminent domain, was it worth it? No.
Instead of a $1 billion road bond, maybe it’s time we had an “investment bond” to catch up with all the housing development county leaders have approved. Some county officials continue to believe that if they exchange land for higher-density housing development, somehow the basic infrastructure needs will catch up. But all they are doing is digging the same hole deeper. This fits the definition of insanity.
Some county officials behave like someone selling off their organs to cover their debts. At some point, you run out of organs, your body shuts down and you still have the debts.
Don’t be fooled by the pretty language of “transitional ribbons” and “gateways.” Those mean the end of the rural crescent. They mean our tax dollars get flushed down the toilet. Scarce infrastructure dollars would need to be invested in building roads and schools; maintaining roads and schools; and adding fire, rescue, police and all the other support infrastructure required for new houses in rural areas, with no transportation or transit.
Prince William County is incredibly unique. From our Potomac River shoreline to our Bull Run Mountains, there is no other county in Virginia like it. We have urban communities that need and deserve re-investment and development dollars, while the rural areas have valuable assets in which the county has yet to fully invest or use to their full potential.
Is selling out and breaking up our rural crescent what we really what we want our county leadership to leave as its legacy?
Come to the Prince William Conservation Alliance’s “Rural Crescent Forum” on Thursday, March 7 and learn more. An educated Prince William electorate is the only way to ensure that our tax dollars are properly used, and that our green spaces are properly protected.
Elena Schlossberg, of Haymarket, is the executive director Coalition to Protect PWC and a board member of the Prince William Conservation Alliance.