“Why did we even bother to come here?” Those were the last words I heard while exiting Prince William County’s James J. McCoart Building on Tuesday, March 19. It was midnight and an overflow crowd of tired and disappointed residents were leaving the board of supervisors’ public hearing for a new housing development in Woodbridge called Ray’s Regarde. I didn’t see who asked the question, but from looking at the faces of those in the crowd, I knew it could have been any one of them.
Despite their frustration, the many citizens who voiced their opposition to approval of Ray’s Regarde likely know exactly why they came and stayed until midnight. It’s called democracy. We elect those who promise to serve our best interests. And when they don’t, we remove them from office by electing those who will.
That promise of democracy inspires us to never give up on our government. On Nov. 5, we’ll have the opportunity to vote to replace the supervisors who voted to approve Ray’s Regarde. The project is a new subdivision of 150 condominiums and 175 townhomes on 55 acres just east of Interstate 95 and north of Prince William Parkway near Kilby Elementary School.
The real question raised by this situation is, “Why did Supervisors Marty Nohe, R-Coles; Ruth Anderson, R-Occoquan; Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville, and Chairman Corey Stewart, R-At Large; choose to ignore the most disturbing group of problems the Citizens’ Alliance of Prince William ever uncovered about any proposed development and vote then to approve it?
Based on their board experience alone, the supervisors must have already known about the massive area-wide traffic congestion, school overcrowding, problems with police, fire and rescue protection, etc. And in case they weren’t already aware, we gave them written details before the hearing about those and other serious problems, including an old construction-debris landfill that will be “dumped” (no pun intended) on the buyers of homes in that development, likely via their homeowners’ association.
Finally, 35 citizens stood and spoke directly to the supervisors during a public hearing to personally explain how the existing problems this project will make worse are already destroying residents’ quality of life. Four supervisors refused to act on what they already knew, saw and heard and voted to approve the project anyway.
Between now and Election Day, the Citizens’ Alliance of Prince William’s research and reporting will focus on issues of voter interest, including: the impact of the supervisors’ voting record on traffic congestion and school overcrowding; the sources and amounts of the supervisors’ reelection campaign contributions; how staff reports from the county planning department and school division development-impact statements help developers get their projects approved and allow the supervisors to avoid accountability for approving them; problems with oversight of county government operations; and facts -- not fiction -- with regard to Stewart’s “2019 State of Prince William County” report, etc.
We plan to take an in-depth look at the problems associated with Ray’s Regarde to reveal why we consider that project to be the “the straw that broke the camel’s back” in terms of the need to replace the supervisors responsible for its approval. And it should leave no doubt why the next-to-last words heard at the public hearing for that project – directed at the supervisors who approved it – were: “Shame, absolute shame.”
Widener is a Gainesville resident and founder of Citizens Alliance of Prince William (“Putting Children and Families First”), an all-volunteer, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving county residents' quality of life. Contact CitizensAlliancePW@gmail.com