Trust is the foundation of effective government. The shocking re-vote by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors to approve the unpopular Va. 28 bypass was a breach of that public trust.
At the Aug. 4 board meeting, dozens of community members addressed why building a Va. 28 bypass would have negative impacts on residents. Houses and property would be lost to road construction. Homes and businesses in the area already experience flooding from Flat Branch creek.
Supervisors listened to community concerns, and those who previously supported the bypass instead voted to widen the existing Va. 28.
It was the correct decision for the environment; the bypass would adversely affect wetlands and ultimately the downstream Occoquan Reservoir, our source of drinking water. And since the bypass would negatively affect a diverse, working-class community, the supervisors' vote also honored the county’s newly adopted "lens of equity." It was the right decision to advance a smart-growth approach.
After the vote, community members thought their homes and quality of life were safe, but they were in for a shock! Just a few weeks later, in a stunning reversal, Chair Ann Wheeler called a surprise re-vote on the Va. 28 Bypass.
This re-vote was not included on the board’s agenda and no public notice was provided. At the meeting, citizens were not allowed to speak until after supervisors had voted.
Citizens were left without a voice, but Northern Virginia Transportation Authority Chair Phyllis Randall, also chair of the Loudon Board of County Supervisors, was invited to speak. At the meeting, Randall threatened to take away $89 million in transportation funds designated for Prince William if the BOCS did not approve the bypass.
The process, or lack thereof, used to make this decision alienated local communities, the people supervisors were elected to represent. Instead, supervisors advanced developer goals to open new land for residential development at the expense of the existing community. This has created a serious conflict and broken trust with the community.
The Prince William Conservation Alliance recognizes and promotes the value of including all stakeholders in community decisions. Only by working together, and by respecting community input, can we establish desirable, equitable and sustainable communities that benefit us all.
We urge the Prince William supervisors to act now to implement an honest process that honors the role of both residents and businesses in creating a bright future for Prince William County.
Prince William Conservation Alliance