Last week, the BOCS authorized a study of the Rural Crescent to determine if the way the land use was designed 14 years ago is still the best use of that land today.
If you’ve lived here long enough, you may recall there was an attempt made by Disney to develop land in that area, creating a theme park like no other. Disney’s America would have been quite an asset to Prince William County, providing jobs and tax revenue.
Conservationists feared the park would desecrate the battlefields and fought fervently to preserve the open space. Citizens were afraid of the influx of new residents and the road congestion that would follow and a need for mass transit to and from Dulles.
There is an excellent brief recap written by Chris Huh in 2001 explaining the decisions that led to the withdrawal of Disney plans and the lessons learned from that fray are something now studied in many educational venues.
I’m not a historian or a policy wonk, but I know in my heart we would have benefitted from that development far more than the slicing and dicing of the rural crescent we are now enduring. The approval of Avondale last year sounded like the death throes of the rural crescent to me.
I also find it ironic PWC is marketing our county as a tourist destination. We certainly had the opportunity to become a tourist destination in 1994.
I am absolutely not opposed to growth. We must grow to accommodate the increase in population that every town, city, county, state and country experiences.
What we must do is take a big step and open our minds to a change in the the way we develop, the way we think and live.
Development is inevitable, but housing drains our resources. We need business to locate here not just at Innovation (a business development that has been difficult to fill and is attempting to adapt) and help stem the commuting nightmare.
We keep building new instead of renovating the old. Why? Two big reasons: It’s cheaper to start from scratch than to renovate and the proffers by developers offer a quick fix to artificially inflate our wealth. Proffers are money and/or land and sometimes amenities offered by developers for approval of a project.
Proffers are the beginning of our backward thinking: Residents believe they are getting a good deal from proffers, but after the houses are built and the road "improvements" are added, we are left to pay for school construction, teacher salaries, road maintenance, fire and police protection, and all the other services needed for the new residents.
Our budget is built on property taxes—that's why the county believes we need to continue to build new homes. Assessed value on high end, new properties is worth so much more than old properties.
That's the same reason old strip malls don't renovate...they are getting rent now and are paying low property taxes. In some cases, the strip mall owners may be claiming a tax loss! What incentive is there for the owners to improve? If they do renovate, they are charged HIGHER taxes for their valuable improved property!
It's the same for homeowners. If I build an addition to my home, my taxes go up. If I extend my driveway, build a new front porch...my taxes go up. That's how slum lords are built...why keep up their properties? There's a steady stream of renters to occupy those shoddy, run-down properties and no incentives to improve.
Let’s start incentivizing renovation instead of new development. Let’s give the tax breaks as a reward for redevelopment instead of punishing us with higher taxes on improved property. Let’s build up with two and three story malls and shopping centers instead of sprawl with acres of ugly asphalt parking. Let’s save the little green space we have left by better redesigning the space we’ve already used.
If this line of thought seems logical to you, you should join the Neabsco Action Alliance