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Conservation Alliance: No need to bust the urban growth boundary to accommodate more growth

rural_crescent fact fiction

The Prince William Conservation Alliance on Wednesday will be talking about the Rural Crescent

It’s an area of land from Gainesville to Quantico that the Prince William County Board of Supervisors in 1998 designated as an urban growth boundary to keep the county’ s growth in check, and mostly located in its more dense central and eastern sections.

Nearly 20 years later, developers still have eyes on the land tract. And there have been recent calls to lay water and sewer lines there. 

Here’s the official description of the Rural Crescent program coming Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Old Manassas Courthouse, located at 9842 Lee Avenue in Manassas.

Learn how the Rural Crescent promotes farming and farm markets, spurs redevelopment in the Route 1 corridor, and why “sewering the green” would increase property taxes countywide. Join the conversation, bring your questions and ideas.

Speakers

Jeanine Lawson, Supervisor, Brentsville District
Mike May, former Supervisor, Occoquan District
Charlie Grymes, Chairman, PW Conservation Alliance

But we wanted to know more about why the Conservation Alliance deems this tract of land so important. We asked a few questions of everyone scheduled to appear  on the panel, and we received these responses: 

PL:  Why is the Rural Crescent unique in Northern VA? Especially when compared to other jurisdictions like Prince William County that have adopted a pro-growth strategy?

Charlie Grymes, Prince William Conservation Alliance: Every county in Northern Virginia has adopted a pro-growth strategy – witness the recent “upzoning” in Fairfax County. Prince William is not unique in having a substantial area on its western edge designated for lower-density development, while the portion of the county closer to the urban core is planned for most of the county’s growth. Loudoun County’s Suburban Policy Area closest to DC is designed to attract commercial development and provide new housing, while the Rural Policy Area furthest away from DC is planned for fewer houses. Fairfax County has its lowest-density zoning on its western and southern boundaries, highlights the 1982 Occoquan Rezoning.

In 1998, when Prince William County established the Rural Crescent, taxpayers were up in arms over a property tax increases, see Big boom: PW, Loudoun face Fairfax 80’ss problem, Washington Business Journal, October 1998. The designation of Rural/Development areas was done to reduce the cost of building future infrastructure.

The county did not create the Rural Area to preserve farmland, but it still has an opportunity to spur economic development there. The Rural Area is the place for the economic development staff to encourage farm-to- table businesses and agriculture-centered visitor destinations such as wineries, not more-of- the-same subdivisions. As stated by Paul Pasternak, Prince William County 2030, “I first moved to Prince William County because of its open space. I just wanted to get away. Once I got here, though, the agriculture business was so attractive, I got hooked.”

PL:  What type of development is allowed in the Rural Crescent today?

Kim Hosen, Prince William Conservation Alliance: All land within the Rural Crescent is planned to allow one home per ten acres (A-1). Most undeveloped land in the Rural Area is also zoned to allow one house per 10 acres.

One major benefit of the Rural Area is the opportunity to preserve farmland, diversifying the county’s economy and creating a more-local food supply, which the county highlights in Economic Development publications. Preservation of large lots and undeveloped sections of the Rural Area offers space for farm markets and growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other specialty crops as well as raising livestock and horses.

PL: Why not grow the tax base of Prince William County and open up the Rural Crescent to more development?

Grymes: The Prince William Conservation Alliance is a pro-growth, pro-development organization that encourages increasing the tax base by steering growth to the most appropriate locations and protecting neighborhoods from inappropriate development. We are also advocates for cost-effective government, to minimize tax increases required to accommodate our growing population.

The county’s Comprehensive Plan already seeks to grow the tax base by increasing commercial development in the Development Area. The latest Build-Out Analysis reports the county has 84.3 million non-residential square feet of gross floor area to be built. That is over 125% more than the existing total of commercial development created since the county began to grow in the 1950’s.

At the rate we are building, areas already planned for commercial development would accommodate many years of growth. There is no need to bust the urban growth boundary to accommodate more growth. Residential development is a similar story. At the rate we are currently growing, there is enough land already planned for growth to accommodate 20 years of new housing construction.

As you know, commercial development grows the tax base and demands few services such as new schools, but much of the residential development increases the taxes of current residents. The county does not identify the exact break-even point, but houses costing less than about $500,000 are traditionally described as “tax negative.” Such houses require expanding schools and paying for more teachers, expanding fire/police stations and paying more first responders, etc. Costs for the new services exceed the property taxes paid by “tax negative” homes.

The cost-effective place for locating new development and growing the county’s tax base is in the Development Area, revitalizing places along Route 1 and building out areas already planned for development.

PL: If the area was developed, what new / more county services would be needed to provide buildings with water, sewer, electricity?

Grymes: The expensive services to provide would be construction of new infrastructure such as roads, schools, and fire/police stations. In the Development Area, where the population density is higher, the cost per resident for new public facilities is lower. Scattering government buildings in the Rural Area, and busing children longer distance to schools, is the expensive strategy.

For example, taxpayers get a better return on investment if we build a new lane on a major road in the Development Area. The improved roads will benefit many residents, commuting to work or simply going to the store. In contrast, fewer people will use new roads in the Rural Area, and in many cases out-of- county residents driving through Prince William will get the benefits.

 

News
Chamber discusses coming federal changes to overtime pay

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The Prince William Chamber of Commerce met with business owners to discuss sweeping changes coming to full-time employee salaries.

President Obama signed new legislation that redefines what it means to be employed full time.

From the Department of Labor:

Key Provisions of the Final Rule
The Final Rule focuses primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for Executive, Administrative and Professional workers to be exempt. Specifically, the Final Rule:

Sets the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South ($913 per week; $47,476 annually for a full-year worker);

Sets the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees (HCE) subject to a minimal duties test to the annual equivalent of the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally ($134,004); and

Establishes a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years to maintain the levels at the above percentiles and to ensure that they continue to provide useful and effective tests for exemption.

The law allows non-full time employees to now collect overtime pay.

The effective date of the final rule is December 1, 2016. The initial increases to the standard salary level (from $455 to $913 per week) and HCE total annual compensation requirement (from $100,000 to $134,004 per year) will be effective on that date. Future automatic updates to those thresholds will occur every three years, beginning on January 1, 2020.

From Prince William Chamber:

Betty Dean, Chair of the Chamber’s Policy Committee and Owner of Dean & Associates summarized the reactions of member businesses saying, “I think it’s fair to say that the biggest concern from the members’ perspective was the increased costs that are likely to result, but that was followed closely by concern about how to manage the potential, unintended consequences of the new regulations. Many businesses and especially not-for-profit organizations have employees whose salaries are below the new threshold.” Dean went on to note that employees often require a great deal of flexibility to do their jobs; attending before/after-hours events, traveling from location to location and scheduling appointments outside of normal business hours.

Allison Dembeck, executive director for education, labor and workforce development, congressional and public affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was on hand to hear questions from Prince William Chamber members.

Questions included how to regulate employee use of mobile devices during non-business hours and how that time can be tracked. Committee members also discussed the likelihood that mobile communications will need to be strictly curtailed; likely having a negative on business as well as a chilling effect on employee morale.

We asked several area politicians to weigh in on the move. Virginia State Senator Scott Surovell replied: 


News
VDOT will tear down beams from the old Catharpin Road overpass

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From VDOT:

The Virginia Department of Transportation will conduct overnight lane closures on I-66 several nights this week between Route 15 and Route 29 in Gainesville, weather permitting, for crews to remove beams from the old Catharpin Road overpass.

On eastbound I-66, single-lane closures will begin around 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 28 through Thursday, June 30. Intermittent total closures up to 20 minutes will begin around midnight each night. One lane will be reopened after each total closure, with all lanes reopened by 5 a.m.

On westbound I-66, single-lane closures will begin around 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 29 and Thursday, June 30. Intermittent total closures up to 20 minutes will begin around midnight each night. One lane will be reopened after each total closure, with all lanes reopened by 5 a.m.

Motorists should expect delays and are advised to use alternate routes.

The new Catharpin Road overpass is part of the I-66 Widening Project, which will add one regular and one HOV lane in each direction from Route 29 in Gainesville to Route 15 in Haymarket. The $65 million project is scheduled for completion in August.

Follow VDOT Northern Virginia on Twitter: @vadotnova

 

News
Dumfries author traces footsteps of the Army of Northern Virginia

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From an email: 

I wanted to let you know that local author Robert Orrison’s new book, The Last Road North: A Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign (co-authored with Dan Welch) has just been released. Rob lives in Dumfries, VA, within Prince William County. Please see the attached press release and below for more information:
 
Authors: Robert Orrison and Dan Welch

Title:
The Last Road North: A Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign, 1863

Synopsis:
Historians Robert Orrison and Dan Welch follow in the footsteps of the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac as the two foes cat-and-mouse their way northward, ultimately clashing in the costliest battle in North American history. Based on the Civil War Trails system and packed with dozens of lesser-known sites related to the Gettysburg campaign, The Last Road North: A Guide to the Gettysburg Campaign offers the ultimate Civil War road trip, including the Confederate advance, the Union response, Jeb Stuart’s ride, the battle, and the retreat from Gettysburg.
 
You can read more about the book and the author by visiting our website: http://tinyurl.com/zmah35o
 

Plan on going to the World War II Weekend at Rippon Lodge

ripponWWII

Something for everyone from children to history buffs

Admiral Richard Blackburn Black of Rippon Lodge survived the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and fought in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.

Rippon Lodge is hosting its annual World War II weekend on July 9 and 10 to commemorate the contribution of Admiral Black as well as the contributions and sacrifices that many men and women made during the war. This free, family-friendly event will have something for everyone from children to history buffs.

Portraying both Allied and Axis soldiers, living historians will be on hand to talk about the lives of the soldiers who fought in both the European and Pacific Theatres. Guests will learn about different types of equipment and armaments used during the war.

Historic military vehicles will be on hand for visitors to look at and maybe even sit in. Throughout the weekend, groups will have a variety of presentations s from packing bags to firing demonstrations and more. The National Museum of the Marine Corps will be on hand to tell the vast history of the Corps. This year, first-time participants Honor Flight will be here.

Honor Flight is a non-profit organization dedicated to transporting U.S. military veterans to see the memorials of the respective war they fought in Washington, D.C. at no cost to the veterans.

Additionally, children and adults may try their hands at making V-J Day parachutes or Victory Crowns. A scavenger hunt will be taking place all weekend.

On Saturday, July 9, local World War II authors will be on site with copies of their books and be giving talks on Rippon Lodge’s front porch. The day will kick off with Kathleen Kinsolving at 12:30 talking about her book Dogs of War. Patricia Meder will speak about her book The True Story of Catch-22 at 1 p.m.

At 1:30 p.m., Stephen M. Rusiecki will talk about his books: The Key to the Bulge and In Final Defense of the Reich. Carsten Fries will speak at 2 p.m. about his book Riding into the Twlight: The German Army’s Last

Cavalrymen, 1920-1945. The final speaker of the day will be Tom Hone, on his book The Battle of Midway: The Naval Institute Guide to the U.S. Navy’s Greatest Victory.

Our WWII weekend is also the kickoff for a set of World War II events that Rippon Lodge will be hosting as part of commemorating Pearl Harbor’s 75th Anniversary this year. Rippon Lodge will host a World War II themed Canteen Dance on September 10, and then during the holiday season, there will be a special World War II exhibit.

For more information about World War II Weekend at Rippon Lodge, please call 703-499- 9812. You can also email us at historicpreservation@pwcgov.org.

News
New gym Rebel Fit USA wants to know how many push ups you can do

rebel fit night storefront

A new gym will open in Daniel Stuart Square in Woodbridge.

Beny Blaq, the founder of Rebel Fit in Alexandria, will expand to a new location in the same shopping plaza as Shop Rite at the intersection of Route 1 and Opitz Boulevard.

From Blaq:

“Established in 2013, Rebel Fit USA LLC is a family oriented health and fitness community that specializes in helping clients reach their health and fitness goals through expert coaching, support, and accountability. What experience do you have? Beny is certified in personal trainer, basic nutrition and suspension training through the National Personal Training Institute with five years of experience.”

The new gym will open July 9. It is the company’s first indoor location.

From Blaq:

“The business has been open for the past two years running outdoor and indoor boot camp programs as well as a small group program. We decided to open a brick and mortar facility to be able to provide our members and others in the community a central location where they can get a great workout and serve our community better.”

The gym plans to offer several options for its customers.

From Blaq:

“We currently offer morning and evening large group and small group personal training sessions Monday-Friday. We also offer a 6-month personalized nutrition program that is serviced by our certified Precision Nutrition Coach.”

The gym on it opening day will partner with Push Ups For Charity, a Texas-based organization which has provided donations to military veterans centers across the country. Participants in the push-up event will challenge participants to do a set number of push-ups for cash.

The event is designed to simulate the experience of those in the U.S. military, according to the Push Up for Charity website.

News
More info on PRTC fare hike coming July 5

Many riders begin and end their commutes, or transfer to other PRTC buses at the agency’s Transit Center in Woodbridge.

From PRTC: 

As of July 5, fares will increase an average of 5%. The one-way fare on OmniRide commuter buses will increase from $6.20 to $6.50, Metro Direct commuter buses will rise from $3.10 to $3.25, and OmniLink local buses will increase from $1.40 to $1.50.

In another change, OmniRide commuter bus routes will offer fewer trips on Fridays and will no longer operate on these holidays: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day, Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Friday, and Christmas Eve.

Also: 

Tuesday, July 5 on buses operated by the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC). PRTC updates its bus schedules twice a year to reflect changes in routing and travel times. These service changes and the fare increase were the subject of a series of public hearings held in February.

PRTC currently operates 17 commuter routes and 7 local bus routes serving Prince William County, the City of Manassas and the City of Manassas Park. In FY16, PRTC buses have carried an average of 11,200 passengers daily.

And, finally, 

Other notable changes taking effect July 5:

The Capitol Hill OmniRide route is eliminated.

Dale City OmniRide buses no longer service Crystal City. Instead, passengers going to Crystal City must ride a Lake Ridge OmniRide bus, or transfer to one.

Many OmniRide buses no longer serve neighborhood routing; instead service begins and ends at area commuter lots.

Manassas Metro Direct buses no longer offer all-day round-trip service between Manassas and the Tysons Corner Metro Station. In the morning, buses travel only from Manassas to Tysons, and in the afternoon/evening, buses travel only from Tysons to Manassas.

Manassas OmniLink local bus route is split into two separate routes: Manassas OmniLink-North and Manassas OmniLink-South. The buses meet at Manassas Mall at specific times to enable passengers to transfer.

Manassas Park OmniLink offers service only on the counter-clockwise Loop A routing, and buses meet up with the Manassas OmniLink North and South routes at Manassas Mall to enable passengers to transfer.

Online versions of the new schedule brochures – showing new routing and timetables – are available at PRTCtransit.org. For additional information about PRTC’s transportation services, contact PRTC’s Customer Service office at (703) 730-6664.

Manassas has the best fireworks display in Northern Virginia. Believe it.

4th of july

Celebrate America this Independence Day in historic downtown Manassas.

Family-fun surrounds the train depot, Manassas Museum, and Harris Pavilion with great views of the best fireworks display in Northern Virginia! Bring out blankets and lawn chairs to claim your spot and enjoy all of the entertainment and fun going on. The fireworks show will start at 9:15 pm but there will be plenty of activities and contests before.

Unique bikes parade

The fun starts at 3 p.m. with kid’s rides in the water tower parking lot – Lot B – as well as a bicycle decorating contest in the Harris Pavilion. Children will ride in a parade around the pavilion showing off their unique bikes and prizes will be awarded for the most creative, most patriotic, and best overall bikes.

Apple pie contest

Next up is the apple pie baking contest at 4 p.m. Residents, visitors, and more are encouraged to show off their baking skill with delicious homemade apple pies. The pies will be judged by a group of city staff and residents looking for the City’s best apple pie.

Watermelon eating contest

Last in line for contests is the watermelon eating contest at 5 p.m. in the Harris Pavilion. What better way to cool down in the summer than a fresh piece of watermelon? The contest will be broken up into two age groups – 17 & under and 18 & older – as contestants show off how fast they can eat their watermelon. The children’s age group will have to finish a quarter of a watermelon while the adult group will have to eat an entire half.

Applications for all three contests can be found on www.visitmanassas.org and are due back no later than Friday, July 1.

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