Prince William Supervisor flips position on preserving the rural area, takes heat after approving 99 new homes

Candidate Kenny Boddye addresses the Prince William Board of County Supervisors three weeks before being elected to represent the Occoquan District.

In the final weeks of his campaign to become the next Occoquan District Supervisor, Kenny Boddye addressed the governing board on which he would soon be elected.

“Every dollar we spend on the rural crescent, to develop it and put houses out there, is a dollar that we can’t put toward schools in the eastern end [of Prince William County] where we have some of the oldest schools in the region,” Boddye said on October 15, 2019.

Three weeks later, Boddye, a Democrat, unseated Ruth Anderson, a Republican, by a razor-thin margin of fewer than two points. He rode in on a blue wave that saw Democrats not only take control of county government for the first time but also grabbed power in the General Assembly in Richmond.

His comments in support of maintaining the county’s rural crescent — land stretching from Quantico Marine Corps Base to Manassas National Battlefield, preserved in 1998 to curb the massive suburban sprawl the county had been experiencing — were an indication he would also be an advocate for the land.

On Wednesday, January 20, Boddye changed his mind. He and four other Democrats took a party-line vote to amend the county’s comprehensive land-use plan and rezone 340 acres of the rural area. The move clears the way to construct 99 new homes on the Occoquan River for a new development called The Preserve at Long Branch (formerly Mid-County Park and Estate Homes).

He was one of the five to approve the rezoning — all Democrats — a political party that has traditionally opted to preserve land.

Regardless of what was done 20 years ago, [the county’s population] has grown by hundreds of thousands of people,” Boddye said. We don’t have one silver bullet to solve this issue, and we can’t rely on 10 acre lots to manage open space and slow development.”

Zoning rules for the rural crescent enacted in 1998 limit new-home construction to one per every 10 acres.

The three Republicans on the board, as they have with land-use cases over the past year, tried to thwart the rezoning attempt. They lost, and now, they’re calling out Boddye for his about-face for his position on preserving some of the last remaining open space in Northern Virginia.

“I stand by my word, my promises, and my pledges to my community, and I’m going to do that with my vote tonight, and I’m going to remind you that you made the same commitment to the rural crescent when you were candidate,” Brentsville District Supervisor Jeanine Lawson told Boddye.

Lawson represents a large swath of the rural area. “Now you’re a county supervisor, and you’re feeling the heat from your Democrat colleagues, and I would recommend that you stand alone and defend the rural area like you have committed to do verbally multiple times…,” added Lawson.

The new neighborhood will be built off Bristow Road and will have three times as many homes will be built on the land than what had been allowed by the comprehensive plan.

The proposed development has been on the books for the past 10 years and has been amended multiple times. Initially, the property owner, housing developer Mark Granville Smith, of Classic Concept Builders, wanted to build 118 homes on the lot. Eventually, he reduced the number to 99 and now promises to preserve 146-acres of land for use as a public park and boating access to the Occoquan River.

While some spoke in favor of the development, the majority of residents joined the county’s school division and Planning Commission, both of which give the development a thumbs down due to the effects will have on both increased traffic to the area, as well as adding more children to the county’s already overcrowded school system.

Yesli Vega, who represents the Coles District on the Board of County Supervisors, the district where the new neighborhood will be built, opposed the project. After touring the property, she characterized the plot on which the park will sit as unbuildable land, on uneasy terrain, with steep slopes.

“How does the request for this park in this new…neighborhood compare to the number of residents who oppose this development?” asked Vega.

She stacked a pile of more than 600 copies of printed emails on a desk in front of her to illustrate the amount of correspondence sent to elected leaders in response to the project.

Board of Supervisors Chair At-large Ann Wheeler called many of those emails, sent by county residents who opposed the project, a response to “manufactured outrage” spurred by environmental groups who urged residents to contact their representatives.

“I have disdain for people who manufacture false information. If you go to sections of the county, some poeple don’t even know what the rural area is,” said Wheeler.

For too long, she argued that county leaders have wanted to force all new development into the county’s heavily-populated eastern section, to places like Dale City and Woodbridge. All of this has happened as public schools in the east became overcrowded and land in the west was preserved only for a privileged few landowners, she said.

“The decisions made 20 years ago to put development in a once certain area is harmful,” said Wheeler. “The land in the west is not accessible to the public.”

Supervisors in the minority pushed back and reminded Wheeler of the explosion of growth in the county’s western area, including thousands of homes that now dot the hillsides of Bristow and the expansive commercial shopping centers that line the streets in Gainesville.

“To give the impression that people in the west are dumping all of the development in the east end, that’s just not true,” said Gainesville District Supervisor Peter Candland, in reply to Wheeler. “It’s either a lie or ignorance.”

The move is the lastest from a governing body that is signaling a departure from the past. Last year, it approved a rezoning in the Brentsville District for 500 new homes. A new asphalt plant was nearly approved outside Manassas on a party-line vote until Woodbridge District Supervisor Margaret Franklin broke with her ranks and sided with Republicans.

“We need more industrial land,” said Wheeler. “We’re going to make [more] changes to the comprehensive plan.”

Potomac District Supervisor Andrea Bailey said the county is entering a new era of development. “We have to look at equity when we talk about building infrastructure,” said Bailey. “Equity is not preserving a spot and then placing the commercial development on one side of the county. We need to find a balance.”

In an attempt to find common ground with supporters of preserving the rural crescent, Bailey said her home in the Brittany subdivision outside of Dumfries is located inside the rural crescent, when, in fact, it is not.

Elected leaders say the decision to approve the new development now opens the doors for other property owners in the rural crescent to also apply for comprehensive plan amendments, hoping they, too, will be able to build large numbers of homes on their properties.

“This will set a precedent to allow for a bunch of other projects to come in, and I don’t blame the landowners who want to come in and get theirs,’ said Candland.

11 thoughts on “Prince William Supervisor flips position on preserving the rural area, takes heat after approving 99 new homes

  1. I may have commented on this. But here goes – one cannot go to bed unless an ear is kept tuned to thieves in the night. Just when ya think a project has been stopped, Money waltzes in and slicks on through. So much for a defendable Rural Crescent. Where are the environmentalists on this?

  2. Thank goodness my area is “full”. So traffic within our development is at max. But once out to 234, lotsa luck trying to get out until the lights at Lake Jackson and Purcell finally break up the constant swarm.

  3. Thanks so very much Alex for stating a fact that Supervisor Bailey does not reside in the Rural Crescent. What a shame Bailey didn’t do her homework!
    Back in 1999 Planning Commissioner, Rene Fry identified all developed properties throughout the Potomac District. Brittany was one of 11 properties identified & removed from the Rural Crescent.

  4. Oh , and chairwoman Wheeler. I know what the Rural Crescent is. And no one had to manuufacture my outrage and disdain for the decision you and the other board members made.

  5. There is nothing rural about the rural crescent. It is an opportunity for the wealthy who can afford 10 acre lots to segregate themselves in an enclave where only they can enjoy the open space. I would like to see balanced development like this most recent project that creates some development while opening space for passive use by all residents of the county. This should happen all over the county in including Belmont Bay.

  6. The Democrats on the Board are intentionally manufacturing political and social outrage in the way they characterize residents and businesses in the Rural Crescent. I wonder if they have any demographic data on the people who live in the Rural Crescent? I know for a fact that they exaggerate how much of the Rural Crescent can be developed. Subtract out the National Forest, Quantico, and other public property and already developed land and the Rural Crescent is estimated to be less than 25% of county acreage available for any kind of development. Chair Wheeler and other progressives have manufactured outrage against people who have chosen to live on well and septic on a variety of sizes of agriculturally zoned parcels. Most of my neighbors live on parcels less than ten acres. Is this a crime? Is this racist? Anyone can buy property and live in the Rural Crescent. There is no secret membership. Many of the parcels and homes in the Rural Crescent are affordable, and by the way, the ten acre rule was established by the county and not current residents. The establishment of the Rural Crescent was a legitimate way of saving county resources for other higher priority areas and needs in the county. Some how the current Chair of the Board of County Supervisors and other Democrat Supervisors have decided to label this area as some privileged area. How hypocritical when you think they just approved luxury housing in the area. The developer, Mark Granville-Smith, has continually revamped his proposal to win support to include telling the public that the 99 homes will start at $750,000. That will be the base price. Do any of you think these won’t be million dollar homes? Just because some people choose to live where there is a little more breathing room, and on well and septic, does not make them elitist, racist or privileged. It is simply a choice. My neighbors come from a variety of lifestyle choices, ethnicities and financial abilities. The Rural Crescent and take time to enjoy the recreational opportunities and small businesses. See why it is worth preserving some green, open spaces rather than paving over the entire county like Fairfax County. (And, Fairfax County has the highest percentage of “housing burdened” families in Northern Virginia based on the recent article in Inside Nova (Jan 21-27,20102, p. 7). By the way, how does the county define affordable housing, or workforce housing or equity in housing? Targeting one part of the county and making it out to be some bastion of any “ism” is a manufactured political scapegoat that serves political purposes and not the needs of citizens at large. Don’t buy the lie. See for yourself. Stop the divisiveness by elected officials.

  7. Looks like the people in the crescent don’t like development.

    So sorry.

    Any idea of “preservation” only serves the people that live their. Progress and change can be difficult. Don’t worry their is more space move west.

  8. When the rural crescent was created, the public was told that it was temporary to slow growth until infrastructure could catch up. Most people on the Board were not on the Board at that time. Hence, they seem to be rewriting history perhaps because they do not know the history or they choose to ignore it because if doesn’t suit their purposes.

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