Brentswood Development Proposal:
May 16 2006 Update -- Just hours before the advertised Public Hearing was scheduled to open on May 16 2006, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors (BOS) accepted the developers 11th hour request to indefinitely defer the vote on the Brentswood development proposal for 6,800 homes between Linton Hall Road and the Nissan Pavillion.
6,800 New Homes Proposed for Gainesville
This BOS action allows the developer to maintain an active application, which can return to the BOS for a vote at any time. It also does not appear to comply with the BOS rules for deferral. According to the information provided on the Board of Supervors web page, the Board of Supervisors Rules of Procedure Section A(5) states that "once a public hearing has been advertised on any matter, including a rezoning or special use permit application, the public hearing shall then be held to avoid inconvenience to the public." Read more ...
May 1 2006 Update --
On May 16, the Board of County Supervisors may overturn the decision of the Planning Commission and approve the Brentswood rezoning proposal.
The Board has until July 11 to vote on this proposal, but the decision has been accelerated. On May 16, Supervisor Maureen Caddigan will be out of the country, so a 4-3 vote is a very real possibility. (The Planning Commission rejected the proposal by a 5-3 vote in April.)
The Brentswood developer, Brookfield Homes, proposes to increase housing on 1,500 acres near Gainesville from 82 homes to 5,000-6,800 homes, and will cut down 1,100 acres of forest. No effort will be made to protect the intermittent streams on property that drains into Lake Manassas, the source of drinking water in Manassas and nearby.
In exchange for county approval for the rezoning, Brookfield Homes has proffered some transportation improvements. Normally transportation proffers are considered essential to getting rezoning approval.
However, the Planning Commission rejected the rezoning in part because there is a high risk that the developer will get rezoning approval, then use a gaping loophole to avoid actually funding the proffers for roads and a Virginia Railroad Express site. Could the county end up with additional housing, more traffic in Gainesville and environental impacts, without a guarantee that the developer will follow through on the proffers?
The rezoning request assumes a Community Development Authority will be created, and that new residents in Brentswood will pay the costs for the proffers. Because the rezoning decision has been accelerated to May 16, the Board will vote on the rezoning a month before the CDA could be created legally.
If the Board approves the rezoning on May 16, then the county would be committed to a massive financial obligation to fund the transportation proffers in Gainesville. If the CDA is not created later, then Brookfield Homes (or the new Brentswood residents) will not be required to fund the proffers.
If the CDA is not approved, the developer would get higher profits and county taxpayers would be saddled with extra debt. Approving a rezoning before getting a commitment to fund the proffers is equivalent to signing a contract to buy another house, before getting approval of a new mortgage.
The sole purpose of a Community Development Authority (CDA) is to finance the building of roads, schools, libraries etc. within a development. Prince William County has three CDA's: Virginia Gateway and Heritage Hunt in Gainesville and Cherry Hill in Woodbridge.
All property owners (residential & commercial) who buy into the CDA pay "fees" in addition to the usual property taxes on that property in order to pay for the infrastructure. By the way, these fees are not tax deductible!
The CDA proposed by Brookfield Homes is supposed to finance, through the issuance of over $220 million of "Junk Bonds" (unrated bonds, not backed by the full faith and credit of any government) road improvements "related" to Brentswood to include the widening of I-66 from the planned separate entrance on to I-66, the Rt 29/Linton Hall interchange, the I-66/PW Pkwy interchange and a $50m contribution to a Gainesville VRE station.
While the CDA Bonds are technically not debt of the county, the three National Credit Rating Agencies include this debt in their computation of the County's overall debt. Because Prince William County is already at the upper limits of debt issuing authority, these CDA Bonds, when later included with Road Bond Debt to be issued in the next few years, will undoubtedly cause a decrease in the county's credit rating, which will result in a higher interest charge.
Another problem is the CDA proposal anticipates a $220m commitment from the state to fund those improvements. However, there is no agreement or even a "Letter of Intent" from the state to fund this anticipated proposal!
The proffered road improvements are contingent on state and federal funds being made available to the CDA based on agreements that don't exist. The state, via VDoT, has already told the County it will not provide these funds to the CDA under any circumstances. The Federal Highway Administration has stated the proposed separate entrance on to I-66 is not likely to be approved.
So in effect, this $220m CDA funding is nothing but smoke and mirrors. In addition, the developer includes their proffers within the CDA. Proffers should never be included in a CDA. Proffers are voluntary payments made directly from the developer to the County. As such, if the CDA does not raise the proposed infrastructure financing (meaning the state or the feds do not provide the funds), the developer is not obligated to either pay the proffers or to build the promised road improvements. The property owners in the CDA development are liable!
The bottom line is that this developer has no financial risk in this project and pays not one single dime towards the proffers and road improvements. Brookfield Homes gets all the glory (read profit) and none of the pain!
PWC taxpayers & the CDA property owners take on all of the developers' risks and financial responsibilities and as a reward, PWC very well may incur a reduced credit rating which means higher taxes to pay higher interest charges.
Click here to read the Prince William County Director of Finance's Report on the Proposed Brentswood Community Development Authority (CDA)
Gainesville Interchange in the News
Transportation funds sit unused
Lillian Kafka, Potomac News; October 3, 2006
...The Virginia Department of Transportation has plans to straighten out Gainesville's traffic jam, but it's spending what cash it has on hand on widening Interstate 66. That money comes from gas taxes. "From the [Va.] 234 bypass to [U.S.] 29, those funds are available and construction will start in 2007," said Ryan Hall, VDOT spokesman. There still is no money to be found to pay for the interchange in Gainesville, he said.
Virginia Rail seeks business back-up for extension
Joe Coombs, Washington Business Journal; September 23 2005
Businesses in Prince William County are being asked to open their wallets and help pay for an 11-mile extension of Virginia Rail Express service, a project expected to cost $150 million to $281 million. …. Meanwhile, others -- such as Nissan Pavilion operator Clear Channel Entertainment and tenants at the county's massive Innovation business park -- already are being asked for private donations to help pay for preliminary engineering and environmental studies, says Mark Roeber, a spokesman for VRE. VRE officials also will apply to the state's Department of Rail and Public Transportation in October for at least $5 million to pay for preliminary studies. Once the project is moving forward, the Fairfax division of Brookfield Homes has already agreed to foot the bill for an entire station east of Gainesville and near the Nissan Pavilion. Brookfield is planning a 1,500-acre development called Brentswood in an area near the proposed train station.
Nissan Pavilion Inches Closer to Traffic Relief
Aymar Jean; Washington Post; August 14, 2005
Road widening began in April, after the county settled problems acquiring land and relocating utilities, said Prince William transportation chief Thomas Blaser. The project should cost slightly more than $5 million, about 12 percent of the $42.7 million road bond budget for 1998, when planning began.
Feds OK $33.6 million for Gainesville interchange
Tara Slate Donaldson, Gainesville Times; August 5 2005
Prince William officials are expressing cautious optimism in the wake of last week's announcement that the Gainesville interchange is slated to receive another $33.6 million in federal funding. … The Gainesville interchange money is part of an estimated $98 million funding package for Northern Virginia , which includes $27.6 million to widen Interstate 66 inside the Beltway and $1 million for Potomac Rappahannock Transportation Commission buses.
Region to Receive Millions for Transit
Steven Ginsberg; July 29, 2005 ; Washington Post
A proposed east-west highway in the Maryland suburbs, widening projects on Interstates 66 and 95, and several other major transportation initiatives in the Washington region are in line to receive tens of millions of dollars in federal funding, according to details of a
congressional agreement announced yesterday. Local governments have been counting on the money to advance projects that they said are critical to getting drivers and transit riders where they want to go.
Gainesville: Moving from chokepoint to gateway
Fauquier Times Democrat, June 24 2005
In the realm of strategic chokepoints, tiny Gainesville in Prince William County ranks up there with the very best. The community that was little more than a wide spot on the road only 10 years ago is now a full-fledged bedroom community, complete with shopping center, restaurants and traffic, plenty of traffic. On a typical commuter morning, 30,000 cars speed east along Interstate 66, carrying residents from Loudoun, Fauquier and points further west to jobs in Fairfax or Washington , DC . On U.S. 29, 20,000 more trundle along. Twelve thousand vehicles cruise down Route 55. Then, at Gainesville , where all roads plus a freight railway converge, everything slows, crawls and stops.
VDOT comes through for Gainesville
Gainesville Times; June 24 2005
When VDOT's Six Year Plan was approved last week, Prince William commuters got a shot of good news. The new long-term spending plan includes major funding for the Gainesville interchange, the widening of Interstate 66, a preliminary study for the Buckland Bypass and a stoplight at the intersection of Route 234 and Gum Spring Road.