Protecting the Watershed

Will Protect Taxpayers

Want to protect your property rights? Want to reduce the rapid rise in your property taxes in Prince William County?

So does the Prince William Conservation Alliance.

If we protect our watersheds in Prince William County, we can protect the taxpayers' wallets.

The Prince William Conservation Alliance advocates some basic changes in how the county is managing (mismanaging) the approval of new subdivisions and site plans. If we don't change, then taxpayers will continue to be stuck with long-term repair and restoration costs of streams being damaged by inappropriate development.

Those changes should allow homeowners to build swing sets and sheds in their back yards without any government permits, protecting property rights. Those changes should keep our property taxes from climbing higher, in order to correct mistakes being made by county officials today.

What's broke and needs to be fixed?

County officials are approving new developments that cut too many trees next to the creeks, fill in too many natural wetlands and create pollution that flows into our drinking water reservoirs and the Potomac River. This maximizes profits for the developers, but the taxpayers who live in the county after the developers move on will have to pay the cleanup bill.

County officials are approving new developments that are designed so Resource Protection Areas, required by the state's Chesapeake Bay regulations, are located in the yards of individual lots. Property lines in new subdivisions should be drawn so all RPAs are located in common areas managed by homeowners associations. Purchasers of individual parcels would then have full use of their property and would not be required to protect essential stream buffers.

The Prince William Conservation Alliance has a conservative approach to paying debts: The companies creating the pollution should pay the bill now, and not "run up a tab" that the residents will have to pay later. That's fair. If the county required new subdivisions and site plans to minimize damage to the existing creeks, then taxpayers would not be forced to absorb a massive repair and restoration cost in the future.

Why? The Clean Water Act requires that we clean up our pollution. The Chesapeake Bay is on the Federal "dirty waters" list. The state committed to the Environmental Protection Agency to correct that problem and "Save the Chesapeake Bay" by 2010, in a court settlement. There is a legal obligation to clean up the dirty water.

Can we build giant water treatment plants on the edge of the bay to clean up the dirty water? No. That would require billions of dollars, and perhaps several nuclear power plants to supply energy.

Instead, Virginia has adopted "tributary strategies" to catch the pollution where it starts, in the streams of Prince William and other counties. The solution to pollution is to keep the sediment, excessive nitrogen, excessive phosphorous, motor oil, litter, and other pollutants out of the streams in the first place. How do we do that? Protect the creeks, and protect the crucial buffers on the edges of the creeks.

But county officials are permitting new construction to create excessive storm water runoff from paved parking lots, asphalt roofs, etc. We are removing the vegetation that once served as a buffer zone along the edges of the creeks, planting townhouses and parking spaces where shade once protected the stream.

The creeks can't absorb the extra flooding that occurs after a rainstorm, it's like watering your garden with a fire hose. Inevitably the creeks in Prince William will erode into ugly ditches, and our natural areas will look like drainage channels.

Want to see an example? Check out what used to be Flat Branch, north of Godwin Drive between Route 234 and Bull Run. That creek was channeled and destroyed in order to reduce flooding caused by the urban development in and around Manassas.

Some claim that protecting our creeks requires government seizure of private property rights. That's not true. We can re-affirm private property rights for existing homeowners, while ensuring future subdivisions are designed to eliminate any conflict with the buffers along the creeks.

And some say that protecting Prince William will require a tax increase. That's not true. We can reduce future tax burdens by conserving our creeks now; we can avoid the future repair and restoration costs. Protect your watersheds, and you can protect your property rights and your wallets.

Charlie Grymes

Chairman, Prince William

Conservation Alliance,

Woodbridge

Taking of Private Property

Must Be Challenged

The Prince William County Board of County Supervisors' overly aggressive implementation of the Virginia Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act has resulted in improper easement confiscations from homeowners.

These so-called Resource Protection Area (RPA) easement confiscations of homeowners' properties are a new phenomenon of governmental taking of private property that first appeared in Prince William County in 1990. This new RPA threat remains an enigma that continues to slip under the radar screen, very much by intentional design by those who favor the taking of private property for government control and domination.

Few understand or recognize its immense danger. With minimum RPA threat awareness to date, RPA easement taking of homeowner properties has gone unchallenged and unabated. However, this unconstitutional RPA easement confiscation of American homeowners' properties now needs to be challenged.

This was exposed for what it really is by the 2003 Virginia General Assembly, Joint Legislative Advisory Review Committee report that found that RPAs have no substantial documented benefit to the Chesapeake Bay.

RPA easement abuses by local governments are camouflaged as "helping the environment," which they don't, and are serious threats to American homes that are unreported, unrecognized, unchallenged and entirely out of control.

RPA easements are: (a) a "confiscation," (b) without due process, (c) without proper public notice, and (d) without compensation. Consequently, there are no restraints whatsoever imposed upon its abusive implementation by local governments. Because governments do not pay for RPA takings, it's a literal land grab that the individual homeowner has difficulty challenging.

A particularly contemptible mechanism of the county's RPA abuse is its voluntary application of the deceitful "scoring mechanism" that effectively reinterprets the legal definition of the applicable RPA classification of "perennial stream" into whatever the local authority wants it to mean. This includes, believe it or not, interpreting a dry ditch (a k a "storm stream") into a perennial stream that then triggers the confiscation of 100 feet on each side of the "stream" as a local government RPA controlled and dominated easement.

Although the Virginia Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act only requires RPA stream easements to apply within the legal definition of "perennial stream," the Prince William County Board of Supervisors overreaching and abusive voluntary use of a voodoo science "scoring mechanism" is an unnecessary attack upon its own taxpaying citizens.

As such, all residents of Prince William County and Virginia are at risk. With no due process or public hearing, homeowners with the slightest puddle of water on their property are ripe for governmental abuse. These RPA abuses of homeowners' properties by governments, as aided and abetted by certain groups with their own political agendas, are effectively attacking and destroying a key American freedom: the sanctity of the home and homeowner property rights.

Efforts by several civic organizations are being made to force the necessary corrections so as to safeguard homeowners' properties and protect citizens' constitutional rights.

Larry Goodyear

Prince William County

Concerned Citizens,

Manassas

Sometimes a Ditch

Is Really Just a Ditch

Kim Hosen, director of the Prince William Conservation Alliance and an influential member of the Prince William County Planning Commission, has finally admitted in public that a dry erosion ditch is actually a stream.

Hosen recently joined some other planning commission members to deny a rezoning application for the 4.37-acre Dawson Property in Woodridge, citing several environmental issues.

The site has unwooded, steep slopes that have been heavily eroded beyond the control of the owners due to storm water runoff from a school to the north, causing the creation of an intermittent (not always flowing) drainage ditch on the property.

Although one commissioner claimed the alleged stream was only an "erosion ditch" created by "improper storm water management on public land," namely the school, Hosen disagreed, stating the stream had environmental significance.

Hosen's stream interpretation coincides with her interpretation of "perennial streams" and the placement of Resource Protection Areas (RPAs). Management of RPAs is indirectly transferred to the Department of Public Works.

Hosen and the Prince William Conservation Alliance wants RPAs dramatically extended by classifying intermittent (not always flowing) streams, dry creeks, empty brooks, ditches and other natural depressions as pristine Chesapeake Bay tributaries akin to the Potomac and Occoquan rivers so that the Department of Public Works can control even more private property.

As a result, it appears to me that Hosen, as a planning commissioner, is intentionally misusing the correct interpretation of a stream to apply a false and possibly libelous claim of environmental degradation on innocent property owners, in order to extend the reach of the Prince William Conservation Alliance for RPA purposes.

In my perspective, this is all meant to usurp the private property rights of even more innocent property owners, using the guise of environmental protection to add more land to Hosen's collective.

Robert T. Molleur

Manassas