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Lurching From One Crisis To Another In PWC

By Greg L | 10 January 2015 | Local Economy, Prince William County | 8 Comments

Parts of Western Prince William County are up in arms once again as a result of Dominion Power seeking to extend power lines to what is most certainly a new data center project in Gainesville.  It’s a recurring theme in areas of the “rural crescent,” especially around the Manassas battlefield, as this has been happening just about every two years like clockwork.  We all seem to be surprised that this is happening each time, there’s yet another reactive “bus committee” that forms to oppose the project, and that opposition fails every single time despite the pledges by local elected officials that they’re going to do everything they can to protect local land values and the quality of life in the area.

You’d think by now we’d have learned something.  Of course, we haven’t.

Prince William County is in desperate need for commercial development, and it’s not just Prince William County that needs to see commercial projects get underway in the area.  Anyone who depends on the road infrastructure in Northern Virginia desperately needs this as well.  The county needs to diversify the tax base and revitalize the local economy.  Employees desperately need alternatives to hour-plus long commutes that clog East-West transportation arteries and make lives for a million plus people utterly miserable twice a day.  If more employment opportunities existed along the 95 and 66 corridors in Prince William County we’d significantly reduce traffic congestion during rush hour for the entire region, people could spend more time with their families and less money on tolls and vehicle expenses, and the county would grow the commercial tax base improving the opportunity for us to do a whole lot of things such as reduce the ridiculous school overcrowding in Western Prince William County.

If this is some sort of strategic goal for the county, it’s sure been a very well kept secret.  Sure, we spend highly questionable amounts of money on providing short-term tax incentives to businesses, but surprise, it seems hardly anyone is interested in them.  Yes, we hand over gobs of taxpayer money to government economic development cheerleaders to perhaps wine and dine visiting business executives, but that doesn’t seem to seal a single deal.  We even pour money into dubious partnership programs to establish bioscience facilities that to everyone in government’s amazement, sit largely vacant.  Observing our economic development efforts is like watching a dog chase it’s tail while a befuddled owner showers it with catnip, wondering why the dog hasn’t learned to fetch the paper yet.

Here we see an example of a business sector that apparently wants to locate their operations in the county, despite all of our miscues. What have we done to at least plow this fertile ground and make it ready for businesses to start planting their crops and saving our financial and infrastructure ass?  Nothing.  There’s not even been a hint of the basic fundamentals of land use planning to do this.  Shockingly, the only vision this county appears to have in regards to land use planning is to get every last piece of commercially viable land rezoned for dense residential developments, which only exacerbates the problem.

If we didn’t want to have Dominion Power trying to criss-cross Gainesville and Haymarket with power lines and substations in ways that grievously aggravate local homeowners, we would have long ago established a strategic plan to set aside land for the infrastructure needed for commercial development - to make sure that utilities, connections to major transportation routes and other infrastructure needs were anticipated, and ready to go just as soon as someone discovered the awesome opportunity of locating new businesses in these strategic areas.  If there was an existing utilities access corridor designated for these opportunities, and perhaps even prepared with subsurface access where these corridors cross existing roadways and railways, just ready for Dominion to lay an underground powerline, or a gas utility to run pipeline, or Google to lay down a few fibre lines, not only would these commercial areas be wildly more attractive for businesses but when they did start finalizing any infrastructure needed to start their construction the community wouldn’t be aghast at what needed to be done to bring more jobs to the county.

Every single infrastructure project we undertake in this county involves an obscene expense in relocating existing utilities.  You’d think that no one ever figured out that when we site all this stuff, maybe, just maybe someday some actual economic development might happen and we’d have to rip out all these water lines, sewer pipes, electric utilities and communications gear just to move them a hundred feet this way or that.  You might think no one ever actually planned anything.  And you’d be largely right.

This decade we erected a gorgeous new LEED-certified monument to government overspending in order to house the development and planning services needed by this county, and all we ended up getting was a collection of errand-runners for the residential development community that has gained an amazing level of power and control over our land use and planning efforts.  The one industrial park we’ve contemplated is next to a second-tier university commuter campus lacking a science and technology focus and located in the flight path of a local airport that at least now specializes in training student pilots.   All we’re doing now in regards to that questionable idea is hemming the whole thing in with dense residential development to make it even harder to expand utility access to the area.  Brilliant.

No wonder that when out of the blue, some dynamic and growing enterprise thinks of doing any development in the area the plans to make that happen feel like we’re cluster-bombing the community.  With this lack of vision, at the very least, we’ve entirely set ourselves up for this to happen.  We planned for this kind of failure.  Some business is going to (on their own, of course) discover the amazing opportunity for business success that rests along these transportation corridors, outside of expensive, clogged and hemmed-in Fairfax County, and when they try to invest their own money in our collective future local government and utilities have to go into panic mode to try to accommodate something they should have been getting ready for a decade ago.

With each passing year the opportunity to address this tightens further, and the government bureaucrats that are supposed to be making good decisions about this run around trying to invent ways to escape the consequences for their bizarre sexual fetishescorruption, or outright incompetence.  The same “leadership” presides over this ungodly mess absent any oversight while they blatantly engage in a guerrilla campaign against elected officials who don’t have the courage to demand their resignation.

Yelling about power lines in Haymarket at this point is nearly pointless at this juncture.  There’s not much choice now, given that we’ve deftly avoided every opportunity to make better choices possible when we had the chance, and unless we’re going to put up a “closed” sign for business in Prince William County and consign ourselves to a future of fiscal insolvency and a crumbling school system we need to start doing a lot of things differently, starting right now.  We planned ourselves a crap sandwich.  Now it’s time to enjoy it.

The first step is firing a whole lot of people in Prince William County government, and making sure that in November we get elected officials who have the balls to actually do their job.  Then maybe we can actually start getting some planning professionals to work doing what they should.

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  1. Anon said on 10 Jan 2015 at 5:33 pm:
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    You would think, just by accident or perhaps companies making dumb mistakes. . . That there would be much more commercial development in PWC. It seems that the word is out that PWC is closed for business. The only business thriving in this county has been apartments, condos, townhouses and single family homes (5 to the acre).

  2. Anon said on 10 Jan 2015 at 10:47 pm:
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    Blame Elena Schlossberg for the current situation.

  3. Mo said on 11 Jan 2015 at 8:28 am:
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    Inovation PWC is vacant. (Land by GMU) why hasn’t this been developed? It’s been sitting there for years.

  4. The Derecho said on 12 Jan 2015 at 10:43 am:
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    Greg, to be fair, nobody is really opposing the Amazon site, rather the opposition is limited to the construction of above ground high voltage lines to site through densely populated residential areas and/or portions of the rural crescent where they are largely inappropriate. The reasons for oppostion are myriad and go far and beyond simply the impact on residential property values, for example, one could suggest that the proposed routes, partiuclarly the northern route, are simply a manner in which Dominion might accomplish its previously proposed transmission corridors in a piece meal fashion. That being said, at the end of the day I am fairly confident that the limited goal, placement of the lines underground along the I66 ROW, will be achieved and that everyone, including Dominion and Amazon will ultimately be happy. Although you and Elena have marked differences in many areas, in this instance she has done a yeoman’s job in picking up the ball and pursuing a course that is in the best interest of her neighbors, even though the ball was literally dropped in her lap with no warning.

  5. Robert L. Duecaster said on 12 Jan 2015 at 4:13 pm:
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    Not that I disagree with you Anon, but why is Elena at fault?

  6. Anon said on 12 Jan 2015 at 6:32 pm:
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    Robert - It’s obvious that she’s simply trying to use the power lines as a cover to further her own radical agenda and to increase her profile. Don’t get me wrong, she is doing good work - but she’s taking WAY too much credit. Those of us who are spreading the word and reaching out to our neighbors are sickened by how much she’s chasing the spotlight in media coverage of the power lines. Just because we don’t have our own coalition doesn’t mean our work is any less important in rallying public support.

    Not to mention the baggage she dragged into this fight. There’s the “oh….that woman” reaction after the immigration episode a few years ago, and the average Joe wants nothing to do with her in this neck of the woods. Sure, we’re getting the normal cast of characters to join the fight, but we need all the Joe the Plumbers we can find. She’s really taking away from the grassroots support we need to fight Dominion.

    That’s why there are so many people giving up hope and not getting involved…and with her chasing the spotlight, it’s not likely to change anytime soon.

  7. Frustrated Believer on Power Lines said on 12 Jan 2015 at 7:14 pm:
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    I agree completely on the media chasing by Elena. She is trying way too hard to promote her own extremist agenda, and I believe it is hurting this particular effort.

    I heard her nix the involvement of an HOA leader who has been extraordinarily effective in local battles because she “does not like him.”

    Arrogance beyond the pale.

  8. Interested Observer said on 15 Jan 2015 at 11:08 am:
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    “I agree completely on the media chasing by Elena. She is trying way too hard to promote her own extremist agenda, and I believe it is hurting this particular effort.

    I heard her nix the involvement of an HOA leader who has been extraordinarily effective in local battles because she “does not like him.”

    Arrogance beyond the pale”

    Who put her in charge? Oh, that’s right. The media did.

    What’s wild about this is yesterday, WMAL was regularly running some soundbites related to the story. Elena and Bob Marshall both opposing the powerlines. I think the best way to get Elena to leave a room, is to have Bob Marshall show up and embrace her cause.

    It is HER cause right? That’s the impression I get from all the media reports.

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