As I mentioned, there are a group of committed republicans in the community who from time to time have conversations via e-mail on subjects of importance to the community. I learn a great deal from these discussions, and thought I'd try an experiment where I share the contents of those discussions with the blogger community.
I asked the participants for permission to place their words in this blog, and I present below the discussion from those who assented.
The discussion was started by an e-mail referencing the vote in the PWC convention for a resolution opposing the development, which included a link to a Sunday Washington Post article Millions for Roads Aside, Planners Oppose I-66 Project, by Nikita Stewart.
The basis for the discussion was this response by John Schneider:
Sent: Monday, April 03, 2006 8:25 AM
Subject: RE: Planners Oppose Brentswood Project
Thanks for the article. This is really important.
1. Developers promise the moon and deliver three quarters of a mud hole. They leave their rickety LLCs holding the bag near the end of any development, and their main corporations move on to the profitable side of other things. There isn't much in Brentswood that says that the road improvements would be completed BEFORE the development started.
2. Developers are usually pretty shortsightedly greedy when it comes to the market. They purchase (an issue with that, too) land and start grinding the wheels... It is a long term thing, and when the building economy booms, like it has since 2002, they go to town. Unfortunately they usually miss the downturn and their plans and studies are based on overly optimistic assumptions.
The market is flattening out very rapidly, and I see that it will start south very shortly. We have an abundant number of existing single family and town homes for sale and they are not moving. The developers are running sales incentives right and left. The inescapable conclusion is that they are building too much for the available cash to purchase. Interest rates are up nearly 2 points from where they were during the boom times.
Brentswood would add to the downward pressure. Actually it might accelerate the spiral. For many of the same reasons, this county went through a serious market contraction between 1994 and 1998. Inventories went through the roof and prices fell drastically. Developers went belly up, and left folks holding lots of bags, as sales died, contracts expired and banks closed on houses because the developers were in receivership. Interest rates are key, here and the Federal Reserve doesn't seem to be slowing its steady increases.
3. Everyone talks about roads... the roads are getting built. Too slowly and haphazardly for sure, but hey are getting built. No one says a thing about schools, though. Brentsville District High is projected to have 1400 students next year from what I hear, that is capacity for that plant. Battlefield is pretty much full, and too large to begin with. It is starting to show the negative social pathologies of a school that has too large a student population and it is only two years old. We don't just need elementary schools. We are going to need more high schools... Brentsville needs a new school building and facilities (face it guys it is screamingly old.) but at the danger of converting it from a high quality AA school to a moshpit AAA school.
We really don't need anymore retail space. There are empty store fronts from failed businesses all around here.
What we need is a development pause. We need to concentrate on getting the roads finished, and the schools built to handle the existing population. Some of our subdivisions are now larger than small cities, and maybe some smarter political re-alignments and consolidations are necessary, but what is not necessary is a glut of high density housing, retail storefronts, doctors offices and professional buildings masquerading as "industrial business".
Turn Brenstwood into a park... some nice green buffer between Bristow Run and Gainesville. Linton Hall road is threatening to look like Old Bridge Road, and so is 28 south of the airport. Let us not repeat the mistakes that were made in Woodbridge and continue to make... when we moved there in 1988 Westridge was the last development on Davis Ford - except for the Oaks back in the woods..
Orderly development is good. Insane expansion will lead us to be what most of us moved "out here" to escape. High density, crowded, expensive, congested near-urban Fairfax.
Responses will be listed in comments below.